Thursday, July 2, 2009

David Kettlewell's History of the Dulcimer in Antrim

William Rea's Co. Antrim Hammered Dulcimer

Much of the information for this piece was gleaned from the pages of
David Kettlewell's wonderful Dulcimer website.
I did contact David by E-mail, & asked for his permission to use the information below, and he kindly agreed, saying so, because it was for a good cause. 

Although this instrument is relatively unknown now in Co. Antrim, some say it has actually been on these shores, in one form or another since, at least, the 18th Century.

In England it was very popular during the late 16th century and it seems likely that the hammered dulcimer was also being played in Scotland in the C16th, for there is mention of it in a Scottish poem of 1543, calling it a ‘dulsacordis’! It then probably travelled to County Antrim with the Scots, at least 4 or 5 generations ago.

The first player to be mentioned here was a Harry Coudy, who was a well known player in the 20’s. Then there was a John Johnson who only died in 1974. “He made four dulcimers, while Alec Magee of Larne made about a dozen instruments, many of them for young people, who apparently gave up when they found it too difficult; he was a joiner, took the measurements for his instruments from that of John Rea, and used autoharp pins from a music shop.”

Other more recent players included "James & Andrew Davidson of Buckna, Miss Katie Johnson of Owencloughy, William McMullan of Ballyclare, Thomas Taylor of Mullaghmore, Robert Gilbert of Kilwaughter plus others from around Ballyclare including Nat Magee ( Alec's son ), Mrs. Craig, Mrs. Doris Apsey, Jackie Apsey, Mrs. Woodside, William Mundel and Alec Rea of Ballymena."

Here is the link to David's site. 
Go to the section there on 'Northern Ireland'.

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