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October 31, 2006

:: Audio :: Listening Post

Billy Conroy

Billy Conroy (Photograph Johnny Handle)

Billy Conroy, was born in 1904, at Crawcrook in Co. Durham. He started working in the pits at the age of 14, first at hauling below ground, and then pony-driving (known as 'putting'), coal-cutting and coal-filling. His father came from Cumberland and his mother from Durham. A remarkable tin whistle player, Billy owned a small pet bird which would sit on the whistle, singing, whilst Billy played. His tin-whistles were always home-made, many from old bicycle pumps.

In this selection we hear Billy Conroy playing the Redesdale Hornpipe. Also known as 'The Underhand', this English hornpipe was composed by James Hill. Originally born in Dundee, Scotland, James Hill lived much of his life in Gateshead, near Newcastle, and was innfluential in defining the popular 19thC Newcastle fiddle hornpipe style.

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