Every year, in early July, the town of Miltown Malbay in West Clare becomes an international centre for traditional musicians. The town reverberates to the sound of flutes, fiddles, accordians, concertinas and especially uilleann pipes. The celebration is in memory of Miltown Malbays famous son, the late Willie Clancy.
Willie Clancy possessed amazing talents -whistle player, flute player, singer , story teller, philosopher and wit. He was particularly known for his mastery of that most complex of wind instruments - the Uilleann Pipes.
Born on Christmas Eve, 1918, Willie grew up in an atmosphere of music, singing and storytelling. Both his parents, Ellen and Gilbert, sang and played instruments. Willie started playing the whistle at the age of five. He was greatly influenced by his grandmother, by his father and by Garrett Barry, the legendary blind piper from Inagh. Garrett Barry died in the workhouse in Ennistymon at the close of the nineteenth century. His piping style was passed on to Willie by his father Gilbert. Willie was aware that Garrett Barry possessed a heritage of music unique to himself. The music of Garrett Barry is known and cherished today because of Willies determination to pass on this treasure.
Willie was seventeen years old when he encountered the great travelling piper, Johnny Doran. By the early Forties Willie had mastered the basic piping techniques and in 1947 he won first prize at the Oireachtas competition.