CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in Southern Ireland

"Timpán" ?!

As I was travelling round Southern Ireland asking about dulcimers, many people expressed complete ignorance of the instrument; but others provided me with enough rumours and wild-goose chases to fill the week I had allocated to my task, and probably many more besides.

There were tales of dulcimers in Dunkenny, Donegal and McGroom (Gouganbarra, Co. Wexford, remembered from 1972) and a Mr. Hanlon was supposed to have played in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, 30 years ago.

I was told that players had been seen and heard on TV and radio, but it seems that these were Andy Dowling, and Padhraig O'Carra of Galway, who plays slow airs on a zither-harp.

Someone said they remembered the tíompan in Co. Limerick from 40 years before, and it was described as a square fiddle: while in the Gaeltacht (Irish language area) of West Cork, I was scornfully told that if there had been an indigenous Irish dulcimer it certainly would not have been called timpan at all but téadchlár (see Chapter 2, Etymology, and controversies Chapter 7).

Nevertheless, the ever-popular folk group, the Chieftains, have recently [1976] begun to feature Derek Bell (harpist with the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra) playing his Hungarian cimbalom, which is introduced in concert and on record as a timpán , with the name of St. Patrick sometimes quoted as high authority. The instrument is illustrated in Chapter 5, under 'Hungary', and the background to this somewhat incongruous blend is given in Chapter 7.