Dear readers, tonight with me is a master distiller from 17th century Ireland, here to tell us about whiskey, harps, and faeries.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I was born in the west of Ireland in 1688. My family moved to Dublin when I was a lad. My father was a coachman to Doctor Delany of that city. Dublin was a peaceful enough place in those days despite the bitter fighting taking place elsewhere in country. It took many years for things to calm down after the Dutch invasion in 1689. I was very fortunate to grow up in a quiet city amongst level-headed folk.
I’m deeply grateful for these happy childhood memories but I also feel blessed to be rescued from the blandness of it all. A man could die of boredom in such a place.
Any cherished memories?
My most cherished memories are of the music. Dr. Delany was a patron of the arts and I was often employed to serve at the great parties he put on. It was through him I first met the master harp player, Turlough O’Carolan. And it was Dr. Delany who recommended me to the great man as a servant and helper. Master O’Carolan was a travelling musician but he was also blind, you see. So, he needed a reliable man to guide him, to lead his horse and to carry his harp.
Master O’Carolan was greatly loved for his talent at the harp, but he had a weak spot for the whiskey. It was a full-time job seeing to his needs and a great challenge keeping up with him too. However, his circle of friends included some of the leading people in Dublin society at the time. Dean Jonathan Swift was a personal friend. Signor Geminiani, the renowned violinist, was another close acquaintance.
What do you do now?
My master’s love of the whiskey led me to learn the art of distilling, if for no other reason than to save him some money and ensure I didn’t starve. Whenever he launched on a drinking binge I might not get paid for weeks. I’m now a master distiller and my wares are sold all over the country. Not legally of course. I have a series of connections with various officers and gentlemen who appreciate my craftsmanship. These days I’m confined a little. I’m a hundred years old. A mishap with the still a few years back, blinded me. Now I know how my master felt. I’m left to direct the family business and spend my time by the fire telling stories of the old days. Continue reading “Hugh Connor (of King of the Blind, by Caiseal Mor)”