Ashley's O'Mealy Memo Set

Endorsement from Ronan Browne

Reading through Ashley's piece about the pipes, I agree with all he says. Richard Lewis O'Mealy's early sets are fascinating, and I am blown away each time a new early set appears. But this 'Memo' set was a wish come true as it is unique among RLO'M sets. For anyone unfamiliar with the Memo, take a look at the website of the Seán Reid Society Journal and look at articles 6 & 8 of the O'Mealy volume of the journal where interestingly I was of the opinion at the time that while this looked to be made by O'Mealy but I wasn't certain. In fact, there are quite a few elements common to this set and Eamonn Curran's boxwood and ebony set and this set has now turned up, with lots of O'Mealy stamps on it – yesssss…!!!

I am of the opinion that he made this set for himself and that it was only sold on later – while we have various photos of him playing other sets, they are plainly candid shots, or photos specially taken and sent with new sets to show how they should be played – ever the consummate professional! But this set was used on his self-aggrandising memo pamphlet, something I believe he would not have done with a set recently made for a customer.

So, this set is one of only two of his own making which were photographed being played by him. And the other set is not presently in the public domain, thus making this set unique.

The restoration was expertly handled by all involved and I laud Ashley on not damaging any part of the original and in keeping the original bag cover etc. And that bag cover is immediately recognisable from the photo on the 'Memo'. I must disagree with Ashley on one point – my memory is that with huge excitement I immediately knew that this was the Memo Set as soon as I saw it. But we did pore over the Memo photograph for ages so I could point out the elements of the set which would prove beyond doubt that it was the same set. All we need now is the pouffe on which he rested his foot, the potted plant, perhaps his knee britches and goatee beard and we have the full rig-out…!

Yes, it is a pity the original chanter is not with the set but I think I agree with Ashley that a possible reason is that the chanter may have been below-par. Certainly, should the original chanter ever re-surface, it will be instantly recognisable and if not re-unitable with the set, would surely be available to copy.

Ronan Browne