Picture of Martin Fay

Martin Fay
Born: September 19, 1936 in Dublin, Éire Died: November 14, 2012 in Dublin, Éire
Instruments: fiddle and bones
Albums Present: Chieftains 1 to Wide World Over


Martin, a native of Dublin, was inspired to take up music after seeing a film on Paganini. Viewing the film inspired to take up music and learned to play the violin in the classical style and won a scolarship to the Dublin Municipal School of Music, but was always drawn to traditional music.

He became acquainted with Paddy Moloney both musically and through friendship in the late 1950's by playing in various settings with Paddy and others. In the late 1950's, Martin was playing in an orchestra in the Abbey Theatre part-time when he met Seán Ó Riáda. Ó Riáda invited him to play in his orchestra, Ceoltóirí Cualann where he became more acquainted with Paddy Moloney.

It was through this association with Ceoltóirí Cualann and the progression of time and events that Martin would become one of the founding members of the Chieftains. Aside from Paddy, he is one of the original five members of the group still remaining in 2000. In 2001, Martin decided to step down from active touring with the group and limited his appearances with the Chieftains to events in Ireland.

Martin is best known for his interpretation of a slow air demonstrating emotion and tranquility.

Martin, who trained as a clasical violinist and who helped revive traditional Irish music as a founding member of the Chieftains, died on November 14, 2012 in Dublin at the age of 76.



The fiddle had evolved, or devolved from the violin, which itself had evolved from an earlier bowed instrument: the medieval fiddle. It is a beautifully made wooden box with curved sides, a neck and four strings that are pulled over a bridge. The hollow box amplifies the sound that is made when the strings vibrate over the bridge. The strings may be plucked or bowed. The box is often made of woods such as cherry and maple with and opening to resonate sound. The fiddle is held in the left hand and the box of the instrument rests on shoulder with a chin rest near the base of the box. The picture above shows the fiddle on Martin's shoulder with his face near the chin rest. Interstingly, on Chieftains 1, you can hear Martin plucking the strings on the fiddle.

The bow is made out of a special wood that comes from Brazil called pernambuco. The other part of the bow is made out of the hair from a horse's tail. The horses that the hair comes from are hearty animals from a cold climate, so the hair is very tough and coarse. The musician uses rosin to help the hair grab the string. Rosin is a block of the sticky sap that comes from pine trees, formed into a round shape and sold at instrument shops along with strings.

The major differences between the fiddle and the violin is in how they are learned and how they are played. One learns to play the violin from trained teachers. The fiddle is typically learned from anyone or anyplace with a new tune. The violin is typically played a note at a time, while multiple strings and harmonies may be called into play on a fiddle. Fiddle playing is also influenced by the use of ornamentation and nuances to make a tune resemble other instruments or add texture to a tune. Seán's incredible playing often mimics the playing of pipes. Many Irish tunes are in the keys of A, D, C and G. There is also more emphasis on rhythmic and melodic than on harmonics and counterpoint as construed in western orchestral music. Another way to look at is a fiddle is that it is a violin with soul.


Evidence of the use of bones as a percussion instrument dates back to the mediaeval period. The player typically holds a pair in each hand, one between the thumb and index finger, the second between the index and middle fingers. The player flicks his wrist to strike the bones together to create rhythms. Today, bones are made from various animal bones and a variety of woods such as Walnut, Oak and Maple.

Thanks to Joseph Mulvanerty for the above bones information.

These are musical clappers made of ox bone. The player holds a pair in each hand; one 'bone' is held between thumb and index finger, a second between index and middle fingers. They are clicked together by flicking the wrist. Known since medieval times when Jongleurs brought them from ancient Rome.

Thanks to Lark In The Morning for the above bones information.


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