Paddy Moloney
Born: August 1, 1938 in Donnycarney, Dublin, Éire
Instruments: uilleann pipes, tin whistle, Button accordion, & bodhrán
Albums Present: all


Paddy Moloney, the leader of the Chieftains, is the only one of the original Chieftains remaining from the Chieftains' start in 1962. Paddy has always had a love of traditional music which he received from his parents who had a strong sense musical traditions from their native County Laois. His grandfather was a flute player and his uncle belonged to the Ballyfin Pipe Band. His first instrument was a plastic tin whistle bought by his mother when he was six and by the age of eight, he was learning to play the uilleann pipes from the great pipe master, Leo Rowsome.

After he left school, he took a job with Baxendales, a large building firm, where he worked in accounting. Before the Chieftains came into existence, Paddy played in several groups and worked to develop his own unique sound. He often played with other musicians in duets and trios around Dublin and he even had a skiffle band called The Three Squares. Moloney met Seán Ó Ríada in the late 1950's, when he played with a number of different people, including Seán Potts, Michael Tubridy, Martin Fay, in various clubs. Some of these musicians later went on to play in Seán Ó Ríada's folk orchestra, Ceoltóirí Cualann the early 60's. Other soon to be Chieftains in the Ceoltóirí Cualann included Seán Potts, Martin Fay, Peadar Mercier, and Mick Tubridy. In 1962, Paddy brought the above group together along with an old friend of his, Dave Fallon, to do a one time album called - The Chieftains for Garech a Brún's fledgling Claddagh label.

In 1968, Paddy left Baxendales to work for Garech a Brún's fledgling record label, Claddagh Records. In seven years, he managed to establish Claddagh's catalog and a market for it. During his time at Claddagh, he either produced, co-produced or supervised 45 albums for the Claddagh label in folk, traditional, classical, poetry and spoken word recordings. The artists he helped bring to the public include Paddy Taylor, Máire Ní Donnachadha, Seán Mac Donncha, Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford, Sarah and Rita Keane, and Tommy Potts. The writers he worked with included the likes of Seámus Heaney, John Montague, Thomas Kinsella, and several others. When Moloney left Claddagh in 1975, the label had a wide and diverse catalog.

For over 40 years, he has continued to lead and develop the Chieftains into one of Ireland's most famous musical ambassadors. He has lead the group to all corners of the world and worked with artists in different genres. His leadership of the Chieftains has lead to recognition of Irish music and of the group's work from political leaders and musical colleagues in Ireland and around the world.

In addition to his work leading the Chieftains, Paddy has also done considerable solo work appearing on many albums in a number of different genres and composing a number of tunes. Paddy has played with many of the greats in the music industry such including Mick Jagger and Sting. In 1982, he appeared as a solo guest with Jackson Browne at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and played tin whistle on "Rain Clouds", the flip side of the Stevie Wonder/Paul McCartney hit single Ebony and Ivory. Paddy has composed the scores for such films as Tristan and Isolde (or Love Spell) starring Richard Burton, The Year of The French and The Ballad of The Irish Horse, a film in the world renowned series of the National Geographic Society television specials, and Treasure Island. The 1990's saw his film work continue with Two if By Sea, Agnes Browne, and Circle of Friends. His most recent foray into film work is the 2002 release of the American Civil War epic, Gods and Generals. For his work with the Chieftains and spreading Irish music throughout the world, Paddy Moloney was awarded an honorary doctorate degree of music from Trinity College, Dublin in 1988.


Uilleann Pipes:
This is probably the most elaborate bagpipe in the world. It was developed from roughly the 1700's to the present time in Ireland, with contributions from the U.S. and European countries. Today it is widely known as the "uilleann" (ILL-en) pipe from the Irish word for "elbow" but it has earlier been called variously the "union" pipe and the "organ" pipe.

Unlike many types of bagpipe, the uilleann pipes are not blown by mouth but like numerous now-rare bagpipes are inflated by a bellows. Perhaps the most unusual feature of the instrument is its melody-pipe or chanter, which plays more than 2 complete chromatic octaves (most forms of bagpipe can play little more than one octave).

The chanter is essentially a primitive oboe and is very quiet, about as loud as 1-2 fiddles. Like the Scots Highland bagpipe the uilleann pipes have 3 drones but they are very quiet. Finally, the instrument also contains (typically) 3 more oboes in the form of 1-octave 4- or 5-note stopped pipes with keys operated by the wrist (while the piper fingers the melody on the chanter) to provide several simple chords for accompaniment. These pipes have the peculiar name of "regulators" although they are purely musical and do not in any way "regulate" air pressure or behavior of the instrument.

The most commonly-heard or "concert pitch" pipes are tuned in the key of D. The drones are all tuned to D and the chanter plays 2 chromatic octaves (or more) starting with a D. The instrument must be played seated with one leg lowered. The chanter bottom is placed onto this leg to seal the opening shut, so that the piper can play either continuously or, as desired, can stop the chanter to play interrupted or staccato notes.

Copyright 1996 David C. Daye.
Special thanks to David for the above profile. See his Intro to Scottish Highland and Irish Uilleann Pipes for the full profiles.

Please see Alan Ginsberg:Ulleann pipes for excellent information about the pipes.

The picture of Paddy at the top, shows a set of pipes laying across his lap.

Tin Whistle:
The tin whistle is a vertical fipple-flute. The fipple is the duct in the mouthpiece that directs air to produce sound. The first tin whistles of the 1800's were rolled plates of tin forming a tube, with a wooden block in the mouthpiece carved to form the fipple. Today's tin whistles are made of metals including nickel-silver, brass and aluminum. They have a range of two octaves, and are made in a wide range of keys. The tin whistle is one of the most simple Irish instruments to play, but in the hands of a master like Paddy Moloney, it is one of the sweetest!.

Irish Button Accordion:
The accordion is constructed of cellulose over a wood or metal frame, but sometimes other materials are used. Accordions come in the traditional wood stains as well as classic black and red. In Irish traditional music, the accordion generally has 23 buttons in 2 rows, 8 bass buttons, 4 sets of treble and 4 sets of bass reeds, 2 treble switches in proper dry Irish B/C tuning including D/D# and C#/D. Variations in the accordion can also include 5 sets of bass reeds, 2 bass switches and with some models including 37 buttons in 3 rows, 80 bass buttons, 4 sets of treble and 5 sets of bass reeds, 9 treble and 2 bass switches in proper dry Irish tuning of B/C and C#. The accordion is played with two hands with one hand manipulating the rows of keys and the second hand is pulling the reeds and manipulating the bass keys with the right hand. The instrument is suspended from the shoulders of the player and be played either seated or standing.

Additional information on accordions can be found at Lark in the Morning.

Bodhrán??? Yes, Paddy Moloney does play bodhrán on at least two albums. The bodhrán (pronounced like bow rawn) is the heartbeat of Irish music. This ancient framedrum is traditionally made with a wooden body and a goat-skin head, and is played by striking the drumhead obliquely with the hand or with a double-headed stick called a cipín, tipper, or beater. In the most common style, the bodhránist plays the basic rhythm with the lower end of the stick, and adds ornamentation with the upper end.

The bodhrán is a relatively recent addition to Irish traditional music. Although it has a long history as a noisemaker in warfare and certain religious festivals, the drum was not accepted into modern performance ensembles until the 1960s, when Seán Ó Ríada introduced in into his arrangements for Ceoltóirí Chualann and the Chieftains. General acceptance has been slow in coming, as many traditionalists felt that the drum had no place in Irish music. This feeling is mostly gone, due the efforts of virtuosi like Peadar Mercier, Mel Mercier, Tommy Hayes, Christy Moore, and Johnny "Ringo" MacDonagh. Today, the bodhrán is found in most Irish traditional bands, and is appearing more often in Scottish music, modern folk music, Celtic-fusion rock, and even classical music. But the bodhrán continues to be the traditional butt of numerous jokes.

Special thanks to Josh Mittleman, for the above information.


  • Duet Album and Solo Production Work
  • Other Contributions and Appearances:
  • Albums Produced outside of The Chieftains

  • Albums on the Unisphere/Wicklow Label as Executive Producer [RCA]

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