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Updated 05/10/2013


The Banshee

The Banshee from the Irish bean sí ("woman of the síde" or "woman of the fairy mounds") is a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. Her Scottish counterpart is the Bean Nighe ("washer-woman"). 

According to legend, a banshee wails around a house if someone in the house is about to die.  Traditionally, when a citizen of an Irish village died, a woman would sing a lament at their funeral. These women singers are sometimes referred to as "keeners". Legend has it that, for five great Gaelic families: the O'Gradys, the O'Neills, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, and the Kavanaghs, the lament would be sung by a fairy woman; having foresight, she would appear before the death and keen. When several banshees appeared at once, it indicated the death of someone great or holy. The tales sometimes recounted that the woman, though called a fairy, was a ghost, often of a specific murdered woman, or a woman who died in childbirth.  

Banshees are frequently described as dressed in white or grey, and often having long, fair hair which they brush with a silver comb, a detail scholar Patricia Lysaght attributes to confusion with local mermaid myths. This comb detail is also related to the centuries-old traditional romantic Irish story that, if you ever see a comb lying on the ground in Ireland, you must never pick it up, or the banshees (or mermaids - stories vary), having placed it there to lure unsuspecting humans, will spirit such gullible humans away. Other stories portray banshees as dressed in green, red or black with a grey cloak.

The tune is arranged here by Terrry Tully (above).  Terry Tully’s name is synonymous with traditional Irish music in the world of bagpipes. His accomplishments both as a solo player and as Pipe Major of the St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band have boosted the already high credibility of Irish Highland piping.
Born on June 2nd, 1956, Terry followed in the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, father and mother who were all pipers.
A bricklayer by trade, Terry is married to Eileen, also a piping fanatic, and they have one son Alen, pipe sergeant of St. Laurence O’Toole and All Ireland Senior Solo Piping Champion in 2005. Terry first became interested in the pipes around 1964 from listening to his father Tommy. In 1966, at the age of 10, Terry joined the St. Joseph’s Pipe Band from Clondalkin. Between 1967 and 1973 he was part of the revival on Highland piping in the Republic of Ireland, where a new generation of pipers was beginning to make its mark.
In 1971, Terry played at his first All Ireland Solo Championship in the juvenile grade at Howth, taking third place to winner Ian Jess and runner up to Vivian McCann. At the end of 1973, he joined St. Laurence O’Toole, who were then competing in Grade 3 under the leadership of his father. In 1974 the band won the All Ireland Grade 3 championship and the next year it was promoted to Grade 2, where it struggled for some years.
In 1980, Terry was appointed Pipe Sergeant and became the man in charge of the band’s sound. On a visit to Brittany with the band in 1983, he met Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band’s young Richard Parkes, who would have an important influence on his piping career. The two future solo champions established an immediate rapport, and Richard encouraged Terry to delve back into solo piping, which he did, finishing 3rd in the junior section of the All Ireland in 1983.
The following year was a difficult one as his father Tommy died just as the band was beginning to make important strides. Two weeks later Terry led the band to victory in a local contest. He has never looked back.
He took the band back to Brittany in 1984, re-established contact with Richard, and later that year won Best Junior Piper at the invitational Piper of the Year event in Mid-Antrim. Solo success at the All Ireland Senior level followed quickly as Terry gained 3rd in 1986 and ’87, and 2nd in 1988 and ’89. He won the All Ireland Solo Championship in 1990, 1994 and 1996.
Perhaps Terry’s most lasting musical achievement to date has been his adaptations of and remarkable ability to play traditional Irish tunes on the Highland bagpipe. He published three collections of tunes between 1987 and 1997, and such compositions as “Tommy Tully’s Air” and “The Pumpkin’s Fancy,” have quickly earned places among the best Highland Pipe tunes written. His skills have earned him renown and such honors as performing with The Chieftains in Carnegie Hall in New York. He has appeared on three of the group’s albums.
Under Terry’s leadership the St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band continues to rise in the Grade 1 ranks, finishing third in 2004 in Scotland’s “Champion of Champions” results. The band frequently places in the top six at the major championships.