Bob Peoples (1900-1973)
Compiled by Martin McGinley. Uploaded – 5.10.20
Bob Peoples was born in 1900, the son of William Peoples, a flax cleaner, and his wife Bella. The family lived in Killycally, St Johnston. At the time of the 1911 census, Bob had two older brothers, James and William; three younger brothers, Patrick, Alexander and Joseph; and a younger sister, Mary.
Bob’s son Joe (who sadly passed away in June 2020) said that his father started work in the Castletown slate quarry at the age of 14. He later worked in the flax mill in Carrigans. The mill was owned by the Herdsman family and operated for many years until it closed around 1951. It was situated where the CCCP complex now stands.
Joe said the mill owner Mr. Herdsman, who took the finished product from the mill for his operations in Sion Mills, had great time for Bob. He used to consult him on aspects of the flax mill operation.
“My father was a clever man,” he said.
Joe didn’t know how his father got on to the fiddle, or how he learned to read music.
He said Bob ran the ‘harmonising flute band’ in Kinnycally at one time, and used to sit upstairs to all hours humming to himself and then dipping the pen in the ink bottle and writing out the parts for the band. There was first flute, second flute, third flute, Bb bass flute, piccolo and more.
Joe added that Bob would have played for the dancing in Kinnycally Hall.
Bob Peoples taught the fiddle. His students included Kathleen McGinley, née Duggan, who lived at Brockagh, St Johnston, and later in Raphoe. He also helped a young Tommy Peoples.
Bob died in February 1973 at the age of 72.
In an interview in 2015, Joe said the interest in music had continued in the family. His own daughter Joanne played accordion in the St Johnston marching band. Her daughter Jade was doing Irish dancing.
Joe was a well-known publican who leased McCann’s bar on Main Street, St. Johnston, from the 1980s. The bar was owned by Eileen McCann, grandmother of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared on a family holiday in Portugal in 2007 when she was three years-old.
How Bob arrived home
From Caoimhin MacAoidh’s Between the Jigs and the Reels: The Donegal Fiddle Tradition (1994) –
Bob, a cousin of Tom Peoples, was a native of St Johnston. He is remembered as having been a very good player with a particularly rich highland repertoire. He was in popular demand for house dances. Bob is enthusiastically described by Kathleen McGinley as “very tuneful”. He was well capable of reading staff notation and had a good grasp of musical theory. He used this to his advantage by becoming a respected teacher in the locality. One of his pupils was Bob Doogan and eventually he took on [Bob’s] younger sister, Kathleen (Kathleen McGinley), to whom he taught her first reel, a local version of The Tarbolton. He was regularly partnered for dances by Tommy McMenamin. Tommy was a good player and a dry wit. One night soon after buying one of the first cars in the area he drove off with Bob to play. Having gotten lost on the way home the car finished upside-down in a field. McMenamin got out of the car, freed Bob and then declared “home at last”! Bob was married to Nellie Glackin whose father came from Dungloe and appears to have been a relation of Tom Glackin of Maghery.
Memories of Bob Peoples
Tommy Peoples wrote in his book Ó Am Go hAm about a tune he got from Bob Peoples, a highland called Miss Crawford’s. It’s a challenging tune which suggests Bob was a highly accomplished player. Tommy says Bob’s generosity in giving him tunes, and other similar gestures, encouraged what became a lifelong interest in the music:
I first heard Bob play Miss Crawford’s at Tom McMenamin’s during one of those fiddle-playing get-togethers that moved from house to house where everyone passed a fiddle around [ . .]. He also played The Yellow Heifer, a reel known as The Bunch of Keys today. In those days the most used and accessible music collection was Kerr’s, a Scottish collection which also included some Irish tunes. Bob played a lot of strathspeys and unusual tunes, as well as the usual reels and jigs. He probably played this tune to honour Sam [Nisbet], and Miss Crawford’s, Scottish connection. Others would also play some Scottish tunes on those nights, as well as Irish [ . .]
One of those days, Bob arrived with the notes of most of the tunes he had played that night at Tom McMenamin’s, about six tunes. Included was Miss Crawford’s, which he played for me later and explained the third position. Also The Yellow Heifer, a version of Drowsy Maggie, a tune called Lady Lincoln, which was similar to The Maids of Castlebar, The Wheels of the World and The Queen of the Fair, a jig. This was a treasure trove of four reels, a highland or strathspey, and a jig. I dare say that those tunes, along with other similar experiences, sowed the seeds for my lifetime commitment to Irish traditional music.
1 MacAoidh, C. (1994) Between the Jigs and the Reels: The Donegal Fiddle Tradition, Manorhamilton (Co. Leitrim), Drumlin Publications pp. 195-196
2 Peoples, T. (2015) Ó Am Go hAm, Kinny Cally, St Johnston (Co. Donegal), T.P. Publishing, pp. 47-48