If you like and want to promote Irish music then you will naturally be pleased when it wins favour with prominent people in other countries.
It’s great when the world’s top rock stars want to perform with The Chieftains, or when someone like Bob Dylan describes The Clancy Brothers as heroes. But, somehow, I don’t think many Irish musicians would want the approval of Adolf Hitler.
That poisoned blessing was bestowed on Irish uilleann piper Sean Dempsey in 1936.
An exhibition of photos from the 1930s called Ceol na Cathra has just opened in Dublin. The photos and other materials were collected by the Irish fiddle player Mick O’Connor.
They reveal that Dempsey was invited to play for Hitler who was very keen on Irish folk music.
When Dempsey arrived to play there was nowhere for him to sit. Hitler apparently ordered one of his officers to kneel down on all fours so that Dempsey could perch on the unfortunate man’s back.
It’s hard to decide which man would feel the most embarrassed and humiliated!
Nevertheless, Dempsey managed to get through the performance and was rewarded with a great display of applause from Hitler and his officers. Hitler also presented Dempsey with a gold fountain pen.
Thankfully, the exhibition has plenty of other interesting photos and insights, including some of The Chieftains from the 1960s when they were just starting to bring Irish music to the attention of an unsuspecting world.