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My mother started playing the guitar when she was in college, back in the late 60s. She had always been musical – achieving grade 8 on the piano, and playing cello and clarinet for her boarding school orchestra. The guitar was a more 60s- and 70s-friendly instrument, one you could pick up at a house party to play a Joan Baez or Bob Dillon song.

Her first guitar was one her mother owned. It’s lying around the house these days with no strings, no fret board. I gather it’s such poor quality it’s not worth the cost of getting it fixed up, so we keep it for its sentimental value more than anything. Someday soon it’ll be a museum piece.

Once my mother had mastered ten chords and some finger-picking techniques, she bought her second guitar. She met her French guitar teacher in the city, and together they picked out a guitar in Walton’s music shop, which is still the biggest music shop in Dublin today. It was the mid-1970s, and it cost her 25 pounds.

As a child, I played the violin and the tin whistle, and I surely must have picked up the guitar at some point, only to find that my fingers – long as they were for a child my age – couldn’t get to grips with the wide neck. But I didn’t give it much thought until I was fourteen. I was studying for my Junior Certificate in school that year, but I never had to do much work when I was younger to achieve good grades (that would change later, much to my shock and chagrin). I had just started listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Bob Dillon and Jeff Buckley, and I had a burning desire to learn the guitar.

So my mother’s second guitar became my first. Her music-playing days had gradually lapsed, and I was to carry the torch. I spend two or three solid years playing for hours each day, writing several songs a week during that time. I fell out of the habit, and never became really good, and now my shiny new Martin guitar sits in its box mostly untouched. But I still have a soft spot for that first Spanish guitar, and the memories it disturbs, rising like dust.


4 thoughts on “Strung

    • It is sad, but I think more than anything it’s been lack of time keeping both of us from it. My mother hasn’t really played any music since I was born, she got out of the habit, I guess. She does talk about taking up the piano again. I would like to think I’ll get back to the guitar – I do occasionally take it out again – but the problem is always fitting in everything, and it’s just become less of a priority for me!

  1. Ah, there is nothing like your first instrument. I appreciate there conflicting priorities that take time away from music but you may come back to it. I played in a band in the 80s and then let things lapse until about six years ago. So now as I approach my sixth decade, we have an album out and I am having more fun than ever. Times change and opportunities present themselves.

    • Yes, they are special, aren’t they? I think playing music will probably always be a part of my life. My violin playing and song writing have lapsed as well, but I do tinker around on the piano and sing a bit from time to time. So hopefully when I have more time on my hands I will come back to it more! I would have loved to be in a band, but it hasn’t happened yet – but I like to hear you’ve recently got back into it, makes me think it’s never too late! 🙂

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