Charles Cullen

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Charles Cullen, Sydney provided details of some of the Australian tunes in this archive.

Charles Cullen was born in Dunaree (the old name) also known as Kingscourt, on the border of Cavan & County Meath, Ireland. He played the fiddle.

Regarding the tune title ‘The Black Rock Polka’: In 1974 I was living in North Epping NSW. I used to yarn with an older gentleman over the back fence. His name was Charlie Cullen. Charles still had a clear Irish accent and pronounced his name something like ‘Char-les’. He was from County Meath in Ireland and he played the fiddle. He was born in Dunaree (the old name) also known as Kingscourt on the border of Cavan & County Meath. He learned the fiddle from an uncle I think it was, by the name of Carlain. The harper Turlough O’Carolan was born just down the road at Nobber. I recall Charles saying that there was some relationship between the two. It was all on that missing cassette.

I was to spend many hours with him talking and recording. I recorded the earliest session on a cassette tape and later sessions on a Revox. There were some particularly interesting items on that early cassette recording including what is now called ‘The Black Rock Polka’. Charlie had no name for that particular tune. So I asked him where he had first heard it. He said he had heard it first at Black Rock, a ‘place on the seaside, out of Dublin’. Over a cup of tea we decided that if we called it the ‘Black Rock’ polka, then we would both know in the future what tune we were talking about. So that was that. I lent the cassette to Brad Tate who used some of the items on it, ‘The Geese in the Bog’, ‘The Rakes Polka’ and ‘The Black Rock Polka, in his 1988 publication, ‘Down and Outback’. Unfortunately that was the last I saw of the tape. Should it ever turn up and be playable after all this time, it sure would be worth a listen.

While the tune may have been around for who knows how long, it is very unlikely that the title ‘Black Rock’ was used for that tune before Charlie & I decided to do so over that cup of tea. Anyway it was a rare enriching experience to have met Charlie Cullen. He would have been in his eighties at the time.

Dave de Hugard, Thursday, 5 January 2017

Hi Ray, Brad Tate gave me the Black Rock polka when he was in Newcastle in 1975. He also gave me the rakes polka with it...this is a polka version of the rakes of Kildare.

I have played it many times in Ireland, at sessions, with no recognition. An interesting note; the polka Johnny Cope that is played in our tradition is not known in Ireland except as a hornpipe. When Conor Keane was here he heard it and now plays it in sessions in Clare....tradition going the other way.

Norm Merrigan, Sunday, 8 Jan 2017

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