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Erin's Lament

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2012 marks the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, a tragedy that claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people after the ship struck an iceberg just four days into her maiden voyage. Among the dead were eight musicians, members of the ship band who famously played their way into the history books by continuing to perform even as the ship listed and began its terrifying descent into the waters.

Of particular interest to bassists is that one survivor, Eugene Daly, from the small Irish town of Athlone, on the banks of the River Shannon, was the Great-Uncle of David Daly, the Principal Double Bass of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Eugene Daly, at the age of twenty-nine, decided to emigrate to New York, having become tired of the small town and his job in the woolen mills. He also played the uileann pipes in the local 'Clann Uiseach' pipe band and from the third-class deck of the Titanic, and as the Cork coastline faded into the distance, played the poignant Erin's Lament on his pipes as a fond farewell to his homeland.

David Daly decided to commemorate the event and asked Ian Pillow, a former violist with the BSO, to make an arrangement of Erin's Lament for solo double bass and atring sextet (3 violins, 2 cellos & double bass), which was the same string ensemble onboard the Titanic. This new arrangement was premiered by Daly with members of the BSO on 22 March 2012 at Central Hall, Southampton, followed by another performance at Cherbourg Theatre on 14 April - both ports from which the Titanic sailed.

Ian Pillow subsequently created an atmospheric and evocative version for double bass and piano and this new edition includes accompaniments for both solo and orchestral tunings.

David Daly contributed the following fascinating text:

Eugene Daly lived in Athlone for most of his life. He had grown tired of the town and his job in the Athlone Woolen Mills. At the time he was a young man of 29 and was curious about the rest of the world. In 1912 he decided to go to New York to find work.

Eugene had a great love of music and was popular in the music circle in Athlone. He played in the "Clann Uiseach" pipe band. In the band he played the "Uileann" (elbow) pipes. Eugene purchased his ticket for Titanic in Butlers,in the Square in Athlone, for nine pounds. As the Titanic set sail from Cobh Eugene Daly is said to have stood on the Third class deck and played "Erin's Lament" on his pipes, his only possession on Titanic. He later claimed fifty pounds for their loss. This estimate was much more than they were worth.

During the voyage Eugene Daly was to take care of Maggie Daly and Bertha Mulvihill. On the night of the collision he rushed to get the two women and alert them of the danger. He helped the two women to lifeboat No.15. As he tried to get onto the boat he was held back at gun point. The officer stated that no men were to get on the boat or else they would be shot on the spot. Eugene witnessed the officer shoot two men. Later he saw the same officer dead on deck.... he had shot himself. Eugene then jumped of the ship and into the water just before the ship sank. He later described how cold the water was and how he expected not to survive the icy water.

He then found a lifeboat which had capsized. With the help of some other survivors and the wave made by the Titanic's bow crashing into the water they righted the lifeboat. He is quoted to have said his sufferings were intense in the life boat until the Carpathia came and began to pick up survivors at around 4:00 am.

Eugene Daly reached New York with nothing having lost his pipes, baggage and 98 pounds he had saved. In New York he was branded by the media as the piper who played as the ship sank. Mr Daly stayed in America for 10 years before returning to Athlone, in 1922 with his wife Lillian. He had a daughter Marion who emigrated to America.

Mr. Daly remained casual about the incident and only talked about it when questioned.... although he did give his account to the 1958 film makers of "A night to remember". In the 60's he returned to America to live with his daughter after his wife had died.

That was to be his last crossing of the Atlantic as he died in America, 50 years after that tragic night, on the 31st of October 1965. He is buried at an unmarked grave at St Raymonds Cemetery in the Bronx. In 1999 Eugene's account of his survival was auctioned off for $3,500 at Christie's in Manhattan.


A letter to a former comrade in the Athlone Pipers Band, Mr. Eugene Daly describes the incidents on board immediately before the Titanic struck the iceberg. "We had a jolly time in the steerage that evening. I played the pipes, all men and women danced. Just before the crash came I got into bed, but when the ship's bottom struck, or grated on the ice I got up and put on a little clothing. The stewards came through and told the passengers they should not be afraid. There was no danger, they said. Most of the women believed them – many of them until it was too late. This is why so many of the women of the steerage were drowned."

Ian Pillow has spent much of his professional life as an orchestral viola player, including performing with the Royal Philharmonic, London Symphony and Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras, but particularly with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Since his retirement from the BSO he has devoted more time to composition, including BSC commissions and works for his professional colleagues. He has also received commissions for choral and amateur orchestral groups, and for many years he wrote the popular 'Pillow Talk' column for Classical FM magazine and was a feature writer for The Independent.

Ian is conductor of the Dorset County Orchestra, the Sherborne Community Orchestra and the Purbeck Festival Strings. Whilst in the the BSO he was conductor of their brass ensemble and 'Rusty Musicians' project. He still give the BSO's pre-concert talks.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LSF6hHh8kQ

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Cat No. RM536
Supplier Code RM536
Price £8.50
ComposerIrish Traditional Melody
ArrangerIan Pillow
CategoryDouble Bass & Piano
PublisherRecital Music
Difficulty level7 - 8
ISMN 979-0-57045-536-2
EAN-13 9790570455362
Weight 101 grams
Published 20th November 2012
Availability 1 in stock
See also...
RM663  Erin's Lament (VIOLA & PIANO)
RM664  Erin's Lament (DOUBLE BASS QUINTET)
RM672  15th April 1912 (DOUBLE BASS SOLO)