Lightning strikes - special pipes are a bolt from the blue for Martin!

Martin Gallen who makes Uilleann pipes pictured with Paul McGonagle (left) at the Craft Village yesterday morning. DER3213JM078
Martin Gallen who makes Uilleann pipes pictured with Paul McGonagle (left) at the Craft Village yesterday morning. DER3213JM078

An architect who carved out a career making traditional musical instruments after he lost his job during the recession is putting the finishing touches to a very special set of uilleann pipes in time for the Fleadh.

Strabane native Martin Gallen has fashioned a beautifully ornate set of Derry pipes - partly made from a 300-year-old oak felled by lightning - to commemorate the city’s hosting of Fleadh 2013.

Martin (37) hit the headlines at the start of this year when he handcrafted sets of uilleann uipes from WW1 and WWII artillery shells. Daubed the ‘Pipes of Peace’, these will also be on show at his store also during the Fleadh celebrations.

Speaking to the Journal from his Craft Village store, Martin said: “I wanted to do something really special to mark the Fleadh coming to the city.

“Everyone knows the close connection with that Derry has with aak – Doire, of course, means oak grove – and I wanted to create something in oak to celebrate the wealth of traditional music that will come to the city next week.

“I have had a large bit of old oak seasoning in my workshop for a few years. Back then a farmer on the outskirts of Derry called me after it had gone down on his land. The tree had been struck by lightning – which in itself makes the final product that little more magical. The wood has the full power of nature ingrained in it. I couldn’t pass up the chance to take that centuries old oak tree and create a commemorative set of bellows for the Fleadh.”

Traditional music has at least one famous instance of lighting connecting with piping - the famous Donegal piper Turlough MacSuibhne claimed he got his special powers on the pipes after a lightning strike when he played on top of a hill during a storm!

In the Hollyglen Crafts store – which Martin runs alongside fellow mastercraftsman Paul McGonagle – there are also several beautiful Bodhran Tippers fashioned from the lightning oak as well as other stunning wood turned creations in Irish hardwood, Beech, Yew, Sycamore, Oak, Cherry, Elm and Walnut.

And the Hollyglen Crafts woodturners have also crafted ornate wooden pens fashioned from 4,000 year old Derry Bog Oak wood that are proving incredibly popular with locals and visitors alike.

The Hollyglen Crafts store is situated in the Craft Village Collective shop in the Craft Village and will be open throughout the Fleadh.

The former First Trust on Shipquay Street will also host a number of instrument makers and music sellers from around the country during the Fleadh week.