Album Reviews



Posted by Tony Lawless on May 20, 2015 at 16:30



Album Review - Brendan McAuley / The McCartney's of Pennyburn

  • Posted by Tony Lawless on May 20, 2015 at 16:30

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  This is an impressive recording by Belfast born Brendan McAuley.  It features mostly new compositions that tell the story of The McCartneys of Pennyburn. Brendan’s great, great grandfather bought the lease to the Pennyburn estate, just outside Derry city in 1865 and restored the old Pennyburn windmill that existed there at the time. Brendan traces their roots back to the 1865 and builds an amazing collection of orchestrated tracks around that story.   Many have a haunting almost ethereal quality to them and perfectly match the mood he is trying to achieve. They have power, nuance and emotion and are imaginatively constructed with a near cinematic quality.

  The first half of the album is anchored by The Men of Arranmore, an outstanding new song. The Phaeton Carriage ( to Church and Back ) which we include below uses a strong rhythm to represent the carriage on its way to Church, with the track becoming solemn halfway through to symbolise the Mass itself, before the return journey. The whistle and guitar work on The Pennyburn Windmill/The Three Kings builds a firm melody line before spreading its wings and growing into a pipe driven track. When you consider that Brendan plays all the instruments on this recording you can’t but be impressed. A powerful and expressive album.




The Telegraph

20 best folk music albums of 2015









Irish traditional musician Brendan McAuley is well known around the folk scene and this talented multi-instrumentalist has fashioned a very enjoyable and sweet concept album about his ancestors, which is dedicated to his grandmother Kathleen Griffith (the last McCartney of Pennyburn). McAuley, featured on Uileann pipes, flutes, Anglo concertina, tenor banjo, Bazzouki, mandolin, keyboards and whistles, plays and sings on 11 tracks, nine of which he has composed, including the splendid The Men Of Arranmore.






Brendan McAuley 
Album: The McCartney's of Pennyburn 1865-1912
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11


Brendan McAuley, story teller, musician and artist has devised these beautiful pieces of enchanting music. All inspired by the events that happened to his ancestors (The McCartney's of Pennyburn) it is like a narrative in music, as each song that McAuley has created is like a separate chapter in a book.


A book that tells a story of the Pennyburn windmill which was a support for the Jacobite troops in the battle of The Three Kings during the Siege of Derry (1804-1873). The album tells us how the original windmill was destroyed and how Brendan McAuley's' grandfather (Patrick McCartney) was able to rebuild the remaining flourmills and bring back the community and thrive of the business.


The McCartney's of Pennyburn is like nothing I have heard before, it has been intertwined with traditional Irish folk instruments such as the Uilleann pipe, taking my breath away.


As soon as you open the page or listen to the first track of the album, you are hit with this intense and almost hypnotic sound of pipes. The Last McCartney of Pennyburn is about the hardship and struggle that McAuleys' grandmother, Kathleen had gone through during her life. The music fades away and suddenly eases back into the pipes; it's soothing yet commanding your attention. You don't need the side notes provided in the booklet to grasp the theme of this track, the music tells its own story.


It is not all doom and gloom, After The Rally is complimented by two traditional tunes that being Temple an Ghleanntain and The Crooked. The McCartney's were known for big speeches and parties; this song celebrates that party and dance atmosphere. You can picture children and families dancing and jigging around in fields and old town halls having a whale of a time to this set of Irish dance music.


McAuley should be proud of what he has created, especially with the track of The Men Of Arranmore. It is a story of how men who sailed at sea in a small rowing boat risked their lives to save others, together with accompanied vocals


"All my life upon the sea, and if not for the men of Arranmore, I would never know my home, Or have St Brendan watching over me" sounds a cliché but it brings a tear to my eye. It simply encapsulates what this album means to Brendan McAuley and connects nee communicates to us how special this album and story is to him.


With the power and emotion that the story brings, the music is almost secondary. The music brings the story to life and really hits you in the heart, you will find that your deepest and darkest emotions comes flooding out with this album.


Gemma Hirst






FolkWords Reviews


‘The McCartneys of Pennyburn 1865-1912’ – Brendan McAuley – a rare privilege





(March 20, 2015)


     The opportunity to delve deeply into family history is a privilege not accorded to everyone, the ability to translate that history into a living testament of music and song is something altogether wonderful. Brendan McAuley has with ‘The McCartney's of Pennyburn’ created an album suffused with enchanting music inspired by experiences and incidents from the lives of his ancestors, turning their story into a musical treatise that brings their world into sharp focus.

      In his own words: “Patrick McCartney (1804 to 1874) was my great, great grandfather. This year will mark150 years ago since he bought the lease for the 66 acre Pennyburn estate in Derry at an auction for £1505 in 1865 just after the ruins of the windmill were demolished." The original Pennyburn windmill was a Jacobite stronghold in the Battle of The Three Kings during the Siege of Derry 1804-1873. Patrick McCartneyrebuilt the remaining flourmills, restoring both the community and the business. 


     Inspired by events from 1865 until 1912, when John McCartney died and Brendan’s grandmother Catherine McCartney left for England, the 11-track album and its accompanying comprehensive booklet details the McCartney’s history, and through McAuley’s sensitive interpretation leads the listener through paths of their lives. ‘The McCartney's of Pennyburn’ is more than a musical history it is a magical testimony, which for a brief moment in time, enables the wider world to share. 'The Last McCartney of Pennyburn' opens with the haunting Uilleann pipes, moving into the vibrant 'The Phaeton Carriage', echoing the rhythm of hooves and wheels, before the moving lyrics of 'The Men of Arranmore' tell of men risking their lives to save others.


     With dignified and ominous tones, tracks like 'The Pennyburn Windmill/ The Thre Kings' and 'John Takes on The Railway' relive tempestuous times and hard-fought conflicts, while the ever-optimistic sorrow of 'When My Love and I Parted' longs for better days. 'After The Rally' blends two traditional tunes into an impression of dancing and celebration, and 'Cassie's Farewell to Parnell' softly recalls Charles Parnell (nationalist politician, founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party) having a fondness for hearing McAuley’s grandmother play the piano.


   'The McCartneys of Pennyburn 1865-1912’ is one man’s testament to his heritage, it is also stunning album and a momentous piece of social history. Brendan McAuley handles Uilleann pipes, vocals, flutes, whistles, Anglo concertina, tenor banjo, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, keyboards, bodhran, spoons and percussion. Discover more

Reviewer: Tim Carroll











 Album Review:


 Brendan McAuley

 The McCartneys of Pennyburn


By Joe Giltrap on March 26, 2015




Brendan McAuley

The McCartneys of Pennyburn

***** (out of five)


     Brendan McAuley is unquestionably one of London’s top traditional Irish musicians and it is great to see an album from one of the stalwarts of the London scene — something that frankly we don’t see enough of.

      This is a concept album about his ancestors and dedicated to his grandmother Kathleen Griffith (the last McCartney of Pennyburn and her daughter Margaret McAuley — his mother) with all the music composed by Brendan, apart from a traditional track, When My Love and I Parted and the excellent anthem-like Men of Arranmore which he co-wrote with his brother Jackie.

Jackie is well known on the London scene from his days with his own terrific band Poormouth. 

     The album covers the period 1865-1912 in relation to the family and was obviously a time-consuming labour of love for Brendan.

The result was worth the effort because some beautiful music emerged with Brendan playing all the instruments — too many to mention. 

    A smashing album from an incredibly talented musician, it is distributed by Proper/Copperplate so watch out for it. 





The Irish Post     

A Great Folking Community

BRENDAN McAULEY – The McCartneys Of Pennyburn (Copperplate COPP027)


    There is a long back-story behind this record. In 1865, one Patrick McCartney bought the lease of Pennyburn House near Derry and his family lived there until 1912. They were an important family in the area by all accounts and played host to Charles Stewart Parnell at the invitation of Patrick’s son, John, an ardent Land Leaguer and one of Ireland’s first catholic magistrates.In 1904, John won a legal battle in the House Of Lords against The Londonderry And Lough Swilly Railway Company although you’ll be hard pressed to find many details of the case without diligent study. All these incidents became inspirations for the music on this record.


      Brendan McCauley is a descendant of the family and his grandmother, Kathleen, styled herself, as the title of the opening track records, ‘The Last McCartney Of Pennyburn’. Brendan comes from a musical family and is a composer, musician and instrument maker – he made the flutes, whistles and pipe chanter and drones that he plays on the album – and his elder brother, Jackie, was a member of Them alongside Van Morrison.

That’s a lot of history, I know, but this record is a sort of family scrapbook. There are big stories and small memories like ‘The Phaeton Carriage (To Church And Back)’ with its rhythm of hoofbeats and ‘Cassie’s Farewell To Parnell’ remembering his great-great aunt’s love of playing the piano. There are two songs among the instrumental pieces. ‘When My Love And I Parted’ is a traditional song of emigration while ‘The Men Of Arranmore’, written by Brendan and Jackie, is a tribute to the lifeboatmen of the Donegal island. It’s a lovely song and Brendan’s reasons for including it are valid but it seems a little out of place here. I can envisage a whole song cycle about rural life at the turn of the twentieth century.


     There’s a huge variety of music in this set and Brendan plays every note, adding the modern sound of a synthesizer to the traditional instruments to complement imaginative arrangements. I’ve listened to The McCartneys Of Pennyburn whilst thinking hard about this review and now I’m looking forward to hearing it for pleasure.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:


TradConnect's Page



Quality release from London musician

Brendan McAuley


Posted by TradConnect on April 23, 2015 


  This is quite an exceptional album from London based musician Brendan McAuley. Brendan, one of seven children was born in west Belfast, in 1953. His motherMargaret and father John travelled around Ireland in the 40s and 50s, performing in variety shows and in the 50's they settled in Belfast.


  His Mum, a singer and pianist, added classical music to the mix of influences that were part of his youth, while Blues and R&B came from his two older brothers, Patsyand Jackie, who, with Van Morrison, Billy Harrison andAlan Henderson, became the successful band, THEM, who reached their peak in 1965.


  Brendan's interest in lrish traditional music developed during his time in London which he moved to in 1969. What is remarkable about this album is the breadth of musicianship that Brendan displays.  He plays all the instrument on the recording including pipes, flutes, concertina, banjo, guitar and keyboards and all the compositions are his own, with the exception of two traditional tracks.  It really is one of those albums that could quietly slip under the radar.  It deserves a little more  exposure such is the quality and creativity displayed.


  Brendan provides his own background notes to the album.  “Patrick McCartney (1804 to 1874) was my great, great grandfather.” he says.  “ This year will mark 150 years ago since he bought the lease for the 66 acre Pennyburn estate in Derry at an auction for £1505 in 1865 just after the ruins of the windmill were demolished. The old Pennyburn windmill dated back to the middle of the 17th century and was a strategic stronghold for the Jacobite troops and can be seen on 'The Neville Map' of 1689.


  Patrick restored the remaining flour mills (water mills) to their former glory and Pennyburn again became a thriving business. The music on this album is inspired by events mainly from the period 1865 until 1912 when John McCartney JP died and my grandmother Catherine McCartney left for England.”