John Chute: Ballyphehane



John Chute: Ballyphehane


Life History: Knapps Square, Middle Parish, Ballyphehane, Childhood, Music


John talks about his early life, growing up on the northside in Knapps square, attending school in Easons Hill and being involved in pipe bands.


11th November 2016




Cork; Ireland; Middle Parish; Ballyphehane; 1930s - 2000s


Cork Folklore Project Audio Archive


Cork Folklore Project











Ballyphehane, Cork

Original Format


Bit Rate/Frequency

24bit / 48kHz


The following is a short extract from the interview transcript, copyright of the Cork Folklore Project. If you wish to access further archival material please contact CFP,

JC: I got a job in Hickeys. I'd come around on a bike and see what was what. I didn't know where we were going. I'll tell you one thing, it was something else. It was a thrill to see it. The development where the houses were being built and all that. I was supplying the tiles. All them tiles of the fellas made over. Kent Road now, part of Kent Road was done. That's where you're going now isn't it?

JF: No. Clark Road.

JC: Clark Road. Same thing anyway. They weren't there at all. They only came later. I'm only going as far as I can think.

JF: You're grand

JC: The hill there now was built up as far as the cross only. We were continuing on down that and we were stopped by the green there. I was witness to this myself now in the 'Gurran' (Gurranabraher). From living in the Northside and going to school in the Northside. I was more interested then in this side of where we were going to live. We came out and we had a horse and car bringing out our furniture. They came along after and they had three boxcars. We used to have right craic over that. Three boxcars. That was the way life was like at that time. I'll tell you one thing. Do you know something about it? It was a great way to be. All the people were very down to earth.

Time Summary

0.00.00 - 0.01.40

Pre-interview. John explains Irish the translation of his surname, and where it came from. And speaks of the recently elected American president Trump being a mutt.

0.01.40 - 0.03.44

Early life, on the northside in Knapps square, went Easons hill school. Father died young, mother raised 5 children. Moved to the middle parish ‘the marsh’. Hardtimes for her. He was the eldest boy 3 older sisters but he was the man of the house. He was in the Fianna boy scouts. Grew up around witty strong people. Happy looking back on life.

0.03.45 - 0.15.16

Schooling and Getting involved in music.

Went to eason hill because his father and uncles went there. Had a teacher called Kate O’Conner beautiful soprano. She trained him to sing, his first step into music. Mother also very musical, concertina and harmonica, all Irish songs. Living on Sheares street, many good musicians there. In his building alone, 3 men went on to lead bands, 1 with the Barrack Street band, another with the army band and John himself. The 3 didn’t get on that well. Ex-service men from the 1st world war had a band in the ‘marsh’, amputees and other disabilities. A man called Hurley, thought in the workmen’s brass and reed band, and he saw the potential in john’s ability.

Music teacher in the Fianna, but the teacher was no good. His friend Christy Gough suggested to join the Cork City pipe band down in Fr Mattew hall. Christy’s father was a piper. Tadgh Crowley was the teacher, again john was singled out for his ability to learn quickly.

Himself and Christy start fianna band, asked the chairman of Sinn Fein (Jerry Cronin) for the instruments from the old fianna band down in Tomas Ashe hall, Volunteer Band not too happy, but they got the ok from the chair of Sinn Fein.

Went for about 12 months with both bands.

Recorded an album with the Cork City Pipe band in the old Goal. Very happy with that, Tadgh said that all that matters. Heard the recording in a chip shop (Julio’s) on north main street. When he went up North for competitions all the bands talked of that recording. Alfie(Kennedy) Christy, Tony Donovan, Jerry Hurley, Billy Halesy, Eddie Williams played in that band too. Of all the bands he played in it had the best players. Its sad, after that band ceased to be after Tadgh’s death, all the good player went to Carriagaline.

Became pipe major of Band against his wishes, all the best player gone to Scotland.

1962: with some players from the carraigaline band and the blarney street band john won the All-Ireland grade 2

John walked out of the Carraigaline band because of the way they treated the city boys. So he reformed cork city band, with member from blarney street band.

Talks of his love of traditional music, especially from the north.

Speaks of his children’s musical abilities, one packed it in because of johns hard line of teaching. His son Paul won world and European championship in bass drums. Regrets being so hard on children, but loves then and their talent. They used to playing banjo and guitar a 2 in the morning, the wife would want them to stop but john would tell her ‘never stop a musician’.

0.15.16 - 0.17.35

Talks of his wife Tilly. Vital cog in his life. She was the reason for his competing. It upsets him, shes in hospital for a long time (stroke), he visits every day. Super traditional woman. She used to look after all the bills (for his students) John would try and fiddle the books to get a few extra bob.

0.17.35 - 0.22.43

His Son Isaac is a renowned tenor, lives in America, sings all over the country. Studied under Carlo Bergonzi in Rome.

Isaac home recently and remembers everything.

At a festival in Cobh in the 1970s, Isaac goes missing ‘I couldn’t even enjoy my drink’, find him at a sing song in the bar with Jack Lynch. He idolised Jack Lynch. One time in Musgrave park when the All-Ireland pipe championship was on, Isaac sleeping on his shoulders.

Isaac and jack Lynch sent letter to each other. Jack was a Hurling Idol of johns, they lived near each other when younger. A lot in common.

Carlo Bergonzi wrote asking if they could pay for Isaacs digs, 25000 a month. Can’t afford it, Go to the credit union.

0.22.43 - 0.27.40

Northside man. 22 years he spent up there. Teaching the blarney street band, taught many a band from cork to rathcoole. Very proud of teaching the all-girls band in Fermoy, won championships, every Christmas they all still send card to him.

Set up the Ballyphehane pipe band 1980, but didn’t like the regiment of it. Won some championships, but fell out with them didn’t like the behaviour.

They had the ability but they didn’t have the drive. About 6 of them were brilliant. Disappointed that there are some people in Ballyphehane that could teach the band but don’t.

Thought in Cobh for a year or 2, really good students but had to give it up because his son, who drove him, moved to Kerry.

0.27.40 - 0.35.15

If he had to live again, no piper would touch him. ‘I would do it for myself’. Spent his time teaching, was could at it, but disappointed that those he thought didn’t carry on the mantle. Christy said of Tadgh to John, ‘he’s a dud teaching you’ John said ‘he is the man that enlightened me’.

Christy gave him the evaluation of the scale, has it upstairs still, it’s like a jewel to him. Best thing that did for him.

Billy Hallesy, great piper, no patience to teach, fell out with him because he pointed out when billy played bad, didn’t speak for 4 years.

Natural ability teach given from God. Brought a friend to help him teach, he couldn’t handle the students, no patience. Tim Keogh in Dublin played a selection, asked for his thoughts, and John told that he could have been better. They ended up being great friends. He wrote 4 tunes in honour of John, John told him they were no good.

035.15 - 0.37.47

Talks of his day. Visiting his wife. Going for a few pints. Only dinks half pints, used to drink gallons. Talks of a man who gave him a spin home and the connections to the ‘hall’ (Tomas Ashe)

He thought this man’s sisters the pipes. Told him to tell his children to study instead of music, no money in it.

0.37.47 - 0.42.41


Got the keys at Christmas 1949, one of the first to move in. all his side of the road was from the ‘marsh’. The other side came from abbey street in the south parish. Like the fact that his neighbours moved with him.

Happy with move, only problem is that he was the only one who could paint the house. Had to work in the Hickeys cement factory on kinsale road. Had to sweep the place, suffocated with dust, then home to paint. All the stemper paint dripped of the walls. The mother said ‘john that’s the wall’. The cheapest paint. His friend bobby gave him more paint to finish it.

That time people of Ballyphehane were very happy people.

0.42.41 - 0.45.19

Coming from the ‘marsh’ those people are the foundation of the city, they went north and south, very strong people. Night time in the ‘marsh’ 20 or 30 people would sit on the curb and sing in perfect harmony.

One time a guard came and tried to clear them off the foot path, they battered the guard. Guard came again the next night and they battered him with spuds. Innocence.

Lived in 5 sheares st, 6 excellent singer in the building, the balance of their voice was unreal.

0.45.19 - 0.52.40

Raising children in early Ballyphehane.

Great neighbours, all got on. Denis Sullivan on the corner, he sold the land to the corporation, great wit in the street. Great talent. Everybody made the best of life. They would go out of there way for you. They’d go to town on you too.

2 years ago, he broke his collar bone. Went to sleep on the couch, fell off, couldn’t move with the pain. All the emergency services came and were going to break door, he told them ‘if you break the door you’ll have to deal with me.’ His friend went through top window, paramedics came in, and he wanted to go back to the pub after his big injection. You have to have a sense of humour. Talks of a noisy neighbour.

0.52.40 - 0.58.30

First time in Ballyphehane was when he got job in hickeys. Thought it’s beautiful. He made all the roof tiles for the development. Some of Connolly road, Kent road not much else built. Had seen it happen up in Gurranabruhar.

Moved their possessions on a horse and car. Neighbours had 3 box cars. That’s the way life was, it was great.

Story of seeing the guards in a ford, take a horse from a house, then some wheels, then the cart, the neighbours had stolen it from the ‘knackers’. The guard asked him if he’s from here, john give a cheeky answer.

Everybody round here looked out for each other, the same for the north side, all from the marsh and the south parish.

0.58.30 - 1.05.00

Sport in Ballyphehane. Started the fr Mathews hurling team. Then the soccer team. A lot of them from this terrace, very talented. He would blackguard them being older.

One of then Larry died in the car by the cross. He had the iho cup for seven years, nobody knew where it was.

Battle of Ballyphehane. Terrible grievances, the mulls, v the o’driscolls and the others from ballyphehane gaa. Sad time that should never had happened. Ballyphehane was offered the 3 fields (stephon naofa) but refused it. Biggest mistake ever. They were also offered land by the square, noel murphy (publican) stopped it thought it would ruin business.

Ended up down the green ‘call it don’t fence me in’

Big fights over it.

The barrs killed ballyphehane Gaa, took all the best players.

1.05.00 - 1.09.10

Finishes up by taking about his trophies, piping and pigeons, murder to clean. Tries to get people to clean them

Misses the family, only for his tapes and his movies, one of the northsiders on the late late show.

Interview Ends

Interview Format



Cork Folklore Project , “John Chute: Ballyphehane,” accessed August 20, 2022,