Paddy Canny was born in Glendree, near Tulla in Co Clare, in 1919. His father Pat played the fiddle, as did both his brothers, and the blind fiddle instructor Paddy MacNamara boarded with the family during the winter and gave music lessons to many local children. His mother, Catherine McNamara, came from Feakle. In 1961 he married Philomena Hayes of Tulla, sister of P Joe Hayes, and is uncle of Martin Hayes. He co-founded the Tulla Ceili Band in 1946.
Paddy was influenced by local fiddlers Martin Nugent and Martin Rochford who taught him to read music. He worked hard ar his practice and from the age of ten was to be heard regularly at house parties, crossroad dances, weddings and ceilís.
He was among those present when the Tulla Ceili Band was founded in Minogue’s Bar in Tulla in 1946. The founder members also included P Joe Hayes, Teresa Tubridy, Aggie Whyte, Bert McNulty, Jim and Pady Donoghue and Joe Cooley. The band made its first radio broadcast in 1948.
He won the senior All Ireland fiddle championship in 1953.
In 1959, with fiddlers P Joe Hayes, Peadar O’Loughlin and Bridie Lafferty on piano, he recorded the album All Ireland Champions, now regarded as a classic of Irish music. P Joe’s son, Martin Hayes said of that album: “It was one of those kind of quirks of faith because both Paddy Canny and my father had literally grown up learning together. My father was a few years younger than Paddy, so he learned mostly from Paddy. But it was like two teenagers working on this together. So even though they played quite differently they were very sympathetic to each other musically.”
Paddy Canny left the band in 1965. A farmer and a shy man, it wasn’t until he was in his late seventies that he made his first solo album Paddy Canny Traditional Music from the Legendary East Clare Fiddler, for Cló Iar-Chonnachta in 1997.
His rendition of Trim the Velvet was the signature tune of the long-running RTE radio series A Job of Journeywork, hosted by Ciaran Mac Mathúna.
During the 1950s, he played the fiddle during live Radio Eireann broadcasts and in the following decade he performed on R.T.E. television. He was friendly with the Dublin fiddler Tommy Potts. They were influenced by each other, so much so, according to Peter Browne, it was hard to tell “who’s bits were who’s.”
Over the course of a career that spanned half a century, he played at a variety of venues, from small local dances to the stage of New York’s Carnegie Hall.
He died on June 28, 2008. His wife Philomena died some years earlier and he is survived by two daughters, Rita and Mary.