New book on fiddler Ben Lennon: The Tailor’s Twist

The Tailor’s Twist

A study in text, photographs and graphic design of the fiddler Ben Lennon of Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim.


Ben Lennon is known widely as a stylistic performer and teacher in the national and international world of Irish Traditional music. He began playing the fiddle at the age of ten, growing up in an atmosphere of home, céilí-house music-making and served his time with his father as a tailor. He developed his skills in post-World War 11 London among superb artisans and there immersed himself in a cosmopolitan city lifestyle. Back on Irish soil he returned to traditional music in its headiest revival years, first in Limerick and then Cork, while also engaged as an innovator and organiser in major clothing businesses. He returned north to Leitrim after twenty five years and relocated himself in local music, going on to teach his instrument, and to record and broadcast.

Ben’s life is documented here in words by writer Fintan Vallely and he is presented within his music society in a hundred and more striking photographs by international award-winner Nutan Jacques Pirapez. These elements are integrated by a vigorous, complementary design by Martin Gaffney as the visual story of a personal journey in music by a commentator who has a bird’s eye view that is a panorama of the technological and artistic transformation from the old Ireland to the new, from traditional music redundancy to its artistic supremacy.

The text is based on interviews done By Fintan Vallely in June, 2010, as well as on other conversations with Ben and on his own personal biographical notes; photographs represent conviviality, community, vitality and joy and cover a wide span of years with emphasis on the contemporary. The book is tenderly endorsed by Séamus Connolly, Ciaran Carson provides a poetic Prologue and Fr. Séamus Quinn a touching epilogue, and it includes comment by Maurice, Brian and David Lennon, by Gabriel McArdle, Desi Wilkinson, John Carty and Andy Dickson.

160 pages, full colour, large format; 42,000 words text, 120 photographs, 34 notated tunes; price €25

The book can be purchased here


The Tailor’s Twist was conceived by Nutan Jacques Piraprez and the concept developed with Martin Gaffney and Fintan Vallely working as Friends of Ben Lennon – FOBL. It includes both contemporary images of Ben and material from Nutan’s photographic archive assembled over several decades. Additional informative imagery has been assembled by Martin Gaffney from archival and other resources and from Ben Lennon’s and the Lennon family’s memorabilia. Other images courtesy of Derek Speirs (Report), Fintan Vallely and others as credited.

Song texts quoted by Gabriel McArdle and tune transcriptions by Gerry (fiddle) O’Connor and Fintan Vallely. Niamh Parsons did the interview transcriptions, Áine Hensey helped with captions, and numerous others provided support and additional information.

The project was made possible by research and development funding generously provided by the Deis Traditional music support initiative of An Comhairle Ealaíon – The Arts Council of Ireland. Supplementary funding for travel and research was given also by The Coleman Traditional Irish Music Centre, now CCÉ’s Regional Resource Centre for counties Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim and Fermanagh. The Tailor’s Twist has had the unstinting cooperation of Ben Lennon himself, and is inspired by all his friends throughout Ireland who have been hugely appreciative in their thousands of hours of music-making and late-night holding court with him over the decades.