Attwood O'Connor | Bowing Down Home

Attwood O'Connor & Accompanist Stanley Bruce, 1991

Biography

Attwood O'Connor grew up during the “Hungry Thirties” on a mixed farm in south-central Kings County. Nearly everyone on both sides of his extended family played an instrument. Both grandfathers played fiddle, as did his father Phillip O’Connor, his three maternal uncles Cliff, George, and Oliver Kemp, his two brothers Arnold and Melville, and his sister Elsie. Attwood’s home was the usual place that locals would congregate when they wanted to hear music. His parents often hosted a couple of house parties per week, and in an average week one or two other households in the community would also host house parties.

Attwood started fiddling at age 7. His father showed him how to hold the bow and explained to him that his biggest problem would be to synchromize the movement of bow and fingers: “I'd get my fingers going the bow would stop; I'd get the bow going and my fingers would stop. Well, it took awhile, but I finally mastered it.” At first, his left hand couldn’t quite reach the fingerboard with the fiddle braced under his chin, so in order to play he had to drape the body of the instrument across his shoulder.

O’Connor accompanied his first dance at about age 11, and for the next half century he played widely for dances throughout Southern Kings County. During the summertime, sometimes he’d play at house parties and hall dances as often as 4-5 nights a week. He also often played at local weddings, which would tend to start in early evening and go through the night.

Attwood recalls that fisticuffs and other forms of violence were endemic at Island dances and events, but that no matter how bad things got people generally took special care to avoid harming the fiddler or his instrument.

At first, O’Connor’s usual accompanist was his brother Emmerson, who played guitar. About 1950, he started playing regularly with Mac MacKinnon. Stanley Bruce joined them about ten years later, and the resulting trio played widely for local dances and benefit concerts until well into the 1990s (for a while, they named themselves the Buffalo Boys after the a nearby attraction called the Buffalo Ranch).

By 2006, O’Connor was one of the last active traditional fiddlers in the southern half of Kings County, and may well have been the last living exponent of the old Southern Kings style. At the time, he still played occasionally at benefit concerts and ceilidhs, but – with MacKinnon passed on and Bruce not musically active – he no longer worked with regular accompanists.

Tune Selections

O'Connor, Attwood - A-minor Reel Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Angus Campbell Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Caber Feidh Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Clamdigger's Breakdown Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Florence Killen Waltz Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Flowers of Edinburgh Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Home Waltz, The Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Honeymoon, The Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Jerome's Farewell to Gibraltar Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Johnny Cope Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Jubilo Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Let's Have a Ceilidh Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Lord Alexander Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Maple Sugar Accompanied by: Margaret Ross MacKinnon, pump organ; Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Miss Drummond of Perth / Pride of the Ball Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Moneymusk Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Mrs. McLeod of Rasay Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Nelly Grey Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Paddy on the Turnpike Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Parry Sound Reel Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Peekaboo Waltz, The Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Princess Reel / Lord MacDonald's Reel Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Rose in the Garden Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Southern Melody / Polo March Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Southern Waltz Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Walk on Water Reel Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Walkin' Uptown (1996) Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Walkin' Uptown / Ragtime Annie Accompanied by: Doug Matheson, pno; Stan Chaisson, gtr; Theo Weigers, drums
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Watermelon, The Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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Tune Selections

Jackson, Preston (harmonica) - Home Waltz / Four Marys Accompanied by: Doug Matheson, pno; Stan Chaisson, gtr; Theo Weigers, drums
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Oral Histories

Mixed farming around Milltown Cross Description of farm work: a hard struggle back in the 30s (nobody had any money); everybody grew what they needed themselves: as a youth often would get home from a dance and go right to work without sleeping info and transcript
O'Connor, Attwood - eight-hand reels and step-dancing O'Connor's home was in effect the local community center; all his family played something; description of breakdowns info and transcript
Old-time weddings near Milltown Cross All square dancing and a big supper; fiddlers had to play all night till the wee hours; a big pot full of moonshine to dip into info and transcript
The musical O’Connor household The gathering place of the community, everyone had to make their own entertainment; a couple of nights a week they had house parties; in an average week house parties would be going all week: 2 nights at his place and 3-4 nights elsewhere info and transcript
Violence at house parties & weddings What caused the fighting; the rough weddings at St. Marys Road; but they made sure nobody got hurt around the fiddler info and transcript

Video Clips