Cathal Gannon

The Life and Times of a Dublin Craftsman 1910-1999

By: Charles Gannon

Publication Date: November 2006


Cathal Gannon (1910-1999) revived the art of harpsichord making in Dublin in the early 1950s after a lull of some 150 years. His story is one not of rags to riches but of obscurity to recognition. Despite a modest start in life, he became hugely respected for his skills and was awarded two honorary MA degrees (TCD 1978, Maynooth 1989) for his contribution to music in Ireland.

This richly documented biography charts Cathal’s life from his Dublin childhood through his career in the Guinness Brewery, begun at the age of fifteen, to an active and prolific retirement, during which he continued to make harpsichords and restore antique pianos.

Although the seeds of interest were sown in early life, his harpsichord-making career only began in 1951, and his first harpsichord was played in public in 1959 – an occasion lauded in the national press. A few years later, his employers set up a special workshop in the Brewery where Cathal would work exclusively on instrument making.

With his impish sense of fun, he became well known as a prankster by his colleagues. This book also offers fascinating behind-the-scene glimpses of the ‘unofficial ‘ goings-on in the Guinness Brewery. Many people were drawn to Cathal through his liveliness and quick mind. He befriended the likes of Grace Plunkett (widow of Joseph Mary Plunkett), Carl Hardebeck, a noted arranger of Irish music, and Desmond and Mariga Guinness, founders of the Irish Georgian Society. He was the subject of several RTE radio and television programmes, including The Late Late Show.

This intimate account of a man who was, in his own words, ‘interested in everything’ (amongst other hobbies, he was a keen amateur horologist), reveals a storyteller who delighted in the colourful characters he encountered. The work is further enriched by its lively evocation of Dublin and its environs in bygone times, from a rustic Dolphin’s Barn in the 1920s to the bookstalls and antique shops of the city centre during the 1930s and 1940s, giving a real sense of time’s passing and the social change that has since occurred.

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Charles Gannon, the only son of Margaret and Cathal, was born in 1955. Educated in Belvedere College, he was a commercial artist for five years before moving to RTE to work as a sound operator, vision mixer and technical director.



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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 240 × 160 mm
Publication Date

November 2006


Hardback, 416pp