Monday, 12 August 2013

Jim Gornall

             As far as I know there are only three full length piccolo recordings of Irish music, the Doonan records, and Picturesque Piccolo, by Jim Gornall Jim now lives in Listowel, Co. Kerry,  He plays a Hammy Hamilton piccolo. I asked Jim a couple of questions.

How did you get started playing? 

 I was 25 and had been learning the tin whistle for about a year. I went to the folk club in Liverpool and heard John Doonan playing. That did it for me. I decided there and then that i wanted to play the piccolo. I got cassette recordings of his 2 LPs and learnt them off, trying to copy his style and ornamentation. Once I started learning new tunes then I began to develop my own style. Not deliberately, but it just happened over years.

Do you play the flute as well? 

 I have a flute and i used to play it many years ago but gave it up. I found it adversely affected my piccolo playing.

Do you feel the piccolo offers any advantage over the flute? Or why have you chosen the piccolo for your solo recording? 

Piccolo is a great session instrument. You don't need much room and can clearly hear yourself. Other than that it's just good to be playing something different.

What make is your instrument? Hammy? What instrument did you start on? Did you have any trouble finding a good? Piccolo? 

My first decent piccolo was a wedding present from the late Mick Johnson, a noted fiddle and concertina player who was living in Liverpool at the time. It was ok but was way out of tune at the bottom end. I believe they were actually made that way on purpose because it made it easier to get the third octave.Later I picked one up from a mail order firm called Hobgoblin.It was a great buy for, I think, £25 at the time. That lasted me for years even though I had to get Hammy ( Colin Hamilton, Coolea, Co. Cork ) to repair it and re-pad it a few times. I actually used it for my CD before Hammy declared it unrepairable eventually and made me a new one which is,by the way, a fabulous instrument.

Have you met many others who play? Have you had any contact with older players? 

I have been playing for over 35 years and John Doonan is still the only player I have actually seen. I have been in touch with Mick, one of his sons, who I believe still plays the piccolo although he plays the the pipes too.

Here is a clip of Jim playing a couple of hornpipes

Special thanks to Jim Gornall


  1. Maybe a 4th album: "John Doonan & Dave Bulmer - De Zon folkclub
    Dranouter, Belgium (March 25th, 1977)"

  2. I had forgotten that one Kevin as I don't have a copy. I'm sure that's the one Kevin Rietmann mentioned to me I wasn't sure if it was a commercial release or just a private recording. Must chase it up now.
    Take care, Patrick