By Mairgréad Ní hÁthas
Excitement percolated through the Irish drumming community on Friday, on word of the Irish Heritage Council’s approval of a request from renowned bodhrán maker Tommy “Tipper” Finn to fashion a drum from the skin of Clonycavan Man, a 2,200-year-old body found in a Co. Clare bog in 2003.
“It’s fantastically supple,” Finn told RTE. “It’ll make a brilliant drumhead. I expect it to outplay my usual greyhound hides; it should even give the parrot skin a run for its money.”
The artisan insists he’ll treat the body with the utmost respect, down to the distinctive ritually mutilated nipples, which he intends to position “in the most artistic possible way.”
The decision did not come without controversy, given Clonycavan Man’s value as both research object and part of the nation’s cultural patrimony. Scholars’ misgivings were not allayed until the Heritage Council devised a three-part protocol, to be closely monitored by a third party, consisting of:
1) a complete MRI and scan, with shave, of the body at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan,
2) the creation of a life-size replica on the Dublin Institute of Technology’s advanced 3-D printer,
3) and a commitment by Mr. Finn to promptly return “any bits I scrape off.”
Finn additionally thanked the Heritage Council for permission to retain a single arm bone, saying he hopes to “make a tipper out of it.” The term “tipper” was new to most members of the press; it is believed to refer to some kind of miniature didgeridoo.
A visibly pleased Conor Regan, the Heritage Council’s Assistant Director for Archaeology, called the arrangement “win/win,” praising the creation of “yet another bodhrán, in a world that just can’t seem to get enough of them.” Claiming to speak for the majority of the researchers and historians canvassed for their feedback, he added, “And, I mean, let’s be frank: Once we’ve done the scan and made the model, your man from Clonycavan might as well be my old granny’s handbag. Am I right?”