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Eddie Burke was one of the leading uilleann pipers in New York from the 1910s through the 1930s. He was born in 1877 and spent the first ten years of his life near Cloonfad, a Roscommon town near the borders of Mayo and Galway. His family then emigrated to Manchester and, in 1910, to New York where they settled in the Bronx. Eddie came from a piping family and kept the tradition alive in New York. He was written up frequently in the Advocate, often in connection with dances for the Cloonfad Ladies Club. He was an associate of the McLaughlin family of musicians and dancers, fellow immigrants from Roscommon, a circle that included the pipers John and Tom Ennis. John Ennis included Burke in his 1921 poem “The Craft,” published in the Advocate.

Eddie Burke, with his pipes, was next called to play.
Amiable Eddie, always cheerful and gay;
Equally at ease with the pipes or the flute;
And his audience is always attentive and mute.
Near the rich Plains of Boyle Eddie first saw the light
(As did Kerwin and Vizzard and Gorman, so bright),
A section that never was conquered or bullied;
And which kept the traditional music unsullied.
He played “Trim the Velvet” and the “Mullinvat Reel”
And some lively old tunes that made his audience feel
Like dancing; and he might have been playing away yet,
But there were others to hear from, so he made his exit.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Burke played at many events with the Mayo piper Michael Carney, and at benefit concerts for Carney, who was wheelchair-bound. He was a frequent performer on radio programs and at the Innisfail Ballrooms at 56th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, where he was honored in 1929 with an “Eddie Burke Association” ball. The Advocate ballyhoo for the event referred to him as “the most popular Cloonfad man in America” and “a popular member of the Bricklayers’ Union.”

Eddie Burke never married and lived with his sisters in Astoria, Queens. Though he survived until 1967, his musical career ended with World War II.

Eddie Burke / Unidentified photographer