English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge had been inspired to write his epic poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" when he visited Watchet in Co. Somerset in 1797. In 2003 a sculpture of Coleridge's character was unveiled at the quay. Since 2008 the statue of another mariner, John Short, is overlooking the harbour.
His parents had founded the Armagh Piper's Club ,
but whereas his brother Cillian took up the uilleann pipes ,
Niall Vallely himself chose the concertina instead.
25 years ago Niall founded the group Nomos,
he appeared on some albums of his wife Karan Casey 
and recorded a couple of solo and duo albums.
Over these years he wrote loads of new music in the traditional vein,
101 tunes have been featured in Malfunction Junction.
The title track, a reel named after a place in Montana, has been
recorded by Scottish group Dàimh ,
as have others of his catchy compositions:
"Emmett's Hedhehog" by Cillian Vallely ,
the "Unapproved Road" jig in the key of bb by his other brother Caoimhin ,
"Muireann's Jig" by Scottish guitarist Tony McManus ,
"Nina's Jig" inspired by Nina Simone playing in the background by The Poozies ,
and the "Oblique Jig" from Duncan Chisholm 
to Alan Kelly 
and Kan .
The "Cathair Geal" slip jig has been commissioned by Zoe Conway .
47 of them are previously unpublished. Niall also included the air of a quasi-orchestral piece, originally written for four uilleann pipes.
He indicated no ornamentation and included no chords, so every musician has the freedom to make the most of it.
Niall Vallely, Malfunction Junction – 101 Tunes. Crow Valley Music, 2014, pp116, €20
Niall Vallely @ FolkWorld:
FW#24, #31, #34, #43, #53
John Short first went to sea in the year 1848. He started working coastal vessels near his hometown Watchet, then sailed on windjammers from Quebec round Cape Horn to Callao and India, China and Australia.
We'll run from Dover to Calais O run let the bulgine run Way-yah oo, oo, oo, oo, oo, oo O run let the bulgine run O we sailed all day to Mobile Bay ... We'll run down south around the Horn ...
John Short continued his merchant marine career until the late 1880s, subsequently he was appointed as town crier of Watchet. He died in 1933 at the age of 94 - when the average life expectancy of a seaman was only 45 years.
John Short was a humble man, so they say, and the history of humble people is not documented as they live their lives.
In 1857, John Short had learnt his first sea shanty, "Stormalong John".
I wished I was old Stormy's son To my way ay Stormalong John I wished I was old Stormy's son Ha, ha, come along, get along Stormy along John If I was old Stormy's son I'd build a ship of a thousand ton I'd treat you well and raise your pay And stand you drinks five times a day O Stormalong and round we go O Stormalong through ice and snow
It was a tradition aboard large sailing vessels to sing shanties. This co-ordinated the efforts of the crew when hoisting sails or heaving on a capstan.
John Short’s strong voice often led him to take up the role of solo shantyman, having a repertoire of early shanty versions learnt decades before the more famous Stan Hugill was acquiring his repertoire.
Cecil Sharp had this to say about John Short:
To complement the three CDs of new recordings of John Short’s entire collected repertoire, featuring Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates and Sam Lee, A Sailor's Life is telling his life story and about the ships on which he sailed. Author Tom Brown sought to separate sailor's yarn from actual history by quoting from ships' log books and newspapers of the day.
There are not only song snippets scattered throughout the text but including the shanties he sang as well. They are extended with typical verses from other versions, for John often gave Cecil Sharp only a verse or two and then said and so on, explainig that you do put in what you've a mind to after that.
Photo Credits: (1ff) Book/CD Covers, (5) Armstrong's Patent, (6) Keith Kendrick, (7) Jackie Oates (from website/author/publishers); (8) Sam Lee (by Wakin' Tom); (4) Niall Vallely (by Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup).