"The tunes are just like songs and have been continuously honed and worked until they are very wonderful things. There are many, many lives contained in what is on the surface a very simple jig or reel. There is celebration and exhilaration and pure Irish devilment in them. But there is also running through them many contradictory layers that can be very dark and painful. It’s as if the whole history of Ireland is contained in this music that cannot hide any part of it. For me music is the most honest language.“
Rob started playing the fiddle when he was eight years old in Perth, Western Australia, learning to play by ear from Irish fiddle players Sean Doherty (Co Mayo) and Mick Doherty (Co Donegal). Mick came from a long line of travelling fiddle players, storytellers and tinsmiths from Donegal and was an inspiration and great friend for over 25 years. His uncle was the well known fiddle player Johnny Doherty. Sean was responsible for introducing Rob to the music of Paddy Canny and PJ Hayes, and Michael Coleman, to name a few.
At seventeen Sean Doherty encouraged Rob to visit Ireland where he subsequently spent the following fourteen years on the West Coast, immersing himself in the music of the older generation. A chance encounter led him to live and work in Feakle where he met musicians such as Joe Bane, P.J and Martin Hayes, Paddy Canny, Martin Rochford and Francie Donnolly. He also was very interested in the West Clare fiddlers Junior Creehan, Bobby Casey and Joe Ryan. The music of Paddy Fahey was high on the list as was the Sligo style and the music of Andy Davey. Andy, master of the Sligo style, became his mentor for the following ten years.
When injury prevented him from playing in his early thirties, he returned to Australia and spent many years recovering and rethinking his approach. With the help of his first mentor Mick, he rebuilt his playing from the premise of less is more. The old principles of the floating bow now made more sense and could be reapplied to all disciplines. Rob now draws no distinction between making violins, playing, teaching and composing.
Rob has toured Europe and America and in 2000 won Ireland's Michael Coleman Traditional Fiddle Player of the Year Award. He also taught music for three years at the Galway School of Traditional Irish Music and has continued to teach ever since. In 2012, with the support of The Nation Library of Australia, Rob and Mick Doherty released Out West, a collection of old and rare versions of tunes from Mick's family including many settings from Mick's father Hughie Doherty and Mick's grandfather Mickey Mor.
Besides playing Traditional Irish Music, Rob is working on his own compositions, with the aim to record them on the violin he made specifically for himself.