Tune Notes - Spring 2023

The Concertina/Ships Are Sailing/Father Kelly's (reel)
The Concertina
Reel 4/4, D major (AABB)
Also known as "The Farting Badger", "The Old Concertina"
Ships Are Sailing
Reel 4/4, E dorian (AABB)
Father Kelly's
Reel 4/4, G major (AABB)
Also known as "The Rossmore Jetty"

Father PJ Kelly named this tune "The Rossmore Jetty", after the pier on the river Shannon near his hometown Woodford in East Galway. Rossmore is a most beautiful and peaceful spot.

-- thesession.org

Priest Fr PJ Kelly, whose traditional music compositions were recorded by bands such as The Chieftains and De Danaan, has died. The priest from Woodford, Co Galway, died at St Columban's in Dalgan Park, Navan, on Friday night following a year-long illness.

Fr Kelly (80) was a well- known figure in traditional music circles despite having worked abroad as a missionary priest for most of his life. His best-known compositions include "The Lough Derg Jig", "The Rossmore Jetty" and "The Ben Hill" and "Derrycrag". He was ordained in 1950 and became a missionary priest in Fiji. On his return to Ireland in 1960, he was playing music with friends when someone asked what would happen when they ran out of tunes to play. The musicians agreed to write their own tunes and to meet the following week to play them. Fr Kelly was the only one to return with a composition. He had written his first tune - "The Lough Derg Jig".

After spending some years at St Columban's in Navan, he returned to the missions and worked in Australia and Pakistan. In a 2001 interview with The Far East magazine, he recalled the thrill he got when he walked into an Irish club in Perth and heard a bush band playing "The Lough Derg Jig".

-- The Irish Times (Obituary, Jan 2006)
The Strayaway Child (jig)
The Strayaway Child

Jig 6/8, E minor
Composed by Michael Gorman and/or Margaret Barry

Teaming up with the great Sligo fiddle player, Michael Gorman, she became a star on the burgeoning British folk club scene of the time, recording her first album, "Street Songs and Fiddle Tunes", for Topic in 1957. Several others followed, notably "Songs of an Irish Tinker Lady" (1959) and "Her Mantle So Green" (1965), as she went on to headline concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and New York's Carnegie Hall, singing the same songs just as she'd sung them on the streets: traditional ballads, travellers' tunes, populist Irish songs such as "The Blarney Stone", or anything else she had thought would earn her enough to buy lodgings for the night. She gained considerable fame within folk music circles but remained gloriously untouched by it. She smoked, she drank, she cussed, she spun yarns, she marched on stage carrying pints of Guinness, she didn't care who she offended and she spent money as fast as she earned it. She acquired not one ounce of polish or gentility along the way and sang the only way she knew how – as if her life depended on it (which, when she started out, it almost did).

Competing for attention with traffic noise and the chatter of shoppers, her voice had acquired a bloodcurdling intensity exacerbated by her furious banjo accompaniment. There was coarseness and conviction, but beauty and elegance, too, in the way she delivered great ballads such as "The Galway Shawl" and "Factory Girl"; while her thick black hair, rugged features and stern expression gave her a ferocious charisma that was enhanced by the endless fund of anecdotes that enveloped her.

The death of her mother when Margaret was 12, and her father's subsequent marriage to a teenager little older than his daughter, led to her decision to leave home on her bicycle at 16 and throw herself at the mercy of fate. All she had was a 17-shilling wooden banjo tied to her back with a piece of string. Then, one cold, bright morning in 1951, while she was singing "Bold Fenian Men" on a street corner in Dundalk, a young American woman stopped to watch her, transfixed. "I'll never forget it," Robin Roberts told me 60 years later. "She seemed so small then. A skinny little lady wearing a worn green coat. She had no teeth. But what a voice!" Roberts, assistant to the American song collector Allan Lomax, told Barry: "Don't move", and ran off to inform Lomax of her discovery. In his hotel room later that day, he recordied her singing. The meeting precipitated her move to London, initially to appear on a TV series called "The Songhunter", produced by a young David Attenborough, who still tells the story of how Barry's wild, toothless appearance, playing an out-of-tune banjo, prompted a volley of angry complaints about Irish tinkers being allowed on the TV. Nevertheless, Barry stayed in London and, in partnership with Michael Gorman, her extraordinary adventure gained pace. Twenty years her senior, Gorman was a stabilizing influence, who helped her write tunes – most famously the autobiographical "Strayaway Child".

She died in 1989 aged 72, but she is not easily forgotten, and the significance of her role in the folk music revival – especially for women – has grown as the years have passed.

-- Excerpts: The Guardian, Jan 18, 2017 - Colin Irwin
Hector the Hero (air)

Coronach - a funeral song (in Scotland and Ireland)
Composed by James Scott Skinner

The original manuscript of this tune is held in the Harp & Claymore collection at the University of Aberdeen, with the following description: "Manuscript in Skinner's hand ... 'Hector' was Sir Hector Macdonald (1853-1903) b. nr Dingwall, Ross-shire; d. Paris. He served at the Battle of Khartoum; Knighted in 1901. Aide-de Camp to Queen Victoria, and Major-General in the British army. He had one son with his wife Christina Duncan, secretly married, in the Scottish style, in 1884. Unsavoury rumours and illness drove him to suicide. 'Fighting Mac', a Robert B. Service (1874-1958) poem, and Thomas McWilliam's words for Skinner's melody ('O, wail for the mighty in battle, Loud lift ye the Coronach strain; For Hector, the Hero, of deathless fame, Will never come back again') show the public's sympathy for his tragic end."

-- thesession.org
O'Neill's March/Tralee Gaol (march)
O'Neill's March
Also known as "O'Neill's Cavalcade", and "Dearg Doom"
Polka 2/4, E minor

[This tune appears as the] "Marcshlua Uí Néill" ("O'Neill's Cavalry") cut on the old Gael Linn recording [u]O'Riada at the Gaiety[/u] (a theater in Dublin). Perhaps the "Marcshlua" (Cavalry) is where it picked up it's "March" name, and the translation to "Cavalry" might, over a bad phone connection, sound like "Cavalcade".

-- thesession.org
Tralee Gaol
Polka 2/4, A dorian (AABB)

The Tralee Gaol was a holding cell in Tralee which was famous because it was constantly flooding and held prisoners charged with capital crimes. It was operated under English administration from Dublin Castle in the 19th century, in the pre-famine times.

-- thesession.org

This tune is very similar to the march "The Battle of the Yellow Ford" (Also known as "Barrack Hill", "O'Neill's"), although in a different key.

The Battle of the Yellow Ford was fought in Co. Armagh on 14 August 1598, during the Nine Year's War in Ireland. An English army of about 4,000, led by Henry Bagenal, was sent to relieve the besieged Blackwater Fort.

Bagenal was the English army commander in chief (marshal) of Ulster for a decade (beginning in 1587 as his father's deputy), gaining extensive experience fighting against the Maguires and other Irish lords. He had a bitter grudge against O'Neill, who some years earlier had eloped with his sister Mabel. He was familiar with the territory. Marching from Armagh to the Blackwater, the column was routed by a Gaelic Irish army under Hugh O'Neill of Tyrone. O'Neill's forces divided the English column and a large earthwork stalled its advance. Bagenal was killed by an Irish musketeer, and scores of his men were killed and wounded when the English gunpowder wagon exploded.

About 1,500 of the English army were killed and 300 deserted. After the battle, the Blackwater Fort surrendered to O'Neill. The battle marked an escalation in the war, as the English Crown greatly bolstered its military forces in Ireland, and many Irish lords who had been neutral joined O'Neill's alliance.

-- Wikipedia
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