Gander in/at the Pratie Hole is tune #30 in Breandán Breathnach’s Ceol Rince na hÉireann 1 (1963), and in Phil Rubenzer’s Midwestern Irish Session Tunes: Millennium Edition (2000), p. 137. The title of this tune is multiply ambiguous. “Pratie” is an Anglicized form of the Irish prátaí (plural of práta), the word the Irish in the late eighteenth century used for the widespread varietal white potato also known as the “Irish lumper” or simply “Irish potato.” Though very well adapted to the damp Irish growing conditions, it also proved highly susceptible to the mid-nineteenth century Mexican blight now known as phytophthora infestans. A pratie hole is, then, a place where an Irish potato used to be, or it is a place where praties are intended to go. If the latter, then that could either be a place in the earth or a place in the lower part of someone’s face. A gander is an adult male goose, but the word “gander” can also mean “to look, gaze, peer, or ogle.” So here some ways to disentangle the title. Taking the title as “Gander in the Pratie Hole,” then either (1) the title is meant assertorically: “An adult male goose has fallen into a potatoless crater,” or (2) “Hey! An adult male goose has relocated to my mouth”, or (3) it is meant as an imperative: “Come ogle this detubered earthen pit!” or (4) “Hey! Look in my mouth and wonder!” Though another rendering of the title of this tune is “Gander at the Pratie Hole.” This might seem to settle the ambiguity. It doesn’t. For either a gander might be standing at (the edge) of a pratie hole, or someone might be saying something like “look deeeeep, young Skywalker, look deeeep into my tater-hole.” However, an Irish title, “An Gandal I bPoll na bhFataí,” does seem to settle it, as it means “Gandal is at the pratie hole” — where “Gandal” is a name, and though possible, it is probably not the name of an adult male goose. Our current English language version of the title is a corruption of this Irish title. Just what Gandal is doing at the edge of the hole is not specified, but that is not relevant to this discussion. What the title means is now clear. Ambiguity settled. Full stop.
Chords: D / C G / D / C D / D / C G / D C / G D 😐
D / A / D / A C / D / A / D C / G D 😐
Tunes played by Dave Agee
Gandal at the Pratie Hole, slow tempo
Gandal at the Pratie Hole, medium tempo
A child’s rhyme:
And are your praties dry?
And are they fit for diggin’?
Then put in your spade and try,
Says dirty-faced McGuigan