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Category Archives: Irish-American Culture

Chief O’Neill’s Favourite (D)

Chief O’Neill, the eponym of this tune, “Chief O’Neill’s Favourite,” was Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), born in county Cork. He was a cabin-boy on an English merchant ship in the 1860s, eventually immigrating to the States. He moved to Chicago with his wife and joined the police force at the age of 25. He became the […]

The Teetotaler’s (G)

This tune is most often called “The Teetotaler’s Reel” in Irish sessions, but is also popularly known as “The Temperance Reel” among old-time and bluegrass players, and is much less popularly known as “Prohibition, My Foot!”  This tune starts off like a few others, and doesn’t really distinguish itself until the third measure, where it […]

Blackthorn Stick (G) 

The Blackthorn tree (prunus spinosa), is a member of Rosaceae (the rose family), and has reddish-black bark with protruding sharp spines, and so it’s also called the “European spiny plum.”  Blooming as early as March, it is, like dandelions, an important first-food for bees.  The Blackthorn is an hermaphroditic insect-pollinated hard-wood tree with small white flowers. It is […]

Mason’s Apron (A)

The first sound recording of “Mason’s Apron” appears to have been by New York accordion player John J. “Dutch” Kimmel in 1915.  Sligo fiddle master Paddy Killoran (1904-1965) recorded “Mason’s Apron” as a two-part reel in March, 1939. Some play it with an added third part. Some fiddlers play pizzicato notes during the tune as […]

Heather Breeze (G)

“Heather Breeze” is #779 in O’Neill’s 1001 (1907), and it is related to the tune “Crossing the Fields,” in O’Neill’s Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody (1922).  This tune too goes by many names: “Coppers of Brass” (in Tipperary and Kerry), “The Heather Bloom” (in county Monaghan), “The Heathery Braes of Ballyhealy” (in Leitrim), and […]

Connaughtman’s Rambles (D)

Here’s an anecdote from the dancing side of things: “Connaughtman’s Rambles” seems to be the most popular jig among sean-nós dancers in Connemara. If they’re going to dance a jig, then nine times out of ten this is what they’ll want. The jig is also one of the most commonly played pieces in the Irish repertoire, […]

Sí Beag Sí Mhór (D)

The title of this air, “Sí Beag, Sí Mór,” is sometimes incorrectly written “Sheebag, Sheemore,” “Si Bheag, Si Mor,” and other variations.  It is also given other titles I’ll not offer here.  The “Sí” in the Irish title designates a “fairy hill” or “fairy mound,” some magical swelling.  The word “beag” means “little” and “mhor” […]

Toss the Feathers (Dmix)

The Dmix “Toss the Feathers” reel seems to be more popular in Ireland than the Eaeol “Toss the Feathers” reel, and the opposite is true on this side of the pond.  Some people have taken to calling the tunes “Toss the Feathers #1” and “Toss the Feathers #2,” though in general it remains unclear which […]

Jacky Tar (Edor)

I learned this hornpipe as “Éamonn McGivney’s,” though there are not many around here who call it that.  Éamonn McGivney’s is a fiddler from Miltown Malbay, Clare co., and this is (apparently) his setting of a version of “Cuckcoo’s Nest” which is also a version of “Jacky Tar.” This hornpipe is probably most widely known as […]

Banks of Lough Gowna (Baeol)

This traditional jig, “Banks of Lough Gamhna,” (or “Banks of Lough Gowna” in English) is sometimes attributed to Paddy O’Brien (b. 1945), but is in fact tune #264 in O’Neill’s 1001 (1907).  Barring time-travel, and its concomitant paradoxes,  it would not be possible for him to have composed it. It is played, as here, in […]