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Bank of Turf (D)

Though the Bank of Turf is also played as a double jig, Randal Bays (with Davey Mathias) plays it as a single jig.  There is also a hornpipe by this name (in G) that seems otherwise unrelated.  About the name of the hornpipe, however, Sean Keane once offered up what some might call a Sliabh Luachra[1] folk tale that might also apply to this tune.  It seems that one day, some years ago, when the late Kerry fiddler Denis Murphy was working in a bog

who should cycle by but the famous Pádraig Ó Caoimh [O’Keeffe]. The music suddenly struck Pádraig but the only means to hand on which to notate the resulting tune was the bank of turf.

Padraig O’ Keeffe, writing the notation on a bank of turf, spawned the name.  Now apparently, this practice was not a singular one.  In “Music from Sliabh Luachra” (1976), Alan Ward writes

When no manuscript paper was available Padraig [O’Keeffe] would improvise by drawing the lines for the tablature using his bow as a ruler. On one famous occasion he met Denis Murphy who was cutting turf. Denis wanted to learn a particular tune and so Padraig drew lines on the turf and marked out the notes. Denis named the tune “The Bank of Turf” in consequence . . . 

Note that Ward does not actually specify whether that tune was a hornpipe, jig, or single jig, and so this tune might have gotten its name in the same manner.  On a similar note, Terry Teahan once gave the notation of a tune to Liz Carroll by writing it on a paper plate.  The tune is on the Terry Teahan and Gene Kelly recording Old Time Irish Music in America (1977) and listed as, you guessed it, “The Paper Plate.” Anyway, the tune “Bank of Turf” is also called “Tom Billy’s” on The Iron Man (1982) by Tommy Peoples & Daithi Sproule (pronounced DAH-hee Sprool).  The tunes below are recorded by Eddie.


D   G / D  G  / G  A / D  Bm/

G     / D       / Em    / A  (D)/

A      / D      / G   D   / Bm  A  /

A     /  D     /  G   Bm / A   (Bm)  /

Bank of Turf, extra-slow tempo

Bank of Turf, slow tempo

Bank of Turf, med tempo

Bank of Turf, 3/4 tempo


[1] The name of this region (pronounced Schleeav-lokhra) means “The Mountain of Rushes.”

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