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 close-grained and very knotty, and is a choice wood for cane-makers and turnery. Modern day shillelaghs are made of blackthorn due to the long-standing shortage of oak in Ireland. These modern versions tend to be short, stubby implements which are best used as walking canes, and basically called shillelaghs to excite tourists. The lionized oak shillelaghs of old were heavier and about four feet long or even longer — as torque is a very useful companion in a close struggle. Now, there are those who also find significance in the Blackthorn’s pentapetalous flowers, and place it in the class of “power flowers” along with the flowers of the hibiscus and the plum tree.
As for the tune, “The Blackthorn Stick” is a very popular jig, and as such is considered a bit threadbare in its typical version. You may thus encounter some stylistic variations at sessions when the tune started by a seasoned player. Though originally Irish, it is now part of several fiddling traditions. It does have other names, among them “Coach Road To Sligo” is used often. However, there are also some different tunes that share this name. Bayard, in his Dance to the Fiddle (1981) suggests that the tune is “a thoroughly characteristic Irish jig, probably of no great age.” However, very similar versions are in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (1883) as “The Boys of Rockhill” (80) and “Billy Patterson’s Favorite” (83). So, I guess the question is whether one hundred and thirty odd years counts as a “great age” for tunes. Maybe it works the opposite of dog-years, and ten years for a tune is like one for a human.
For the ABC click Blackthorn Stick
Blackthorn Stick, slow tempo
Blackthorn Stick, med tempo
Blackthorn Stick, the dots