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Egan’s Polka (D)

“Egan’s Polka”  is another great tune for teaching polkas – though I have read that players in Glasgow sessions won’t play it.  It is a Kerry polka, and also goes by the name “The Kerry Polka” — as do a number of different Kerry polkas.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is even more confusion about the name of this tune, since it has been called several other things and several other things have been called “Egan’s” over the last thirty-five years or so.  The present title is due to the fact that many people in the States associate this tune with the left-handed (ciotogach in Irish) Galway piper John Egan (1840-97) from co. Dunmore, who was known as “The Albino piper.”  Egan’s pipe tutor was Liam Dáll Connolly (1839-1870’s?), from Milltown, and for a time Connolly’s grandson John Burke. Egan then emigrated to the United States and became known for his “phenomenal execution on the regulators.”  He called New York City his home, and with John Cronan (1938-1905) would play at picnics, parties, and various entertainments.  For a time Egan toured with John Cronan and Patsy Touhey (1865-1923) throughout the east coast, and thereby disseminated the music widely. The oft-quoted Capt. Francis O’Neill quotes “the Plutarch of the pipers” Nicholas Burke (b. 1837) on Egan: “[Egan] was a grand player and very powerful in his music.”

Now, while it is very probable that Egan played the tune, and that this is the explanation of its common title in the States, there is nothing to connect him with its authorship that I have been able to uncover – and there is even another tune called “John Egan’s Polka,” which more likely indicates that he brought at least two new polkas to the East coast. This just follows a common feature of traditional music: when a person’s name is given as a tune title it is more often because they played the tune frequently, taught it to others, and so became closely associated with tune – “Egan’s” would then just be a way saying “the one John Egan used to play a lot.”

For the ABC click Egan’s Polka

Egan’s Polka, slow tempo (Turlach Boylan, whistle)

Egan’s Polka, med tempo (Glen Pekin, fiddle)

Egan’s Polka, the dots

Egan's Polka (The Kerry Polka)  in D

Egan’s Polka (The Kerry Polka) in D





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