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Maids of Selma (G|Eaeol)

Jimmy Keane

Jimmy Keane & accordion

Fingal, Ossian

Purported Ossian poetry, Fingal

This jig, “Maids of Selma” in English, is “An Maigdean Ua Selma” in Irish.   It shows up as tune #250 in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) – referred to as “O’Neill’s 1850” because there are 1,850 tunes in it — and it’s #65 The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music (1927).  It is usually played as what’s called a “crooked” tune — which means either that one part has more bars than an other, or that some of the parts are repeated an odd number of times.  In this case the A part has 8 bars, the B part has 16 bars.  When the tune is played AABB, it’ll be crooked (16 bars of A and 32 bars of B).  If it was played AAB, then it would not be crooked.

The particular maids in the title have been the subject of many works, and most infamously in Jamie MacPherson’s publication of purported Ossian poetry, Fingal (1787), in which we find: “Let them feel that only the sons of the unhappy injure Selma’s highbosom’d maids” and “Oft had we rais’d our tuneful notes together to praise the maids of Selma . . .”  The work was later recognized as forged. Recently, Hugh Trevor-Roper published The Invention of Scotland (2008) which follows the evolution of Macpherson’s versions and the work’s early support by some Scottish intellectuals.


Kilkelly (1988)

Today this tune is often associated with the Chicago accordion player Jimmy Keane (b. 1947), born in London to parents from Connemara and Kerry. Keane favors the set  “Maids of Selma > Larry Redican’s (Jig) > Dancing Tables” (which is a transition from Eaeol > F > A).  He plays the first tune AABB, and the second tune is actually a slip jig composed by Larry Redican (1908-1975) which is usually called “Lough Key,” as on track 12 of Music at the House (2003) by Brendan Bulger (fiddle), Marty Fahey (accordion, piano), Kathleen Gavin (piano).  Jimmy Keane played with Liz Carroll in the 70s, and joined Mick Moloney (banjo, vocals) and Robbie O’Connell (guitar, vocals) in the early 1980s forming Moloney, O’Connell & Keane to record two albums: There Were Roses (with Liz Carroll) and Kilkelly — where they play the Keane set mentioned above.  Both albums were critically acclaimed, the latter containing the unforgettable and heart-wrenching title song. He also plays “The Maids of Selma” on the aptly named accordion compilation The Big Squeeze: Masters of the Celtic Accordion (1987).  He then founded the band Bohola in 1999 with Pat Broaders (bouzouki, vocal) and recently recorded the creatively titled Jimmy Keane & Pat Broaders (2008), which was awarded “Celtic Album of the Year” from Just Plain Folks and “Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year” from the Irish American News. Pat Broaders, by the way, is with the band Open the Door for Three, which played the Kansas City Irish Fest in 2013.  If you didn’t get to see them, you should.

For the ABC click Maids of Selma

Maids of Selma, slow tempo

Maids of Selma, med tempo

Maids of Selma, med-fast tempo

Maids of Selma, the dots

Maids Of Selma

Maids Of Selma, Jig in Eaeol



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