There are two accounts I know of that attempt to explain the name of the tune “The Nine Points of Roguery.” And there’s another account of an alternative name of this tune, one more suited to Samhain. The first, and most dangerous, is to take a title at face value. This one does seem to be some sort of bad advice. That is, there are nine points of knightly virtue (not nightly virtue!), which are: honor, loyalty, liberality, pride, good faith, bravery, glory, unselfishness, and courtesy. Andrew Kuntz, of the Fiddler’s Companion fame, writes “and it may be surmised that the nine points of roguery were the opposite.” That would mean that the nine points are, respectively: shamefulness, treachery, intolerance, false pride, irresponsibility, cowardliness, baseness, selfishness, and coldness. As one needs to engage in a fair amount of self-deception in order to acquire self-pride, for example, and then adding cowardliness would be pretty unstable, the truth is that actually acquiring these all together would take some serious and complicated psychological derring-do.
Still, as an aside, the idea of rogues and roguery, especially when they are “rogues” (with quotation marks) like Willie Brennan (i.e., Brennan on the Moor), Captain Gallagher, or Neesy O’Haughan, make for popular tales. In fact, almost two hundred years ago it was reported by Thomas Crofton Croker in his Researches in the South of Ireland (1824) that the book “The History of the Irish Rogues and Rapparees is at present one of the most popular books amongst the peasantry, and has circulated to an extent that almost seems incredible; nor is it unusual to hear the adventures and [escapades] of highwaymen and outlaws recited by the lower orders with greatest minuteness, and dwelt on with a surprising fondness.” Further still, in The University Magazine: A Literary and Philosophic Review (1837) we find the following sober remark: “In truth, the real history of the greater part of Ireland, during a considerable portion of the last century, might be comprised in the Lives of the Rogues and Rapparees, [particularly those] who disguise their real occupation under habits of desultory plunder, and who, while they were successful in suppressing evidence, and reducing magistrates to inactivity, and keeping the scattered gentry ‘on the sharp,’ graduated their exploits and enterprises so judiciously as not to cause serious alarm to the government, or to acquire for themselves a lasting reputation in their country’s history.” The Rapparees in question here were, of course, the Tories.
Then, for a second account, I once asked a box-player friend of mine about this tune, and he told me that he thought it was just named for a location in Ireland. It took some doing, but I eventually found that at 51° 59′ 32.04″ N 7° 35′ 12.29″ W there is a a small very pointy crop of land that is sometimes called “The Rogue.”
The last account concerns an alternative name for this tune. This tune is also called “The Black Fanad Mare” in County Donegal. Caoimhin MacAoidh in his book Between the Jigs and the Reels: Donegal Fiddle Playing Tradition (1994) explains that the title comes from a supernatural vision of a druid of old which came to the famous Fiddler Doyle of Fanad. As we find in Feldman & O’Doherty’s The Northern Fiddler (1979), another Donegal fiddler, John Doherty (1895-1980), reports “Fiddler Doyle was returning home on horseback after playing at a dance party when he came to a crossroads, a place where visions had lately appeared of an old druid. As they approached the crossroads the horse, seeing the apparition when the man didn’t, shied away, and Fiddler Doyle, unaware of what might be wrong, had to exert mastery of the animal to get it to approach the road again. As horse and rider arrived at the intersection once again the vision reappeared, and this time the horse halted and threw back its head. Doyle managed to stay on the mount, but the horse’s gaze was fixed to the side, and he finally broke into a gallop. The vision stayed at the horses side and Doyle finally saw what it was. Though frightened, the fiddler and his mount finally made it home. After retreating to bed and sleep, the next morning Doyle was inspired by the rhythm of the horse’s hooves on the road and heard a reel in his mind, which he called ‘The Black Mare of Fanad’.” Spooky!
If you want the ABC click
Nine Points of Roguery, slow tempo
Nine Points of Roguery, med tempo
Nine Points of Roguery, the dots