The Best ITM Tune-Learning Tutor

Plains of Boyle (D)

Plains of Boyle, Morrison

Plains of Boyle, Morrison

Often called “The Wexford” by pipers, the hornpipe “Plains of Boyle” used to often be played in the set “Plains of Boyle > Leitrim Fancy” at the beginning of the twentieth century.  You can hear a snippet of a 78rpm recording from 1924 of the piper Michael J. Gallagher playing the tune in that set. The mp3 is posted on Internet Archive, which is an amazing resource for many things, and also hosts the Wayback Machine.  Anyway, and just so you know, Gallagher was a Leitrim flute player, but moved to the States where he met Patsy Touhey (1865-1923) — who Capt. Francis O’Neill  (1848-1936) describes as a “wizard” on the pipes — and as a result of their meeting Gallagher picked up the pipes.  Unsurprisingly, Gallagher plays in the Touhey style.  He apparently developed quickly, as O’Neill comments that Gallagher was “a clever performer on the Irish or Union pipes, recently from Ireland” (Waifs and Strays, 1922). Gallagher was first a stage performer, and only started recording in the mid-1920s.  This same “Gallagher-set” is played by Willie Clancy (1918-1973) and can be found on Youtube, but Clancy’s setting of “Plains of Boyle” is in A.  It has remained a popular tune on both sides of the pond, and was also recorded by James Morrison (1891-1947) in 1929, and Leo Rowsome (1903-1970) in 1933. More recently it was recorded by John McGreevy and Séamus Cooley on the album McGreevey & Cooley (1974), by Kieran Hanrahan on banjo on Kieran Hanrahan Plays the Irish Tenor Banjo (1998), by Paddy Keenan and Paddy Glackin on their CD Doublin’ (2000), by James Kelly on his CD Capel Street (2004), by Lehto and Wright on guitar on their CD A Game of Chess (2004).  Most recently it can be found on our own Turlach Boylan’s CD Lift (2011).

Turlach Boylan

Turlach Boylan, Lift (2011)

Today the tune is most commonly played in D, with a c natural in the fourth measure, as it was played by Gallagher. Though it is sometimes asserted to be in Dmix with a c sharp in the third measure, and though there is admittedly a small bit of chordal ambiguity, I think it is pretty clearly in D rather than Dmix.  As the actual plains of Boyle are in the northern part of co. Roscommon, the tune is sometimes called “North Roscommon Airport,” or even “Pains and Boils.” The folks at Dusty Banjos, run by Mary Lovett in Galway, have a slow version on the page for their Beginner’s Class (just scroll down for a close version played on Concertina). Though it can be played with any other tune you like, you might try it in a set with any of the following: “Eamonn McGivney’s Hornpipe” (Eaeol), “Home Ruler” (D), “Chief O’Neill’s Favorite” (D), “Dinny O’Brian’s” (Dmix), “The Wonder” (G), or “Murphy’s Hornpipe” (G) — this last is in fact what follows “Plains of Boyle” on Turlach Boylan’s Lift (2011).

For the ABC click Plains of Boyle

Plains of Boyle, slow tempo (mandolin, Dave Agee)

Plains of Boyle, med tempo

Plains of Boyle, the dots

Plains of Boyle

Plains of Boyle, Hornpipe in D


  • Posted October 25, 2015 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Not everyone reads traditional music. Are any of these tunes available in TAB, guitar and /or Mandolin (thus violin)? Am I mistaken, but many tunes do not have audio available, let alone available in both moderate and slow tempo. Am I missing something?

  • Janmarie
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Lift is a “must have!”

Thanks! Any comments?

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