The Best ITM Tune-Learning Tutor

The Wise Maid (D)


John Doherty (1900-1980)

Judit Polgár (2010)

Judit Polgár (2010)

The reel known as “The Wise Maid” seems to date only from the 1970s, but is now in the top twenty most widely-known Irish reels in the world. The well-known whistle player Larry McCullough, in his The Complete Irish Tinwhistle Tutor (1987), attributes the tune to the Ardara, Co. Donegal, fiddler John Doherty (1900-1980), as does accordionist Luke O’Malley in his Collection of Irish Music (1976).  Doherty was a travelling tinsmith, making household items, selling his wares, and travelling around Donegal spreading his tunes and style throughout the county.  He is sometimes referred to as “Tinker Doherty” by those that don’t know better. Note that John Doherty does not play in the characteristic swingy and danceable Donegal style, though his brother Mickey does.  Unfortunately, the often repeated attribution of authorship to him is based on circumstantial evidence, namely Doherty’s recordings (not even liner notes!) – especially, the field recordings of his playing (Glenconwell, 1968-1974) by Professor Evans and entitled The Floating Bow (1996).  Though it is possibly true, it is doubtful that Doherty wrote this tune as opposed to any of the others on his recordings.  Galway accordion player Joe Cooley popularized the tune, and it is sometimes confusingly called “Cooley’s Reel,” though that seems to be diminishing over the last couple of decades, probably due to obvious confusions with the commonly played “Cooley’s Reel.”  Planxty also recorded “Wise Maid” on their 1973 eponymous album. Oh, and the picture on the left of Judit Polgár from Hungary, is just an example of one wise maid.

If you want the ABC, then click Wise Maid


D   |D     |D     |A     |D     |D     |D     |A D   : |

D   |D A |D A |D A |G D |D A |G D |A D  : |


The Wise Maid, slow tempo (mandolin)

The Wise Maid, med tempo (mandolin)

The Wise Maid, the dots

Wise Maid Reel

Wise Maid Reel



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