In addition to this reel, there is a song, a novel, and a movie with the same title title. None bear any close relation to the tune, save the name, the concept of which is itself a deeply ensconced in Irish consciousness. There’s also many-a CD that contains the tune. The song is an Irish ballad by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836–1883), about a young Wexford boy who is about to sacrifice his relationship with his beloved to join the 1798 Irish rebellion. Oddly, the melody of that song is close to the tune entitled “The Battering Ram.” The novel (1946) is by James Barke, and about Robert Burns. The movie (2006) is directed by Ken Loach, set during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1922) and Irish Civil War (1922–1923), and about two County Cork brothers who joined the Irish Republican Army to fight for Irish independence from the United Kingdom. The movie takes its title, in part, from the Robert Dwyer Joyce song which is featured early in the film. More recently, the Canadian singer, songwriter, accordionist, harpist, and pianist Loreena McKennitt released her ninth album (2010) which features our tune as the sixth track. The common thread is the name, which refers to the barley (or oats) that Irish rebels often carried in their pockets as provisions when on a march. There was a post-rebellion phenomenon of barley growing and identifying the mass unmarked graves into which slain rebels were thrown. These “croppy-holes” are iconic. The regenerative nature of Barley symbolizes Irish resistance to British rule. So the phrase “the wind that shakes the barley” carries the sense of Irish Independence and the generations of young men who have been sacrificed to the cause. The tune here is probably at least two hundred years old. Scottish musicians claim it is originally Scottish, but there’s no evidence for the claim except that it shows up in two Scottish collections: James Stewart Robertson, The Athole Collection (1884), and Keith Norman MacDonald, The Skye Collection (1887). Yet it is in George Petrie’s Ancient Music of Ireland (1855), collected in Clare. Later it shows up in another Irish collection: Frank Roche, The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music, Volume I (1911). In Irish the title is An Ghaoth A Bhogann An Eorna. The structure of the tune is AABB.
If you want to see the ABC for this tune, click Wind that Shakes the Barley
The Wind that Shakes the Barley, slow tempo (mandolin)
The Wind that Shakes the Barley, med tempo (flute)
Wind that Shakes the Barley