Jenny Picking Cockles (1)

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JENNY PICKING COCKLES (Sineidin ag togad brubanide). AKA and see "Heath and Furze," "Maggie Picking Cockels," "My Love is in America (3)," "Old Slipper Shoe (The)," "Take Her Out and Air Her (2)." Irish, Reel (cut time). D Major (O'Neill/1850, Reidy): D Mixolydian (Flaherty, Kennedy, Mitchell, O'Neill/Krassen): D Dorian (Roche): G Major (Tubridy). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (O'Neill, Roche, Tubridy): AAB (Kennedy): AABB (Flaherty): AA'BB'CC'DD' (Mitchell). See also similarly structured tunes "P.J. Conlon's," "Kitty in the Lane (1)," "Ballinafad Reel (1) (The)," "Sailor's Jacket (The)," "Come to Your Tay." The tonality of the versions of this popular reel range from major to mixolydian and dorian. Breathnach (1985) says it is closely related to "Johnny's Gone to France (1)." Caoimhin Mac Aoidh points out this tune is a variation of two parts of "Jenny's Welcome to Charlie" and has relationships to some strains of "College Grove (The)." The great compiler Francis O'Neill learned this tune from County Mayo piper James O'Brien, who visited Chicago (where O'Neill worked in the police department) in 1876. O'Neill describes him as "a neat, tasty Irish piper of the Connacht school of close players, and though his Union pipes were small, they were sweet and musical...One of his peculiarities--and an unpleasant one, occasionally--was a habit of stopping the music in order to indulge in conversation. He could not be induced to play a tune in full, when under the influence of stimulants, as his loquacity was uncontrollable, and he never hesitated under such conditions to express a passing sentiment. Amiable and harmless at all times, he died at a comparatively early age in Chicago, a victim to conviviality, his only weakness." However, in Music of Ireland he credits Chicago piper and police Sergeant James Early as the source for the tune.

The basic melody is the same as that of the jig "Hag with the Money (The)" ("Cailleach an Airgead"). One might well speculate that the original two part song air became a dancing jig, was translated at some point into a two-part reel ("Jenny Picking Cockles") and later elaborated into a multi-part reel ("Jenny's Welcome to Charlie").

"Cockle Pickers" (1871), by John Henry Mole (1814-86)

A version of the reel is contained in the c. 1890's music manuscript collection [1] of London dancing master Patrick D. Reidy, originally from Castleisland, County Kerry. Reidy was employed to demonstrate and teach Irish dancing at Gaelic League events in London prior to and after the turn of the 20th century, and is credited with introducing the country dances Walls of Limerick and Siege of Ennis into the repertory. He was a correspondent with Capt. Francis O'Neill in Chicago, and in 1902 sent him one of his music copybooks in which this melody is entered. Therein it is credited to Thomas Gallivan of Tralee, County Kerry, who (according to O'Neill) was a fiddler. The attribution seems to be as Reidy's source for the tune, and not the composer. Another manuscript version is to be found in the large mid-19th century music manuscript collection (vol. 3, p. 176 [2]) of County Cork cleric and uilleann piper Canon James Goodman under the title “My Love is in America (3).”

Nicholas Carolan (on notes to Frankie Gavin's "Fierce Traditional") says the earliest sound recording of the tune seems to be that of the Flanagan Brothers in New York, 1923. Donegal fiddler Neilidh Boyle recorded it in 1937. Carolan believes "Jenny Picking Cockles" to be related to other tunes from northern Ireland. See the cognate, but distanced melody "O'Connel's Gray Coat" collected in County Louth. See also William Bradbury Ryan's (1883) setting under the variant title "Maggie Picking Cockels."

Irish cockle pickers, by John J. Clarke (1879-1961) (National Library of Ireland)

Sources for notated versions: piper and flute player Tommy Hunt (b. 1908, Lissananny, Ballymote, County Sligo) [Flaherty]; piper Willie Clancy (1918-1973, Miltown Malbay, west Clare) [Mitchell]; piper Jimmy O'Brien (County Mayo) [O'Neill]; Chicago Police Sergeant (and flute player) James Early, originally from Carrickavoher, Aughavas, Co. Leitrim [O'Neill/1903].

Printed sources: Flaherty (Trip to Sligo), 1990; p. 130. Kennedy (Traditional Dance Music of Britain and Ireland: Reels and Rants), 1997; No. 76, p. 20. Mitchell (The Dance Music of Willie Clancy), 1993; No. 124, pp. 100-101. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 123. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1347, p. 252. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 602. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1), 1912; No. 180, p. 69. Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, Book Two), 1999; p. 16.

Recorded sources: Claddagh 4CC 32, Willie Clancy - "The Pipering of Willie Clancy, vol. 1" (1980). Gael-Linn CEF 114, Noel Hill & Tony MacMahon - "I gCnoc na Graí." Tara CD 4011, Frankie Gavin - "Fierce Traditional."

See also listing at:
Alan Ng's [3]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [4]
Hear Nealie O'Boyle, Micho Russell and others play the tune at the Comhaltas Archives [5]

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