Leg of the Duck (1) (The)

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LEG OF (A) DUCK, THE (Leis Lacha). AKA and see "Bonny Highlander (The)," "Bucky Highlander (The)," "Bully for You," "Daniel of the Sun (1)," "Donall na Greine," "From the Court to the Cottage," "Girls of the West," "I Gave to My Nelly," “Lame Duck (The),” "Nelly's Jig," "O my dear judy," "Thady You Gander/Teddy You Gander," "'Tis Sweet to Think," "O my dear father pity your daughter," "Western Jig (The)," "She is the Girl that Can Do It/She's the Girl that Can Do It," "Petticoat Loose (1)," "Wee Murdie." Irish, Jig (6/8 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The title comes from a song set to the tune. James Joyce gives a few lines in Ulysses:

I gave it to Kitty because she was pretty,
The leg of the duck, the leg of the duck.
I gave it to Molly because she was jolly,
The leg of the duck, the leg of the duck.

Irish uilleann piper and music editor Terry Moylan (Johnny O'Leary) shared a car journey in 1970 with Sean Reid and Willie Clancy, who were entertaining each other with similar rhymes. Clancy gave the one above and also had:

I gave it to Nelly to stick in her belly
The leg of the duck, the leg of the duck.
She has it, she's got it, wherever she put it,
The leg of the duck, the leg of the duck.

Moylan says: "According to Johnny O'Leary, Denis Murphy had scores of these things. Willie could have got them from Denis, as they were close friends." Simple rhymes were helpful in the days of itinerant musicians when people would employ them to describe the tune they wanted to dance to when a visiting musician did not know the local name.

Key of 'D' and key of 'G' versions are sometimes classified as separate variants. A mis-hearing of the title on Cape Breton caused the tune to be called “The Lame Duck” for a while among Cape Breton fiddlers, and appears on a few recordings.

Translated from a jig to a reel, the same tune provides the melody of the older two-part setting of Over the Moor to Maggie (2).

Source for notated version: fiddler Brenda Stubbert (b. 1959, Point Aconi, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) [Cranford].

Printed sources: Cranford (Brenda Stubbert's Collection of Fiddle Tunes), 1994; No. 131, p. 45. O'Brien (Irish Folk Dance Music). Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 1), 1999; p. 33.

Recorded sources: "Johnny Wilmot: Another Side of Cape Breton" (learned from his uncle, Northside Cape Breton fiddler Joe Confiant, it appear as second tune of "Cape Breton Favorites"). Brenda Stubbert – "House Sessions" (1992). CAT-WMR004, Wendy MacIssac – "The 'Reel' Thing" (1994. As “The Lame Duck”). Gael Linn Records, Maire O'Keeffe – "House Party (An Coisir)." Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40126, Lamprey River Band – "Choose Your Partners!: Contra Dance & Square Dance Music of New Hampshire" (1999. As “The Lame Duck”).

See also listing at:
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [1] [2]
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [3]




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