Back to Billy O’Rourke
BILLY O'ROURKE. AKA and see "Astrope Wells the New Way," "Irish Merry Making," "Merry Making (2)," "Why did You Promise to Marry?," Irish, Slip Jig (9/8 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. A slip jig from c. 1807 Edinburgh-published collection of Irish uilleann piper Richard Fitzmaurice. Little is known about the piper until he made a trip to Edinburgh, where his trail has been researched by Keith Sanger (Ceol na hEireann, "Irish Pipers and Scotland", pp. 84–89). A notice appears in an advertisement for a concert to be held by him in July, 1806, in Corri's Rooms, where it is given:
Mr. Fitzmaurice the celebrated Performer on the Union Pipes to the Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex and the Highland Society of London is just arrived in this city and will on that evening play a solo on his pipe.
The next month saw the piper at the annual Highland Society competition for Highland pipers, where he performed several airs in an interlude between competition events. He was well received by the audience, and this must have encouraged him to extend his visit, for in October he advertises that he is available for lessons and "will give instructions on the Union Pipes on a new and expeditious plan which will enable any gentleman to accompany him on that instrument after a few lessons." He also advertises his new Rondo, "Fitzmaurice's Ramble to Scotland" and notes that it will be soon for sale in Edinburgh music shops.
He continued to advertise concerts at Corri's, interspersed with lessons, and is recorded as having played "The Coolin with Variations – Carolan," "The Lilies of the Valley and the Soldier that lives on his pay," and "Days of Langsyne and Fitzmaurices Ramble to Scotland." This pattern, evidently with some short trips to England, continued into 1807, and by August of that year he advertises his New Collection of Irish Tunes, to be published later in the year. Sanger concludes that, despite the title, the volume contains recently composed tunes and melodies he collected in Scotland. Eventually, three separate printings of the volume were issued.
For the next nine years Fitzmaurice continued to concertize, teach, and occasionally issue small collections of music. However, in early March, 1808, Sanger discovers, he was required to cancel a concert due to illness. He issued a 'card' (public statement), saying that he "regrets that a long and severe indisposition had rendered it impossible for him to solicit their favours at an earlier period but when he considers their well known liberality in countenancing those who exert themselves for their entertainment he flatters himself that he is not too late and hopes that he will on this occasion meet with that patronage which they are so ready to bestow on him." He recovered to play a concert ("Kitty Flanaghan", "Coolun and an Irish Lilt", "The Exile of Erin and an Irish Jig," and "a favourite air by Mr. Fitzmaurice") on March 25th. The illness returned in July, and Sanger finds notice of a concert held for his benefit.
He recovered and resumed his schedule, but once again relapsed. This pattern repeated itself over what must have been a difficult six years. In December, 1814, he received another in a long series of benefits, albeit at this one he was well enough to play, and the advertisement posed the question: "Does Wit, Courage or Politeness tend most to recommend a Gentleman to the Fair Sex?" This was debated at the end of the performance (which was "well-attended"), and although it became somewhat rowdy, it was determined that politeness was the requisite quality. A final benefit was held for/with him in 1816 at the Theatre Royal (he performed his new piece, "The Benevolent Citizens of Edinburgh"), after which he drops from recorded history.
Source for notated version:
Fitzmaurice (Fitzmaurice's New Collection of Irish Tunes), 1807; vol. 6, p. 2.