Blackthorn Cane with a Thong (The)

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BLACKTHORN CANE WITH A THONG, THE (An cána droíghean éille). Irish, Air or Slip Jig. This song is similar to Bunting's and Joyce's "Cailín deas rua (An)," and can be found in Petrie's Ancient Music of Ireland (1855, pp. 36-37), although Petrie had forgotten the original name of the tune. He called it by the name of a song by Eoghan Rua O' Suilleabhain (Owen Roe O'Sullivan) entitled "Ní slaitín bhog bhaéth, na géag don chuilenn chas chuar" ('Twas no soft silly switch, nor twig of knobb'd holly so short), which was commonly sung to the 'Blackthorn' air in Munster in the first half of the 19th century, although the melody was also played as a jig. O'Sullivan's song, in translation, goes:

'Twas no soft silly switch, nor a twig of knobb'd holly so short,
That I myself had, but one that would give me support-—
My blackthorn cane with a thong, light ready and true,
Was stolen from my side at the fair of Tullacha rue.

This ramble I made on a night that was dusky and black,
From Mullach to Screeb, without drizzle or dust on my back:
Tho' dark was the night, yet my blackthorn gave me such light,
That I would not believe the world but 'twas morning bright.

Through ports, plains, and cities, I soon would track out my way,
From Cork into Aidhne, from Leinster to Dingle Bay;
Without claim to regard,--or even a groat in my horn,
Yet good cheer I'd- receive from fear of my trusty blackthorn.

Petrie remarks: "Many other songs have been written to this air in the South of Ireland, and amongst them one of considerable merit by John Fitzgerald, son of the Knight of Glin, on Mary, the daughter of O'Connor Kerry, about the year 1670."

Source for notated version: Biddy Monahan, Rathcarrick, Co. Sligo, 1837 [Petrie], "a woman named Biddy Monahan... a rare depository of the melodies which had been current in her youth in the romantic peninsula of Cuil Iorra" (Ancient Music of Ireland, 1855 p. 7).

Printed sources: P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs vol. 2), 1858; No. 157, p. 71.

Recorded sources:

See also listing at:
For more on the tune and its extended tune family, see Jürgen Kloss's article "Song Archeology: From "Earl Douglas' Lament" to "Farewell Angelina." The Long and Twisted History of an Old Tune Family" [1]




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