Boyne Water (1)

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X:1 T:Boyne Water [1] M:C L:1/8 S:Aird - Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II (1785, No. 121) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Ador g2 | e3d e2g2 | d>edB G2 AB | c2 BA e2 dB | A3G E2g2 | edef g2 fe | dcBA G2 AB | c2 BA e2 dB | A3G E2 :| |: G2 ga g3g | gage d2g2 | e2 ab a3b | abag e3f | gfga g2 fe | dcBA G2 AB | c2 BA e2 dB | A3G E2 :||



BOYNE WATER [1], THE (Briseadh na Bóinne). AKA and see - Briseadh na Bóinne, As Vanquished Erin, Battle of the Boyne Water (The), Bayne Water, Barbara Allan, Bottom of the Punch Bowl (1) (The), Boyne Water Quickstep, Cameronian Rant, Cavalcade of the Boyne, Findlay, King William's March, Lass If I Come Near You, Leading the Calves, Driving of the Calves (The), Leading the Calves in the Pasture, Native Swords, One Pleasant Morning Beside the Glen, Playing Amang the Rashes, Praises of Limerick, Rashes (The), Rosc Catha na Mumhan, Sheila Ni Gowna, Song of the Volunteers, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation, To Look for My Calves I Sent My Child, Wee Wee German Lairdie (The), When the King came o'er the water, Wee German Lairdie, Wha the Deil hae We Gotten for a King?.

Irish, Air or March (4/4 time). A Minor (Howe): A Dorian (Breathnach, O'Neill, Perlman, Roche): E Minor (Haverty, Joyce). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (most versions): AAB (Howe): AA'BB (Breathnach): AABB (Manson).

The name Boyne itself is derived from the name of the goddess Boinn, literally 'cow-white', "a name well suited to a pastoral people whose wealth was chiefly in cattle" (Matthews, 1972). The name of the tune, however, commemorates the Battle of the Boyne (named for the Boyne River in County Meath, eastern Ireland, though the battle itself was fought three miles west of Drogheda), fought July 1st, 1690, in which the English monarch King William III defeated the Irish forces under King James II."

It has always been, and still is, very popular among the Orangemen of Ulster (for it dashed the hopes of the Irish for religious freedom and the Stuarts for Kingship). The ballad follows the historical accounts of the battle correctly enough. The air is well known in the south (of Ireland) also, where it is commonly called Sebladh na n-gamhan, 'Leading the Calves,' A good setting is given by Bunting in his second collection: the Munster and Connaught versions are given by Petrie in his Ancient Music of Ireland, vol. II, p. 12. I print it here as I learned it in my youth from the singing of the people of Limerick, not indeed to 'The Boyne Water' of Ulster, but to other words (given below).

My setting differs only slightly from that of Bunting; and it is nearly the same as I heard it played some years ago by a band on a 12th of July in Warrenpoint" (Joyce). O'Neill (1913) lists "Boyne Water" as one of the "splendid martial airs" of Irish music.

Samuel Bayard (1981) believes "Boyne Water" was composed in the seventeenth century, and thinks it has always been more of a vocal air rather than an instrumental tune. As witnessed by the myriad of titles in the beginning of this entry, it has been a popular air in the British Isles and, as Bayard states, "altogether, the forms suggest that it has undergone a long traditional development."

He believes the second half may have been the original tune, with the first half being fashioned out of elements from earlier strains. Bronson discerns the origins of the whole tune family in a Scottish melody found in the Skene Manuscript of c. 1615. Grattan Flood (1913) dates the tune from c. 1645, long before the famous battle, though how he arrived at this date is obscure. Cowdery (1990) believes that Flood's thinking may have stemmed from a reference to a melody published by Petrie (1855), called "To Seek for the Lambs I Have Sent My Child," in which the latter writer declared, "in its superior purity of expression, and in its passionate depth of feeling, affords intrinsic evidence of an original intention, and consequent priority of antiquity, which will not be found in that which I consider to be the derived from of it called 'The Boyne Water.'"

Be that as it may, Aloys Fleichmann's index gives that "Boyne Water" was first published in George Bowie's fiddle manuscript of 1706. O'Neill (1913) concludes the same Gaelic airs printed by Petrie are early antecedents of "Boyne Water," Nos. 1529 ("A Long mo Gamain" {To look for my calves I sent my child"}) and 1530 ("An Tuainirc na nGainna". Breathnach (1985), in CRE II (No. 124), gives a polka setting and remarks it was used for the last figure of the Clare polka set, and says that "Rosc Catha na Mumhan" (The Munster War-Cry) is sung to this air.


However old it actually is in oral tradition, Bayard (1991) finds the earliest printed appearances of the tune in William Graham's Flute Book of 1694 (as "Playing Amang the Rashes") and in D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy (where it appears as an untitled air). The melody remained in popular usage throughout the British Isles for well over two hundred years. Robert Burns set three songs to it in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, and it was the vehicle for the Scots songs "Wee Wee German Lairdie (The)" and "Andro/Andrew and His Cuttie Gun" (the latter from Alan Ramsay's 1740 edition of the Tea-Table Miscellany). In Ireland, Sir Thomas Moore used the melody for his c. 1825 song "As Vanquished Erin."


The air was widespread in American usage, often heard as the tune the popular song "Barbara Allan" was sung to, which fact has been noted by several writers (Bayard, Cowdery, Cazden). It is, for example, identified by Cowdery (1990) as one of four tunes which carry the tale of "(Bonny) Barbara Allen" (the second strain of both Joyce's version and Bunting's "To seek for the Lambs..." is the portion of the Irish tune which corresponds to the America "Barbara Allen").

As "The Battle of the Boyne" it was included in a Philadelphia chapbook of 1805, and, under the title "The Buoying Water," as an instrumental piece in the 1790 Whittier Perkins Book (Cazden, et al, 1982). According to Bronner (1987), it was used for an 1815 hit American blackface minstrel song by Micah Hawkins called "Siege of Plattsburgh (The)" or "Back Side of Albany."

Cazden prints it with the Catskill Mountain (N.Y.)-collected song "A Shantyman's Life," which he states can be found in most collections of lumber camp songs. Musicologist Alan Jabbour traces one of the strains of Virginia fiddler Henry Reed's "Shady Grove" ultimately to the Boyne water, and says the strain was absorbed into American traditional music, also referencing another Virginia fiddler, J.H. Chisholm, and his tune called "The Foggy Dew," which also uses the strain. Professor Samuel Bayard thought "Come Kiss with Me" to be a special development of "Boyne Water."


The political connotations of "The Boyne Water" long remained attached to the melody, even after it was imported to North America. Bayard (1981) relates that the mere playing of the tune in the presence of Catholic Irish in western Pennsylvania "could bring on a mass attack," and repeats the Fayette County story of an old Irishman digging potatoes in the garden while his wife followed along beside him picking the up in a sack. She absent-mindedly began singing the air, upon which he turned around and, incensed, brained her with one blow of his spade. In fact, Pennsylvania fifers declined to play the tune for Bayard at gatherings, fearing to destroy the harmony of the group with "political pieces."


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - George Strosnider (Greene County), Hiram Horner (Westmoreland County), Mrs. Sarah Armstrong (Westmoreland County) {All Southwestern Pa.} [Bayard]; flute and whistle player Micko Russell, 1969 (Doolin, Co. Clare, Ireland) [Breathnach]; Sterling Baker (b. mid-1940's, Morell, North-East Kings County, Prince Edward Island; now resident of Montague) [Perlman].

Printed sources : - Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 2), 1785; No. 121, p. 44. Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 317A-D, pp. 271–273. Breathnach (CRÉ 2), 1976; No. 124, p. 66. Davie (Davies Caledonian Repository), Aberdeen, 1829-30; p. 8. Gow (The Beauties of Niel Gow), 1819. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs, vol. 1), 1858; No. 76, p. 32 (as "Cavalcade of the Boyne"). Howe (Complete Preceptor for the Accordeon), c. 1843; p. 4. Jordan (Whistle and Sing!), 1975; 19. Joyce (Old Irish Folk Music and Songs), 1909; No. 151 and No. 377, pp. 183–184. R.M. Levey (Dance Music of Ireland, 1st Collection), 1858; No. 107, p. 42. Manson (Hamilton's Universal Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1844; p. 55. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 204 & No. 260, p. 45. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 107, p. 60. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 208. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1), 1912; p. 8, No. 4.



See also listing at :
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [1]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]



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