Annotation:Britches Full of Stitches (The)

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X:1 T:O the Breeches Full of Stitches L:1/8 M:2/4 B:Roche - Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 2 (1912, No. 240) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:G G>A B>G|A>G A<B|G>A B>G|A>G E>D|G>A (3BAG|A>d (3dBA|G>G (3GED|E>D D2:| |:d>d dB|A>G A<B|d>d d>B|A>G E2|d>d dB|g>g ge|1 d>e dB|A>G G<E:|2 d>d (3dBA|G>E E>D||

BRITCHES FULL OF STITCHES (THE). AKA and see "O the Breeches Full of Stitches," "Breeches On (The)," "Britches (The)," "Irish Lad (The)" "Irish Lad's a Jolly Boy (The)." Irish, Polka or Single Jig. Ireland, Sliabh Luachra. A Major (Sullivan): G Major (Roche, Tubridy). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The Scottish reel "Bonny Lass to Marry Me (A)" is ancestral. Paul de Grae suggests that Sliabh Luachra fiddler and accordion player Daíthín Davey Lenihan (1889-1973) may have been the source for this tune in local repertory. Lenihan was a player and music teacher from Mountcollins who probably adapted many Scottish tunes; he was a friend of esteemed Sliabh Luachra fiddler and teacher Pádraig O'Keeffe, and was a founding member of the Mountcollins Pipe Band in 1927. Paul writes, he was "a key innovative figure whose influence and contribution has been largely overlooked"[1].

Peter Wood (in his 1996 book The Living Note: the Heartbeat of Irish Music), remarks on County Clare fiddler Martin Hayes' languid version:

That's an old tune, played in different settings all over the country. It's a simple tune and his version of it follows Joe Bane, the whistle player from Feakle. When Bane played it in a session it was like a lull in the converstation, a breathing space. He learned it from Paddy Canny's father, Martin's uncle. Listening to Martin play it, it's like music from a séance--it goes way back, that tune.

The title is perhaps first mentioned in Irish novelist and Fenian Charles Kickham's novel Knocknagow, or the Homes of Tipperary, first published in 1879, in which this ditty is sung by a jew's harp player who first plays the tune for a vistor who has torn his pants, then sings:

Oh, my breeches full of sticthes,
Oh, my breeches buckled on.

Collector George Petrie published versions under the titles "Breeches On (The)," "Irish Boy (The)," and "Irish Lad's a Jolly Boy (The)." The American breakdown "Leather Britches", a derivative of the Scottish reel "Lord MacDonald (4)", is a similar sounding tune.

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Mallinson (100 Irish Polkas), 1997; No. 38, p. 15. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 2), 1912; No. 240, p. 20. Sullivan (Session Tunes, vol. 2); No. 18, p. 8. Tayor (Crossroads Dance), 1992; No. 62, p. 47. Taylor (Music for the Sets: Blue Book), 1995; p. 7. Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 1), 1999; p. 7.

Recorded sources : - CCF2, Cape Cod Fiddlers - "Concert Collection II" (1999). Columbia Legacy CK 48693, "The Best of the Cheiftains" (1992). Gael-Linn CEF 057, "Séamus Creagh & Jackie Daly" (1977). Kicking Mule KM-327, "Scartaglen" (1984. Learned from the playing of Planxty). Shaskeen - "My Love is in America."

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Alan Ng's [2]
Hear Jackie Daly & Séamus Creagh's recording on Soundcloud [3]

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  1. Paul de Grae, Facebook post, 2.26.2024.