Collier's Reel (The)

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COLLIER'S (REEL), THE ("Seisd an Gualeoir" or "Cor an Gualadoir"). AKA and see "Hod Carrier's Reel (The)." Irish, Reel. D Mixolydian/Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Flaherty, Mitchell, O'Neill): AABB (Sullivan, Taylor): AABB' (Connolly & Martin): AA'BB' (Harker/Rafferty). A popular session reel. As with many Irish tunes, various versions have more or less naturalized 'c' notes. The melody was also recorded by the great County Clare/Dublin uilleann piper, pipe maker and teacher Leo Rowsome. Séamus Connolly (2002) suggests the tune may have come from "the coal mining and musical area of Arigna in County Leitrim." Certainly there is an older County Leitrim connection, as the reel appears in the c. 1883 music manuscript collection of Gortletteragh, Co. Leitrim, musician Stephen Grier, where it is entitled "Hod Carrier's Reel (The)" (although hod carrying has more to do with the builder's trade than mining). Researcher Conor Ward found a still earlier version in the Philip Carolan music manuscript collection, c.1860s, of Crossmolina, Co. Mayo, where it was entered as 'Paddies Welcome Home or The Colier's Reel'.

An alternate theory, says Connolly, is that the reel originated in the Tyneside (northern England) region which, in a similar circumstance, had considerable mining and musical traditions. As a result of the great famine of 1845, many Irish settled in the Tyne region, joined the labor pool, and contributed their own music to the indigenous English tradition. O'Neill (1913) tells the story of 19th century piper John Morris (also known as Morris Sarsfield) of Clida, Headford, County Galway. It seems that Morris, who spent much time in England, chanced to travel to Wales to ply his art, "and got along swimmingly with the miners until asked to play 'Collier's Reel.'" Unfortunately, poor Morris could not call the tune to mind, if he knew it, and the miners, incensed that a musician would have the temerity to play before them and not know the melody called after their trade, chased him out of town for the deficiency in his repertoire.

The tune is similar to "Farewell to Connacht" and "John Bowe's (2)," and is often mistaken for "My Love is in America." See also the melodically similar 6/8 tunes "Collier's Jig," "Do You Want Anymore" and even (but more distantly) "Frieze Breeches." Lesl Harker (2005) says her source, fluter Mike Rafferty, said his version was "the old way" of playing the tune, and revealed that it was one of the first reels he learned, at the age of ten.

Sources for notated versions: Chicago police sergeant James O'Neill, a fiddler originally from County Down and Francis O'Neill's collaborator on early voluvmes [O'Neill]; flute player Sonny McDonagh (b. 1926, Rinnarogue, Bunninadden, County Sligo) [Flaherty]; piper Willie Clancy (1918-1973, Miltown Malbay, west Clare) [Mitchell]; Martin Byrne [Sullivan]; set dance music recorded at Na Píobairí Uilleann in the 1980's [Taylor]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty, born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, in 1926 [Harker].

Printed sources: Connolly & Martin (Forget Me Not), 2002; pp. 18-19. Flaherty (Trip to Sligo), 1990; p. 122. Giblin (Collection of Traditional Irish Dance Music), 1928; 13. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 128, p. 39. Mitchell (Dance Music of Willie Clancy), 1993; No. 37, p. 50. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 246, p. 129. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 132. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1404, p. 261. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 646, p. 116. Peoples (Play Fifty Reels), 1986; 28. Sullivan (Session Tunes), vol. 3; No. 57, p. 23. Taylor (Music for the Sets: Yellow Book), 1995; p. 9.

Recorded sources: Green Linnett GLCD 1087, Seamus Connolly - "Notes From My Mind" (1988). Green Linnet GLCD 1127, "Martin Hayes" (1993). Larraga MOR 1302, Mike Rafferty - "Speed 78" (2004). Leader LEACD 2004, "Martin Byrnes" (1969). Shamrock 1235 (78 RPM), Michael Gallagher (uilleann pipes) {c. 1920's}.

See also listings at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [3].




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