Colonel Fraser

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X:1 T:Colonel Frazer's Reel M: L:1/8 R:Reel S:Patrick O'Farrell music manuscript collection (c. 1860's, No. 52) N:Source O'Farrell was from Gaigue, Ballinamuck, Co. Longford. Z:Transcribed by Conor Ward K:Gmin BG G/G/G (DG)GB|AFcF dFcF|BG G/G/G (DG)GB|cAfA GG/G/ Gz:|| Gggf gbfg|df(cf) (AF)cA|Gggf gbag|fdcA G/G/G Gz| gb(fg) (df)cf|Af(cf) (AF)cF|BABA Bcde|fdcA G/G/G Gz||



COLONEL FRASER (An Ardtaoiseac Fraser). AKA - "Colonel Frazer." AKA and see "Donaghmore (The)," "Frazer's Frolic," "Grand Old Dame (2) (The)," "Malloy's Favorite," "Molloy's Favourite (2)," "Green Fields of Ireland," "Purty Molly Brallaghan." Irish, Reel. G Major ('B' and 'D' parts) and G Mixolydian ('A' and 'C' parts) [O'Neill/Krassen & 1915]: G Major ('A', 'B' & 'D' parts) & G Major/Mixolydian ('C' part) [Miller]: G Major (Mitchell, O'Neill/1850 & 1001). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABCD (Miller): ABCDE (Mitchell): ABCC'DE (O'Neill/Krassen): AA'BCD (O'Neill/1915, 1001 & 1850): AABBCCDDEE (Taylor). The tune is a favorite of uilleann pipers, and is known as one of the 'big' piping tunes. Versions vary from all-major tonality to one or more parts in the Mixolydian mode. It was first recorded on a wax cylinder by Irish-American piper Patsy Touhey (1865-1923), whom Francis O'Neill said was a "genial, obliging and unaffected wizard of the Irish pipes." "Melodeon player Frank Quinn (1893-1964) of Greagh, Drumlish, Co. Longford, recorded this tune under the unique title "The Grand Old Dame" in April, 1924," remarks researcher Conor Ward. A version of the tune appears in the large mid-19th century music manuscript collection of County Cork cleric and uilleann piper Canon James Goodman under the title “Frazer's Frolic."

Seán Keane identifies it a reel from the north Midlands and Sligo areas, however, evidence is that it was widely known in much of Ireland, at least by the latter 19th century. The title appears in a list of tunes in the repertoire of Philip Goodman, the last professional and traditional piper in Farney, Louth (a list made at the Feis Ceoil in Belfast in 1898, according to Brendan Breathnach, 1997). Conor Ward finds a G minor setting in the c. 1860's Patrick O'Farrell manuscript of Gaigue, Ballinamuck, Co. Longford, which may one of the earliest appearances of this tune. A "Colonel Frazer" similar to P. O'Farrell's setting was entered into the c. 1883 music manuscript of Farnaght, County Leitrim, fiddler and piper Stephen Grier (c. 1824-1894). Ward suspects the minor mode tonality may have once been typically employed for the reel, and notes that collector George Petrie's version has 'F' natural notes in the first strain. O'Neill's setting was obtained from fiddler and Chicago police patrolman John McFadden, who was renowned for his ability to produce variations, a practice he evidently picked up from his mentor, an uilleann piper named Quinn. In a letter to A.P. Graves, O'Neill wrote: ["Colonel Fraser"] is a fine old melody from piper Quinn. Evidently the 3rd and 4th parts were variations as the old man was much addicted to the practice"[1]. De Grae observes: "As generally played, many of the F notes would be natural, or at least inflected; O'Neill's later setting (O'Neill's Irish Music, 1915, No. 243) indicates several F natural accidentals"[2]. Petrie published a three-part setting under the title "Green Fields of Ireland" (Stanford/Petrie, 1905, No. 909, "A Connaught Reel") which corresponds closely to the first three parts of McFadden's tune, notes de Grae.

Breathnach (1985) finds "Colonel Fraser" related to "Malloy's Favorite." See also the related "Duke of Leinster's Wife."

Flute player Seamus Tansey relates that Colonel Fraser was an English landlord in Leinster, a man of good temperament who was kind to his tenantry and to travelling pipers. He bought one piper a set of new pipes and had this tune composed for him in gratitude. Tansey said the piper was inspired by the sight of the Colonel galloping on his horse to the hunt, "It's like the 'Fox Chase', but different." In 1959 Kerry fiddler Denis Murphy (1910-1974) recorded it in Dublin in a medley with "Steampacket (The)" and "Kerry Reel (1) (The)."

Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - John McFadden [O'Neill]; piper Willie Clancy (1918-1973, Miltown Malbay, west Clare) [Mitchell]; set dance music recorded at Na Píobairí Uilleann, late 1980's [Taylor]; "Based on the playing of (Kerry fiddler) Paddy Cronin" [Miller].

Printed sources : - Lyth (Bowing Styles in Irish Fiddle Playing, vol. 1), 1981; 78. Miller (Fiddler's Throne), 2004; No. 137, p. 90. Mitchell (The Dance Music of Willie Clancy), 1993; No. 87, pp. 78-79. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 104. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1246, p. 234. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 520, p. 98. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 243, p. 128. Taylor (Music for the Sets: Blue Book), 1995; p. 28. Vallely (Play Tin Whistle with the Armagh Pipers Club, vol. 3); 21.

Recorded sources: -Claddagh Records CC17, Seán Keane - "Gusty's Frolics" (1975). Drumlin Records, Brian McNamara - "A Piper's Dream." Gael-Linn CEF 045, "Paddy Keenan" (1975). Green Linnet GLCD 1074, Jerry O'Sullivan - "The Invasion" (1987). Rounder CD 1087, Denis Murphy - "From Galway to Dublin" (1992). Shaskeen Records OS-360, Joe Burke, Andy McGann, Felix Dolan - "A Tribute to Michael Coleman" (c. 1965). Conal O'Grada - "The Top of Coom." Tara CD3034, Liam O'Flynn - "The Given Note" (learned from Leo Rowsome). Viva W103, Sean McGuire - "Irish Jigs and Reels" (c. 1960's, a reissue of "Sean Maguire Plays," the first recording of McGuire that Josephine Keegan accompanied on piano).

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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  1. Paul de Grae, "Notes to Sources of Tunes in the O'Neill Collections", 2017.
  2. ibid