Annotation:Custom Gap (The)

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X:1 T:Bearna 'n aonaig T:The Custom Gap M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Slow Reel B:Frank Roche - Collection of Irish Traditional Music vol. 1 (1912, No. 146, p. 58) K:DDor A,DDE|F2 FG|AcGc|Ad d2|A,DDE|F3 (3ded|cAGE|FDEC| A,DDE|F2 FG|AcGc|Add>e|fdec|d2 dc|AcGA|ED D2|| d2 dB|c2 cA|d2 dB|cA GE|d2 dB|c2 cA|GE c>E|ED D2| d2 dB|c2 cA|d2 dB|cAA>g|fdec|d2 dc|AcGA|ED D2||

CUSTOM GAP, THE. AKA and see "Bearna 'n Aonaig," "Jug of Punch (2)," "Mills are Grinding (3) (The)," "Porthole of the Kelp (The)," "Tuttle's Reel, "Windy Gap (2)." Irish, Slow Reel. D Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). The reel "Custom Gap" was recorded in 1937 by fiddler Paddy Sweeney (1894-1974) who paired it with "Concert Reel (The)," although the "Custom Gap" appeared for some reason on the label as "The Custom Jap." Sweeney was a sometime collaborator with the more famous Paddy Killoran, with whom he recorded duets. The "Tuttle's Reel" title is from Country Clare fiddler Bobby Casey [1] (1926-2000), who learned it from his friend and fiddler John Joe Tuttle (who had learned it from the Sweeney recording). Bobby Casey himself composed a very similar reel called "Porthole of the Kelp (The)." See also the first section of "Dunmore Lasses (The)" for a related strain.

Custom Gap refers to the practice whereby the landlord or gentry took a fee or toll for beef at a fair or livestock market; it was a gate at which tax was collected on each beast sold. It was an almost universally disliked practice and frequently the cause of some friction, as the following excerpt from the Cavan newspaper The Anglo-Celt of January, 1850:

Patrick Brady, Andrew Farrelly indicted for a riot and assault at the custom gap of (the fair of) Killeshanra on the 8th of November last acquitted. The Barrister asked the jury in this case did they recollect their oaths, to decide according to the sworn evidence and not on their own private opinions, and directed the jury to be discharged and the sherrif to get another jury.

Apparently, in this instance Brady and Farrelly were attempting to protest or circumvent the custom gap, and the local populace was sympathetic to them, as the outcome suggests. However, it was not the last we hear of Brady and the custom gap, for severaly years later the same paper (Anglo-Celt, August 31, 1854) printed the following item below. It suggests that the same Brady was coopted by the landlord and installed to collect the custom gap:

HOMICIDE AT A CUSTOM GAP.-On Wednesday week there was a fair in Killeshanra, to which a man named Patrick FINNEGAN brought some calves to see. In passing out of the green he had some angry words with one of the custom men named Brady, whom he called a liar, and had some scuffle with. About half an hour afterwards he returned with some four or five others to renew the quarrel with Brady, when he received from him a blow with a whip, or stick, which fractured his skull, and caused him to die twelve hours after- wards. An inquest was held on the following day before James Berry, Esq., when the foregoing facts were elicited, and a verdict of manslaughter in self defence returned. BRADY was' admitted to bail. We could with to see this last relic of an odious impost abolished in this country, for we believe that through its length and breadth there is no other place than Killeshandra in which custom is exacted. A bad practice, and the cause of much bloodshed, it has been abolished in every other place, and it is really necessary that the example should be followed in Killeshanra.

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Frank Roche (Collection of Irish Traditional Music vol. 1), 1912; No. 146, p. 58 (as "Bearna 'n Aonaig").

Recorded sources : - Decca 12153 (78 RPM), Paddy Sweeney (1937. The title for the tune on the record label inexplicably reads "Custom Jap").

See also listing at :
Hear Paddy Sweeney's 1937 recording on [2]

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