Fairies' Hornpipe (The)

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FAIRIES' HORNPIPE, THE (Crannciuil Na Siabraead/Sideog). Irish, Hornpipe. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Harker/Rafferty, O'Neill): AA'BB' (Cranford). Piper Seamus Ennis introduced the tune with a tale of supernatural origins. It seems that a young man lost his way when returning home from a dance, and it being late and himself tired from dancing, he bedded down in the middle of a field for a nap to await daylight. He woke, however, when it was still dark to the sound of music and the sight of fairies dancing. He committed the tune to memory, but when he eventually found his way home and told the village of his adventure he was not believed, and was thought to have more likely passed out in a drunken stupor. The young man produced an instrument and proceeded to play the tune the fairy piper had been playing, and since even the oldest member of the community could not remember it having heard it before, the young man was perforce believed. The tune was thereafter known as "The Fairies Hornpipe."

Unfortunately the tune is derived not from the shee, but rather from a duple-time air collected in the mid-19th century by Cork musicologist P.W. Joyce called "Mór Chluana" (More of Cloyne). There is a connection with fairies, however, for Mor was goddess of the fey-folk around Cloyne, County Cork. Joyce has this to say:

We read in Irish history of several remarkable women named Mor. The most celebrated of all was Mór Mumhan, the daughter of Aedh Bennain (Hugh Bannan, king of west Munster--died A.D. 614), about whom there is a curious story in the book of Leinster; in which it is related that she was carried off by the fairies in her youth; and that ultimately she became the wife of Cathal Mac Finguine, king of Cashel. Afterwards her sister was similarly abducted; and was discovered by Mór--who knew her by her singing--somewhere in the district where Cloyne is situated. Mór Mumhan (or Mór of Munster) is celebrated in legend among the peasantry to this day, for her beauty and her adventures; and perhaps it may not be rash to conjecture that she was the same as Mór of Cloyne, who gave name to this air. (Joyce, 1873)

Source for notated version: fiddler Brenda Stubbert (b. 1959, Point Aconi, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) [Cranford]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty, born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, in 1926 [Harker].

Printed sources: Cranford (Brenda Stubbert's), 1994; No. 79, p. 29 (appears as "The Fairy's Hornpipe"). Cotter (Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor), 1989; 82. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 260, p. 80. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 357, p. 173. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 202. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1718, p. 319. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 906, p. 155. Vallely (Play Tin Whistle with the Armagh Pipers Club), vol. 2; 18.

Recorded sources: CCE Néillidh Mulligan - "The Leitrim Thrush." EMI Records ISRM 006, Tulla Ceili Band - "Dance Tunes" (1990). Brenda Stubbert - "House Session" (1992). "Chieftains 8."

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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