Garryowen

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X:1 T:Cary Owen (sic) M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Jig S:Gow - 2nd Repository (1802) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:F f|~fcB ~AGF|A>BA A2f|~fcB ~AGF|GAG G2f| ~fcB ~AGF|ABA A2d|c>de f2A|GAG G2:| A/B/|(A/B/c)A ~c2A|c2A c2f|d2B d2B|d2B d2e|f2g {fg}a2g|f2d c2A| cde f2A|GAG G2 A/B/|{AB}c2A {AB}c2A|{AB}c2A c2f|d2B d2B| d2B d2e|f2g {fg}a2g|f2d c2A|cde f2A|GAG G2||



GARRYOWEN (Garad-Eogan Le Atrugad). AKA – "Garry/Gary/Geary Owen." AKA and see "Auld Bessy," "Battle of Limerick," "Bivouac of the Dead," "Bosom that Beats," "Daughters of Erin," "Finnegan's Dream," "Harlequin Amulet," "Hurrah for the Women of Limerick," "Let Bacchus' Sons Not be Dismayed," "O! friendship will smile," "Scotch Laddie (The)," "Walk of the Twopenny Postman (The)," "We May Roam thro' this World." Irish (originally), Scottish, English; Jig and (in England) North-West Morris Dance Tune. G Major (most versions): F Major (Gow, Harding): A Major (Kerr, Plain Brown): D Major (Clinton, O'Farrell, Russell): B Flat Major (Hughes). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Russell): AAB (Gow): AABB (most versions): AABB' (S. Johnson, Phillips): AABBCDCD (Goodman): AABBCCDDEE (Kennedy). "Garryowen," the name of a suburb of Limerick, was written c. 1770–1780 in honor of the moneyed young hooligans who ran riot in the Irish county at the time. Garryowen translates as "Owen's garden" and it was a general rendezvous for those with leisure time on their hands, situated on the slope of a hill in what was then the outskirts of the city of Limerick. The elderly drank together under the shade of trees, while young people sported with ball games and athletic contests on the green. It was a well-known trysting place. Later Owen's Garden became the scene of darker assignations and began to acquire a reputation for high spirits, more abandoned drinking, fighting, and vandalism. According to old texts, the 'young gentlemen' amused themselves with parties at night in which the heads of geese were wrung, followed by vandalism where street lamps would be broken, watchmen assaulted, local homeowners harassed and passers-by accosted. The local goose population was especially hit hard. At some point one wag composed the following verses, which entered tradition:

Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:

Chorus:
Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.

Our hearts so stout have got no fame
For soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear the name
Of Garryowen in glory.

Samuel Bayard finds the earliest printed appearance of the tune in James Aird's 1787 Collection under the title "Auld Bessy." According to the Fleischmann anthology, however, the first printed occurrence appears to be in Edward Light's Introduction to Playing the Harp-Lute & Apollo-Lyre (London c. 1785) as "Cory Owen." A jig called "Newmarket Races," from Northumbrian piper John Peacock, appears in his 1805 collection, basically the first part of the "Garryowen" tune with sets of variations. This northern English version predates Peacock's collection though, as it appears in the music manuscript collection of James Biggins, of Leeds, England, dated 1779. Another early printing is in O'Farrell's Pocket Companion for the Union Pipes (1804-10); his collection drew from Irish, English and Scottish sources. After its use by English songwriter Charles Dibdin in his pantomime called Harlequin Amulet produced in 1800, the jig gained great popularity as a fife and fiddle tune (sometimes found as "Harlequin Amulet," the name of the pantomime). "Gary Owen" can be found in northern English musicians' manuscript collections of the mid-19th century; John Rook (1840, Waverton, Cumbria, p. 155) and Ellis Knowles (c. 1847, Radcliffe, Lancashire), for example.

While the title is indisputably Irish, the provenance is unknown. While English printings predate Irish ones, Francis O'Neill pointed out that first publications are not an indicator of national origin[1]:

...being much earlier in the field, English and Scotch collectors had a decided advantage of the Irish in this line of activity [i.e. publication], the inevitable result being that, having our melodies or tunes in their books, they have a prima facie case in their favor; while the Irish claim to ownership, if not supported by documentary or other convincing evidence, fails to be established.[2]

It is occasionally (and mistakenly) attributed to 'Jackson of Cork', a reference to the famous 18th century uilleann piper and composer Walter "Piper" Jackson. Doolin, north County Clare, tin whistle player Micho Russell described it as a "very old jig," often played for the dance called the 'plain set' in Clare and surrounding Irish counties. Limerick composer and music seller James Corbett fashioned "Gary Owen" into "Favourite Irish Melody of Gary Owen," arranged as a rondo in the early 19th century.

Military use of "Garryowen" as a march tune was quite early. The melody was the designated regimental march of the Royal Irish Regiment, organized in 1684 from Irish pikemen and musketeers by the Earl of Granard to fight for King William or Orange in the Williamite Wars (although its adoption may not date from that era). This unit distinguished itself at the Battle of Namur (Netherlands) in 1695 during the War of the Grand Alliance, where a grateful William granted them the title of "The Royal Regiment of Foot of Ireland." Additionally, in recognition of its deeds on this occasion, King William conferred the right of displaying the badge of the Harp and Crown and that of the Lion of Nassau, with the explanatory legend.

The tune was adopted as a marching air in the United States by Irish immigrants who formed units in their adopted country in the mid-19th century, and from there it probably found its way into more general use in the American military. For example, the famous "Fighting 69th" Infantry was first organized as a New York City militia unit early in 1851, known locally as the Second Regiment of Irish Volunteers. They chose "Garryowen" as their official regimental marching song. Since the regiment saw much active and intense duty in the Civil War it is natural to assume that its marching song was well-known in the Army of the Potomac. "Garryowen" was also adopted as a favorite marching air by General George Custer's 7th Cavalry, an association which helped to popularize the jig throughout country following Custer's demise. Custer was one of the youngest Generals in the Civil War, where he made his mark, and may have well been familiar with "Garryowen" during that conflict. Another suggestion has: "It had been said that the 7th acquired the song through Captain Miles Keogh, an Irishman and a former member of the Papal Guard, but it seems unlikely that (its American use) can be ascribed to a particular person, since 'Garryowen' appeared in a number of Civil War songsters, and was therefore presumably well known to any number of American soldiers in 1861–1865 – dates preceding Keogh's association with the 7th" (Winstock, 1970; pgs. 102–104). The 7th Regimental history gives that Custer heard the tune sung by Irish troopers who employed it as a drinking song. He liked the cadence, and soon began to hum the tune himself, perhaps because it "accentuates the cadence of marching horses." It was adopted as the regimental song soon after Custer arrived at Fort Riley, Kansas, to take over command of the unit. "Garryowen's" associations with cavalry units in the American West survived to the mid-20th century, and gained added currency when director John Ford used it as one of the musical themes in his acclaimed film "The Searchers," starring John Wayne. "Garryowen" became the Official Song of the American 1st Calvary Division in 1981.

The melody was cited as having commonly been played at Orange County, New York country dances in the 1930's (Lettie Osborn, New York Folklore Quarterly), and it was used as a tune for a single step in the English North-West morris dance tradition. Queen Victoria requested the tune of piper Thomas Mahon (along with "St. Patrick's Day" and "Royal Irish Quadrilles") during her first visit to Ireland in 1849, and the piper was thus "surprised when he learned that not only the Queen, but the Prince Consort was familiar with the best gems of Irish music" (O'Neill, 1913). His performance pleased the Queen, and she directed that he might thenceforth bear the title "Professor of the Irish Union Bagpipes to Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria." Thomas Moore used the melody for one of his songs.

The first sound recordings of "Garryowen" were by violinist Joseph Samuels, who recorded it for Edison in 1919 as part of his "St. Patrick's Day Medley", and, in the same year, by piper Patsy Touhey [1] (1865–1923), who recorded it as a march (paired with the reel "Fermoy Lasses (The)") on a cylinder machine.


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - a c. 1847 music manuscript by Ellis Knowles, a musician from Radcliffe, Lancashire, England [Doyle].

Printed sources : - Adam (Old Time Fiddlers' Favorite Barn Dance Tunes), 1928; No. 26. Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 3), c. 1789; No. 600 (appears as "Auld Bessy"). Anderson (Anderson's Budget of Strathspeys, Reels & Country Dances), Edinburgh, 1820, p. 22. Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 502 (appears as "Gary Owen"). Clinton (Gems of Ireland), 1841; No. 6, p. 3. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 63. Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; p. 118. William Forde (300 National Melodies of the British Isles (c. 1841, p. 23, No. 78. Gow (Complete Repository, Part 2), 1802; p. 30. Harding's Original Collection, 1928; No. 7. Harding's All Round Collection, 1905; No. 187, p. 59. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs, vol. 1), 1858; No. 9, p. 4. Hopkins (American Veteran Fifer), 1902; No. 59. Howe (Diamond School for the Violin), 1861; p. 49. Hughes (Gems from the Emerald Isle), c. 1860?; No. 35, p. 9. Jarman (Old Time Fiddlin' Tunes), No. or pg. 16. S. Johnson (Kitchen Musician No. 4: Fine Tunes), 1983 (revised 1991, 2001); p. 12. Kennedy (Jigs & Quicksteps, Trips & Humours), 1997; No. 50, p. 13. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; No. 17, p. 37. J. Kenyon Lees (Balmoral Reel Book), Glasgow, 1910; p. 28. R.M. Levey (First Collection of the Dance Music of Ireland), 1858; No. 105, p. 41. Mattson & Walz (Old Fort Snelling: Instruction Book for the Fife), 1974; p. 61. O'Farrell (Pocket Companion), c. 1805; p. 7. O'Flannagan (The Hibernia Collection), 1860; p. 16 (as "Geary Owen"). O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 971, p. 180. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 1001, p. 172 (includes variations). Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 2), 1995; p. 365 (appears as "Gary Owens"). Doyle (Plain Brown Tune Book), 1997; p. 53. Robbins (Collection of 200 Jigs, Reels, and Country Dances), 1933; No. 69, p. 22. Russell (The Piper's Chair), 1989; p. 23. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 94. Saar (Fifty Country Dances), 1932; No. 5. Sweet (Fifer's Delight), 1964/1981; p. 22. Trim (The Musical Heritage of Thomas Hardy), 1990; No. 52. Wade (Mally's North West Morris Book), 1988; p. 4. Wilson (A Companion to the Ballroom), 1816; p. 87 (as "Cary Owen"). Winstock (Music of the Redcoats), 1970; p. 103.

Recorded sources : - Edison 50870 (78 RPM), Joseph Samuels, 1919 (appears as 1st tune of "St. Patrick's Day Medley"). Maggie's Music MM220, Hesperus – "Celtic Roots." PearlMae Muisc 004-2, Jim Taylor – "The Civil War Collection" (1996).

See also listing at :
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [2]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [4]



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  1. Quoted in Paul de Grae's "Notes for Sources of Tunes in the O'Neill Collections", 2017.
  2. O'Neill, Irish Folk Music, 1913, p. 234.