Gravel Walks (The)

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GRAVEL WALK(S), THE. AKA - "The Gravel Path." AKA and see "Gravel Walks to Granie," "The Gravelled Walks to Granny." Irish, Reel. Ireland, Donegal. A Dorian (most versions): A Dorian/Mixolydian (Feldman & O'Doherty). Standard tuning (fiddle). ABCDD' (Songer): AABCCD (Mulvihill): AABCCDD (Mallinson): ABBCDD (Feldman & O'Doherty): AABCCDD' (Boys of the Lough, Martin & Hughes): AABBCCDD'(Brody): AABB'CCDD' (Alewine). A favorite reel in County Donegal (which has a tradition of adapting Scottish tunes), and popularized through the playing of the Byrne brothers of Kilcar and the travelling Doherty family, says Mick Conneely. In this case the root melody is the Scottish reel "Highland Man that Kissed His Grannie (1)" (see also another Irish derivative "Highlandman (2) (The)," a highland). "In Donegal, as in Shetland, the fiddle is the favourite instrument and this tune is one of those often played in octaves, that is two fiddles playing the tune an octave apart. This is a tradition that seems to belong mainly to Donegal and Kerry" (Boys of the Lough, 1977; p. 14). Caoimhin Mac Aoidh explains that Granny (sometimes "Grainne" or "Cranny") is a remote, uninhabited glen between Ardara and Glencomcille, southwest County Donegal, where locals from the villages of Ardara, Kilcar and Glen used to summer their sheep. When they went to gather them in Autumn they would access Granny by climbing up the gravel paths, thus the name. He states that in Donegal the first two parts are played once, while the latter two are doubled.

The Doherty brothers (Mickey and John) of County Donegal, both fiddlers, told versions of a story sometimes associated with "The Gravel Walks." Mickey's version can be heard on the cassette set "The Gravel Walks" (Comhairle Bhealoideas Eireann, 1990, produced by Harry Bradshaw). He tells of a man who knew only two tunes before being aided by the fairies, after which he had a vast repertoire; although learning tunes from fairies is a common phenomenon in the folklore of Britain and Ireland. Donegal fiddler Simon Doherty played the 3rd and 4th strains of "Gravel Walks" as a separate tune, named "Miss Percy's Reel."

As stated above, "Gravel Walks" belongs to a large family of tunes that is often characterized as the "Highland Man (Kissed his Granny/Mother)" family, after a popular 18th century tune characteristic of the group. Typically the first strain of this family is in 'A' dorian or mixolydian mode, while the second strain is in the the relative major, or 'C' major. In the case of "Gravel Walks," these parts are separated by two additional strains, so that the strains that identify it as a member of the "Highland Man" family are the first and fourth. There are several related Irish tunes in this family (as well as a number of Scots melodies), and include "Cavan Reel (The)," "Stenson's No. 1" (or "John Stenson's No. 1"), "Tailor's Thimble (The)," and "Tie the Bonnet". Susan Songer, in The Portland Collection (1997), states "Gravel Walks" is a good change tune for the contra dance Chorus Jig (the first tune played being the four-part "Chorus Jig"). For the dance each part is played only once.

Sources for notated versions: the late Donegal fiddler Mickey Docherty [Boys of the Lough]; Jerry Keane [Mulvihill]; Paddy Ryan [Bulmer & Sharpley]; fiddlers Francie and Mickey Byrne (County Donegal) [Feldman & O'Doherty].

Printed sources: Breathnach (CRÉ II), 1976; No. 238 (appears as untitled reel). Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 124. Bulmer & Sharpley (Music from Ireland), 1974, vol. 2, No. 29. Feldman & O'Doherty (The Northern Fiddler), 1979; p. 161 (appears as "The Gravel Walks to Granie"). Mallinson (100 Essential), 1995; No. 19, p. 8. Martin & Hughes (Ho-ro-gheallaidh), 1990; p. 49. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 102, p. 27. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 89. Vallely (Play Tin Whistle with the Armagh Pipers Club), vol. 3; 23.

Recorded sources: Cló Iar-Chonnachta, CICD 148, Mick Conneely - "Selkie" (2001). Gael-Linn CEF060, "Paddy Glackin." Green Linnet 1009, Patricia Conway and Mick Maloney- "Irish Music: The Living Tradition." Nimbus NI5320, Ciaran Tourish & Dermot McLaughlin - "Fiddle Sticks: Irish Traditional Music from Donegal" (1991). Rounder 3006, Boys of the Lough- "Second Album" (1974). Shanachie 34014, James Kelly, Paddy O'Brien & Daithi Sproule - "Traditional Music of Ireland" (1995. Appears as "Gravel Path"). Tartan Tapes CDTT1004, Connaillaigh - "Heat the Hoose" (1998. Appears as "Gravel Walks to Grannie").

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




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