Humors of Ballyconnell (1) (The)

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X:1 T:Humours of Bally Connell, The M:C L:1/8 R:Reel S:James Goodman (1828─1896) music manuscript collection, S:vol. 3, p. 157. Mid-19th century, County Cork Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D A|defe dBAB|dBAF E2 Ec|defe dBAB|dBAF D2D:| |:G|FDAD FDAD|GEBE GEBE|FDAD FDDd|BGAF D2D:| |:a2 af a2 af|gebe gebe|a2 af a2 af|fdef d2:|]



HUMOURS OF BALLYCONNELL [1], THE ("Sugra Baile-Ata-Conaill" or "Pléaráca Bhaile uí Chonaill"). AKA – "Humors of Ballyconnelly." AKA and see "Aldridge's Rant," "Captain Roack," "Captain Rock's (1)," "Captain Rock (1)," "Highland Reel (A)," "McNeil's Maggot," "Now is the Time Reel," "O'Neill's Maggot." Irish, Reel. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABC (Mulvihill): ABB'CC' (Moylan): AABBCC (Boys of the Lough, Brody, Goodman, Kerr, Mallinson): AA'BB'CC' (Harker/Rafferty). "Humours of Bally Connell" [sic] first appears in the large mid-19th century music manuscript collection [1] (vol. 3, p. 157) of County Cork cleric and uilleann piper Canon James Goodman. The tune is popularly known nowadays under the "Ballyconnell" title, which was only a local Fermanagh name for the tune more commonly known as "Captain Rock's (1)," according to the Boys of the Lough. The tune was first recorded on a Columbia 78 RPM (No. 33068) in New York in 1925 by renowned County Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman in a duet with flute player Tom Morrison, followed by the (other) "Captain Rock/Old Bush" tune. Unfortunately, as researcher Conor Ward points out, the recording company reversed the titles on some printings of the label. Thus "Captain Rock" was listed as the first tune in the medley, followed by "Humours of Ballyconnell." The resulting confusion often caused the "Humours of Ballyconnell" reel to be called "Captain Rock." Ward also finds Scottish and English ancestors to the tune in Glasgow publisher James Aird's "McNeil's Maggot," from Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 3 (1788, No. 499, p. 192). Aird printed the same tune again several years later, notes Ward, in Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5 (Glasgow, 1797, No. 12, p. 5) under the title "Highland Reel (A)," by which name it also can be found in uilleann piper O'Farrell's Pocket Companion for the Union Pipes, vol. 5 (c. 1810, p.12).

All of these were preceded by the melody under yet another title, "Aldridge's Rant," from London music publisher Charles and Samuel Thompson, perhaps named for famed dancer and ballet master Robert Aldridge (died in Edinburgh, 1793). Aldridge was born in the town of Ardee, County Louth, and spent his early years teaching music and dancing in Drogheda, while working in Smock Alley, Dublin. In 1756 Aldridge went to Drogheda and met Gordon McNeill, a splendid hornpipe dancer, upon whom he modeled his style (it is tempting to link this fact with the title "McNeil's Maggot," another name for the present tune). At the beginning of the 1762–63 season, and for the next twenty years, Aldridge was the principal dancer at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. Lee Lewes (Memoirs, 2:163) recalled that Aldridge was:

...never compared to any other, because he was universally allowed to be like none of them, but in every respect an original...Although Aldridge's whimsical performances, the Fingallian Rant, and other pleasing Hibernian ballets, seemed only calculated for the meridian of Dublin, and would indeed have been no better than clod-hopping directed by any other; yet the skill and management of Aldridge were such as to reconcile them to the taste of the most refined judges of dancing in England. All his Irish jigs, etc. wee so improved by his singular address and mode of conducting them that, while he continued in London, none was surprised to find the Bog of Allan transplanted, or if you will, transported to Drury Lane theatre.[1]

Baltimore button accordion player Billy McComiskey wrote three additional parts for the tune which have some currency in the Washington/Baltimore area, according to Philippe Varlet. Varlet finds a precursor to the tune appears in Aria di Camera (1747) under the title "Role the Rumple Sawny" (meaning 'Roll your Rump Sandy'). We return to maggots (a trifle, or whim) in the 6/8 time setting, "O'Neill's Maggot," from Irish concert violinist R.M. Levey's 1873 collection.

Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - accordion player Johnny O'Leary (Sliabh Luachra region), recorded in recital at Na Píobairí Uilleann, February, 1981 [Moylan]; Tony Smith (County Cavan & Dublin) [Mulvihill]; fiddler Jimmy McHugh [Bulmer & Sharpley]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty, born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, in 1926 [Harker].

Printed sources : - Boys of the Lough, 1977; p. 11. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 137. Bulmer & Sharpley (Music from Ireland, vol. 1), 1974; No. 37. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 98, p. 31. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 4), c. 1880's; No. 157, p. 19. Mallinson (100 Essential), 1995; No. 35, p. 16. Moylan (Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra), 1994; No. 67, p. 38. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 228, p. 62. Prior (Foinn Seisiún 2). Treoir, vol. 37, No. 3, 2005; p. 20.

Recorded sources: -Columbia 33068, Michael Coleman & Tom Morrison (1925). EMI Records ISRM 006, Tulla Ceili Band – "Dance Tunes" (1990). Gael-Linn CEF045, "Paddy Keenan" (1975). Lochshore CDLDL 1215, Craob Rua – "The More That's Said the Less the Better" (1992). Philo 1042, Boys of the Lough – "Piper's Broken Finger" (1976). Shanachie 79095, Arcady – "Many Happy Returns" (1995).

See also listings at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [3]
Hear Coleman & Morrison's 1925 recording at the Internet Archive [4]



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  1. Quoted in John Greene's Theatre in Dublin, 1745–1820, 2011.