Leather Away with the Wattle

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LEATHER AWAY WITH THE WATTLE (Buail Leat Leis an Bata). AKA – "Leather Away the Wattle-O." AKA and see "Grand Old Dame (1) (The)," "Halfdoor," "I-Tiddly-I-Ti," "Leather the Bottle-O," "Lisdoonvarna Polka (2)," "Little Lisdoonvarna Polka (The)," "London Bridge Polka," "Maureen from Gibberland (2)," "Sally Kelly (4)," "TSeanbhean uasal (An)," "Water Street Polka." Irish, Polka and Air (2/4 time, "lively"). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (O'Neill): AABB (Tubridy). The song (sans music) appears first in John O'Daly's (1800–1878) Poets and Poetry of Munster (1849), a version reprinted by Howe and O'Neill. O'Daly notes:

This spirited air escaped the notice of our most eminent collector, [Edward] Bunting, and probably would have never been in print had it not fallen into our hands. The words are the production of a violent Jacobite. By leathering away with the wattle, he implies his determination to decide all political differences by an appeal to 'physical force'. The wattle was a stout cudgel, or 'Ailpin', in frequent requisition at country fairs and faction fights early in the present century. (p. 193).

The Philadelphia-based band The Four Provinces Orchestra recorded the tune (under the title "Leather Away") in 1924. Bayard (1981) suggests that the first part of this air was the derivation of the second part of the minstrel tune "Mary Run Away with the Coon." There is some superficial resemblance in the first bar or two to the well-known "Rose Tree," enough to result in some mild but intrusive cross-titling (see the 'Maureen from Gibberland' and 'Rose Tree' variants). John Buttery, a fifer with the 37th Regiment in the British Army at the turn of the 19th century entered the tune in his large manuscript collection as "Sally Kelly (4)," a title used for several tunes. The title for the tune was not unique to his collection, however, and appears in Buttery's contemporary Luther Kingsley's (Mansfield, Conn.) copybook of c. 1795, and the American War of Independence-era fife manuscript of Aaron Thompson (New Jersey), where it is listed as a quickstep.

The title "Leather Away with the Wattle" has attracted various thoughts regarding its meaning, including that 'leather away' i.e. to go at something vigorously, and 'wattle' i.e. a stick, means 'to have a vigorous go with the stick'; leading to a suggestion (albeit without much evidence, and more puerile enthusiasm) that it is a euphemism for male masturbation. However almost certainly the phrase refers to the process of curing leather, as Wattle bark is a principle source of tannin in Ireland and Great Britain. The bark may have tannin content of 40–50 percent and is ground into a powder for the process, producing a solid, very firm, and faintly pink leather, which is especially used for soles.

Source for notated version: Pádraig O'Keeffe (Sliabh Luachra) [Breathnach].

Printed sources: Breathnach (The Man and His Music), 1996; p. 95. Brody (Fiddler's Fake Book), 1983; p. 235 (appears as "Rose Tree", a miss-title from Kenny Hall). P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs, vol. 1), 1858; No. 21, p. 8. Levey (Dance Music of Ireland, 2nd Collection), 1873; no. 99, p. 45. Mangan & O'Daly (The Poets and Poetry of Munster), 1849; p. 192. Mangan, Meehan & Hennessey (The Poets and Poetry of Munster), 1884; p. 232. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 413, p. 72. Petrie-Stanford (Complete Collection), 1903–06; No. 1203. Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 2), 1999; p. 8.

Recorded sources: Philo 1008, "Kenny Hall" (appears as miss-titled "Rose Tree").



See also listing at:
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [1]




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