McKenna's Reel (3)

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X:1 T:McKenna's Reel [3] M:C L:1/8 R:Reel S:Rev. Luke Donnellan – “Oriel Songs and Dances", B:Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society (vol. II, No. 2, 1909; No. 87) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Amix gf|eA A/A/A cAeA|cdef gbeg|dG G/G/G dGBG|cdef gfed| eA A/A/A cAeA|cdef g2 fg|aged edBA|GABG ABcd|| Aa a/a/a ba a/a/a|baab gedB|Gg g/g/g ag g/g/g|agga gedB| Aa a/a/a ba a/a/a|baab gefg|aged edBA|GABG ABcd||



McKENNA'S (REEL) [3]. AKA and see "Old Swallowtail (The)." Irish, Reel. A Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. This reel is neither of the more popular set of reels called "McKenna's" (for which see "McKenna's Reel (2)"/"Happy Days of Youth (1)" and "McKenna's Reel (1)"/"Colonel Rogers)." The melody of "McKenna's (3)" has similarities with the "Swallow's Tail Reel," enough so that "McKenna's (3)" is sometimes called "Old Swallowtail (The)." Brendan Breathnach mentioned that "McKenna's" was one of several Ulster names for "The Swallow's Tail." A variant title, "Miss McKenna's Reel," was included in the tune list of piper Philip Goodman (c. 1831-1908), Carrickmacross, Ireland, who is variously described as "the last professional and traditional piper in Farney, Louth", and also recorded as having been from Donaghmoyne, County Monaghan (all of which are places from the same area, and contiguous to the Donnellan's Oriel region).

The reel was collected in the Slieve Gullion region of south County Armagh and contained in the music manuscript in the possession of Rev. Luke Donnellan (1878-1952), a rector at Dromintee, who published a collection of over 100 tunes, mostly reels, in 1909 in an article entitled "Oriel Songs and Dances" in The Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society (vol. II, No. 2)[1]. Oriel [1] (now Oirialla), or Airgíalla, and Anglicizations, Oriel, Uriel, Orgiall, or Orgialla, was the name of an ancient Irish federation or kingdom largely in what is now the County Armagh, in the north of Ireland. Donnellan was enthusiastic about P.W. Joyce's then recently published Old Irish Music and Songs (1909), but found Irish music rather rare in his area.

The old people of Dromintee will tell you of the number and the skill of musicians who used to come to [nearby] Forkhill fair. I was told there used to be as many as thirty playing at it. They display an extensive knowledge of the names of songs and dance tunes, but cannot sing them. The reel known as “Black Haired Lass (2) (The)” No. 66 inf., seems to have been a great favourite with everyone. These facts point to a vanishing and disappearing musical culture.

Forkhill Fair, held on Michaelmas Day (Sept. 29th) was once the great horse and cattle fair, and festival of the area (St. Michael is the patron saint of horsemen).


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - curate and fiddler Rev. Luke Donnellan music manuscript collection [O'Connor].

Printed sources : - Donellan (Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society, vol. II, No. 2), 1909; No. 87. McGuire and Keegan (Irish Tunes by the 100, vol. 1), 1975; No. 50, p. 13. O'Connor (The Rose in the Gap), 2018; No. 93, p. 62.

Recorded sources : - Wildcat Records WILDCD 101, Ronan Martin - "Ronan Martin" (2008).

See also listing at :
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [2]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [3]



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  1. Donnellan researcher Gerry O'Connor came to believe the ms. is not the work of the curate but rather was originally compiled by an unknown but able fiddler over the course of a playing lifetime, probably in the late 19th century. The ms. later came into the possession of Donnellan, who was also a fiddler.
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