McKenna's Reel (3)

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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."

The reel was collected in the Slieve Gullion region of south County Armagh by the 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). 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).

Source for notated version:

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.

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

See also listings at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [2]
Alan Ng's [3]

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