Mirrie Boys o' Greenland (Da)

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MIRRIE BOYS O' GREENLAND, DA. AKA - "Merry Boys o' Greenland." Shetland, Shetland Reel. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. A traditional Shetland reel known throughout the islands, said to have originated from Shetland whalers. It is the best known of the Shetland reels and is to be found in many variants. Anderson & Georgeson (1970) say it bears a strong resemblance to a country dance tune from Jutland, Denmark. Purser (1992) notes that the dance "Mirrie Boys o' Greenland", attached to a tune similar to "Mirrie Boys", had spread from Shetland to the Netherlands at the time of his writing. "‘Merry Boys o’ Greenland' [was] described as a ‘whaling reel’ with possible musical links to Terchelling Island, on the Frisian Islands, where ethnomusicologist Peter Cooke notes ‘Rielen’, a tune with a similar second turning, was collected there by ethnomusicologist Jaap Kunst. The tune later was used as the inspiration for a song about the Greenland whaling, from the perspective of a Shetlanders, written by naturalist and musician Bobby Tulloch from the island of Yell in the mid-late twentieth century"[1], also called "Da Merry Boys O Greenland." The first stanza and chorus goes:

Da news is spreadin trowe da toon:
A ship is lyin in Bressa Soond.
Tell da boys shö’s nortward boond
Ta hunt da whale in Greenland.
A’ll get me sea böts fae da laft,
Rub wi oil until dey’re saft,
Get wird ta Lowrie ower at Taft
Ta pack his bag fir Greenland

Up aloft an set da sail,
Hingin on wi teeth an nail;
We’re goin nort ta hunt da whale,
Da Merry Boys o Greenland.



There are melodic similarities between this tune and the 3/2 Borders air "Dance to Your Daddy."

Source for notated version: Willie Hunter (Shetland) [Anderson & Georgeson]; fiddler Gilbert Gray [Purser].

Printed sources: Anderson & Georgeson (Da Mirrie Dancers), 1970; p. 16. Bain (50 Fiddle Solos), 1989; p. 21. Hunter (Fiddle Music of Scotland), 1988; No. 217. Martin & Hughes (Ho-ro-gheallaidh), 1990; p. 32. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 94. Purser (Scotland's Music), 1992; Ex. 2, p. 229.

Recorded sources: FDF002, Fiona Driver - "The Orkney Fiddler" (1997). Folktrax FTX-068 - Willie Hunter Jr. - "Da Mirrie Boys: Shetland Fiddle Music" (field recordings 1950-52 by Pat Shaw, released on cassette 1978). Olympic 6151, The Shetland Fiddlers' Society - "Scottish Traditional Fiddle Music" (1978).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Shetland fiddler and collector Tom Anderson introduce and play the tune at Tobar an Dualchais [2]
Hear/see the tune performed on youtube.com [3] [4]




Back to Mirrie Boys o' Greenland (Da)[edit]

  1. F. Wilkins, "Da Merry Boys O Greenland : Explorations into the Musical Dialogue of Shetland’s Nautical Past", Folk Music Journal, vol. 11, no. 2.