Miss McLeod's Reel (1)

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Back to Miss McLeod's Reel (1)[edit]


MISS McLEOD'S/MacLEOD'S REEL [1] (“Cor Ingean Ni Mic Leod” or “Cor Mhic Leoid”). AKA and "Billy Boy (2)," "Cake's All Dough," "Did You Ever See the Devil Uncle Joe?" “Enterprise and Boxer,” “Enterprising Boxer,” "Girl with the Handsome Face (The),” "Green Mountain (1)," "Hop Up Ladies," "Hop High Ladies the Cake's all Dough," "Hop Light Ladies," "John Brown (2)," "May Day (1)," "Miss MacLeod of Ayr," "MacLeod's Reel (1)," "McLeod's Reel," "Miss McCloud," "Misses McCloud's Reel," "Mistress McCloud's Jig," "Mr. McLaw'd," "Mrs. MacLeod of Raasay,” “Mrs. MacLeod Raasay,” "Nigger in the Woodpile (2)" (Pa.), "Old Mammy Knickerbocker" (Pa.), "Virginia Reel (5),” "Walk Jaw Bone (1)." Irish, Scottish (originally), American, Old Time; Reel and Breakdown. G Major (most versions): A Major (Ashman, Cranford/Holland, Roche, Songer): F Major (Harding’s). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (most versions): AA’BB’ (Harker/Rafferty). A universal favorite in the British Isles and North America. Apparently the tune was first printed in Nathaniel Gow's Fifth Collection of Strathspey Reels of 1809 (p. 36), with the note "An original Isle of Skye Reel. Communicated by Mr. McLeod (of Raasay)." It is possible that the “Miss McLeod” referred to was one or both of MacLeod of Raasay’s sisters. These sisters raised their niece, the Countess of Loudoun, Flora Charlotte Campbell, after the death of her mother and suicide of her father. The family maintained a residence on St. John’s Street, Edinburgh, which Chambers and Wallace (Life and Works of Robert Burns, 1896) refer to in this passage:

Possibly Burns was introduced to the (MacLeod) family by Gavin Hamilton who was factor of the Loudoun estates. A Perthshire lady used to tell how she met Burns at an evening-party in the house of MacLeod of Raasay at the St. John Street, where he seemed to be on easy terms. ‘He had been on the previous night to a ball in Dunn’s Rooms (now the National Bank, St. Andrew Square) and he spoke in high terms of the beauty of the ladies, as well as the witchery of the music. His manner, however, was not prepossessing—scarcely manly or natural. It seemed as if he affected a rusticity or landertness, so that when he said the music was “bonie, bonie,” he spoke almost like a child.’ [p. 137]

“Miss MacLeod” was popular as long ago as 1779 in Ireland as its playing is mentioned in an account by a foreign visitor named Berringer or Beranger of a "cake" dance (i.e. where the prize was a cake) he participated in while visiting in Connacht. O’Neill (1913) relates Beranger’s observations somewhat differently and gives that it was one of six tunes played by Galway pipers in 1779 for the entertainment of the traveler. Irish violinist R.M. Levey includes the reel (as "Miss M'Cloud") in his first collection of Irish dance tunes (1858), but notes its Irish provenance is “doubtful.” In modern times in Ireland the tune was included in a famous set of the late Donegal fiddlers, brothers Mickey and John Doherty, who played it as the last tune after “Enniskillen Dragoon (1) (The)” and “Nora Chrionna” (Wise Nora), though sometimes they substituted “Piper of Keadue (The)” for “Miss McLeod’s.” The whole set was played in the rare AAae tuning, which required playing in position (Caoimhin MacAoidh). See also “Foxhunter's Reel (1) (The)” and “Grey Plover (The)” for a related tunes in O’Neill.

The title “Peter Street” appears in a list of tunes in his repertoire brought by Philip Goodman, the last professional and traditional piper in Farney, Louth, to the Feis Ceoil in Belfast in 1898 (Breathnach, 1997). At another Feis, this time in Munster in 1906 it was the only tune played all day long for the dancing competition (James Kelly, 1996). The reel was mentioned in an account of one of the old pipers of County Louth, a man named Cassidy, as recorded by William Carleton in his Tales and Sketches of the Irish Peasantry, published in 1845. Breathnach (1997) believes the first name of this piper was Dan, and that he was blind. Carleton, born in 1794, was a dancing master who taught in the 1820’s, and was engaged to teach the children of the ‘dreadful’ Mrs. Murphy. It seems that Carleton:

'...having spent several nights at piper Cassidy’s house weighing up the local dancers …was impelled by vanity to show them how good a dancer he was himself. He asked one of the handsomest girls out on the floor, and, in accordance with the usual form, faced her towards the piper, asking her to name the tune she wished to dance to. Receiving the customary reply, ‘Sir, your will is my pleasure,’ Carleton called for the jig Polthogue. He next danced Miss McLeod’s Reel with his partner, and then called for a hornpipe, a single dance, this is, one done without a partner. It was considered unladylike for girls to do a hornpipe. The College Hornpipe was his choice for this dance. (p. 59)

Charlie Piggott, in his book Blooming Meadows (1998) written with Fintan Vallely, relates that accordion player Johnny O’Leary was at the deathbed of his mentor, the famed Sliabh Luachra fidder Pádraig O’Keeffe, in St. Catherine’s Hospital, Tralee. O’Keeffe was lucid until the end, and engaged in witty repartee with O’Leary:

‘You know two great reels,’ he said. ‘Don’t ever forget them.’ ‘What are they?’ said I.

‘”Miss McCloud” and “Rolling in the Ryegrass”,’ he said. ‘You see, “Miss McCloud” is a great reel,’ he said, ‘but we’re playing it wrong.’

‘How do you mean it?’ says I.

‘I’m at it now,’ he says, ‘but I suppose I won’t be left alive to do it— play it backwards. And,’ he says, ‘you’ll never in your life hear a nicer reel.’

Whether ‘tis right or not, I don’t know. He was just going to do it when he died. He said he had a sister that had the first part of it done backwards with a concertina and, Pádriag said, ‘twas double nicer than the way we’re playing it. He was a genius, you know. He was a genius.’

The melody has had a long history in America and has proved enduringly popular with fiddlers (as well as flute players and fifers) in many regions. It was printed by William Williams in his New and Compleat Preceptor for the Fife (Utica, N.Y., 1826). Cauthen (1990) notes the tune's mention in the Marion Standard of April 30, 1909, which reported its having been played at a housewarming in Perry County, Alabama, in 1827. Bronner collected the tune from central New York fiddlers, who also knew it under the title "Virginia Reel" and, from one source, the “inter-changeable title” of "Campbells are Coming," a jig. Some confusion in his sources seems to stem from the inter-changeability of many triple and duple meter tunes under the "Virginia Reel" moniker, but Bronner states that versions of "Miss McLeod" in 12/8 time were "not uncommon" in his collecting experience. Samuel Bayard (1981) also wondered if "Miss McLeod" was a reworking of some set of the 6/8 time "Campbells are Coming (1) (The)," a family which includes (among others) “Burnt Old Man (1)” and “Hob or Nob/Hob and Nob.” O’Neill (1913) has no doubts and states unequivocally that the ‘McLeod’ and ‘Campbell’ tunes either had a common origin or that the former was derived from the latter (or its Irish equivalent, “An Seanduine”). The title appears in a list of the repertoire of Maine fiddler Mellie Dunham (the elderly Dunham was Henry Ford's champion fiddler in the mid 1920's), and it was cited as having commonly been played for Orange County, New York, country dances in the 1930's (Lettie Osborn, New York Folklore Quarterly). Elias Howe printed a countra dance with the tune in his Musician's Omnibus No. 1 (1862) and also gave "Enterprise and Boxer" as an alternate title. Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner remembered the tune being played in the Flagstaff Williams (Ariz.) area in 1903 (Shumway). The title (as "MacLeod's Reel") appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. A rendering of the tune under the title "Mistress McCloud's Jig" was recorded by him for the Library of Congress from fiddlers in that region in the early 1940's. Bayard (1981) noted that the tune was usually played in the British Isles with the parts ending on the second of the scale, resulting in an "endless" or "circular" tune, while fiddlers in the Americas usually ended on the tonic. Also in the repertoire of Uncle Jimmy Thompson (Texas, Tennessee) as "McLeod's Reel."

Novelist and fiddler Thomas Hardy, of Devonshire, England, knew the tune and worked it into his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886):

Farfrae was footing a quaint little dance with Elizabeth-Jane—an old country thing, the only one she knew, and though he considerately toned down his movements to suit her demurer gait, the pattern of the shining little nails in the soles of his boots became familiar to the eyes of every bystander. The tune had enticed her into it; being a tune of a busy, vaulting, leaping sort—some low notes on the silver string of each fiddle, then a skipping on the small, like running up and down ladders—'Miss McLeod of Ayr' was its name, so Mr. Farfrae had said, and that it was very popular in his own country [Scotland].

Words are sometimes set to the tune, especially in American variants. These words were collected in Scotland:

Macaphee turn yer cattle roon loch o' Forum (3 times)
Here and there and everywhere the kye are in the corn.

Waitin' at the shielin' o Mhaire bhan mo chroi (pronounced: varie van ma cree)
Waitin' at the shielin' o faur awa' tae sea
Hame will come the bonny boats Mhaire bhan mo chroi
Hame will come the bonny boys, Mhaire bhan mo chroi.

A curious alternate title for “McLeod’s,” called “Enterprising Boxer,” is a mis-hearing of the name “Enterprise and Boxer,” which refers to a naval engagement between two ships of those names.

The title is among those mentioned in Patrick J. McCall’s 1861 poem “The Dance at Marley,” the first three stanzas of which goes:

Murtagh Murphy’s barn was full to the door when the eve grew dull,
For Phelim Moore his beautiful new pipes had brought to charm them;
In the kitchen thronged the girls – cheeks of roses, teeth of pearls –
Admiring bows and braids and curls, till Phelim’s notes alarm them.
Quick each maid her hat and shawl hung on dresser, bed, or wall,
Smoothed down her hair and smiled on all as she the bawnoge entered,
Where a shass of straw was laid on a ladder raised that made
A seat for them as still they stayed while dancers by them cantered.

Murtagh and his vanithee had their chairs brought in to see The heels and toes go fast and free, and fun and love and laughter;
In their sconces all alight shone the tallow candles bright –
The flames kept jigging all the night, upleaping to each rafter!
The pipes, with noisy drumming sound, the lovers’ whispering sadly drowned,
So the couples took their ground – their hearts already dancing!
Merrily, with toe and heel, airily in jig and reel,
Fast in and out they whirl and wheel, all capering and prancing.

“Off She Goes,” “The Rocky Road,” “The Tipsy House,” and “Miss McLeod,”
“The Devil’s Dream,” and “Jig Polthogue,” “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,”
“The First o’May,” “The Garran Bwee,” “Tatther Jack Welsh,” “The River Lee,” –
As lapping breakers from the sea the myriad tunes at Marley!
Reels of three and reels of four, hornpipes and jigs galore,
With singles, doubles held the floor in turn, without a bar low;
But when the fun and courting lulled, and the dancing somewhat dulled,
The door unhinged, the boys down pulled for “Follow me up to Carlow.”

One of the first sound recordings of the tune (as “Mrs. McCloud’s Reel”) was by New York uilleann piper James C. McAuliffe, who recorded it on a wax cylinder for Edison in 1899 (McAuliffe recorded some 14 sides for Edison between 1899 and 1903).

Sources for notated versions: Michael Coleman (Co. Sligo/New York) [DeMarco and Krassen], John McDermott, (New York State, 1926) [Bronner], 8 southwestern Pa. fiddlers [Bayard]; a c. 1837-1840 MS by Shropshire musician John Moore [Ashman]; accordion player Johnny O’Leary (Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border), recorded at Na Piobairi Uilleann, October, 1984 [Moylan]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty (born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, 1926), who had it from Micheal Raglaidh and/or Marcas O Murchú [Harker].

Printed sources: Adam (Old Time Fiddlers' Favorite Barn Dance Tunes), 1928; No. 20 (as "Uncle Joe"). Ashman (Ironbridge Hornpipe), 1991; No. 25a, p. 6 (appears as "Mr. Mc Law'd a Popular Dance"). Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 249A–H, pp. 211–213. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 192. Bronner (Old Time Music Makers of New York State), 1987; No. 4, p. 26 (appears as 1st tune of "Virginia Reel Medley"). Burchenal (American Country Dances, vol. 1), 1918; pp. 10–11 (appears as "Virginia Reel" [2]). Cazden (Dances from Woodland), 1945; p. 24. Cazden (Folk Songs of the Catskills), p. 29. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 29 (appears as "Miss McCloud's"). Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 19, p. 8. DeMarco and Krassen (Trip to Sligo), 1978; pp. 38, 52, 66. Gale, No. 30. Harding's All Round Collection, 1905; No. 183, p. 58. Harding's Original Collection and Harding Collection, No. 36. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 138, p. 42. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs, vol. 2), 1858; No. 138, p. 63. Hopkins (American Veteran Fifer), 1905; No. 6. Howe (Diamond School for the Violin), 1861; p. 44. Howe (Musician's Omnibus, No. 1), 1862; p. 44. Howe (School for the Violin), 1851; p. 34. Jarman (Old Time Fiddlin' Tunes), No. or p. 10. S. Johnson (Kitchen Musician No. 4: Fine Tunes), 1983 (revised 1991, 2001); p. 15. Kennedy (Fiddler's Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1951; No. 48, p. 24 (appears as "May Day"). Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880's; p. 5. Levey (Dance Music of Ireland, 1st Collection), 1858; No. 74, p. 29. Lyth (Bowing Styles in Irish Fiddle Playing, vol. 1), 1981; 17 & 18. Mattson & Walz (Old Fort Snelling: Instruction Book for the Fife), 1974; p. 71. McDermott (Allan's Irish Fiddler), c. 1920's; No. 69, p. 17. Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler's Repertoire), 1983; No. 109. Moylan (Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra), 1994; No. 143, p. 84. O’Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. 4), c. 1810; p. 137. O'Malley & Atwood (Seventy Good Old Dances), 1919; pp. 10 & 22. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 275, p. 140. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 134. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1418, p. 263. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 655, p. 117. Robbins (Collection of 200 Jigs, Reels, and Country Dances), 1933; No. 96. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1), 1912; No. 148, p. 59. Ruth (Pioneer Western Folk Tunes), 1948; No. 112, p. 39. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 55. Smith (Scottish Minstrel, vol. 4), p. 50. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 136. Surenne (Dance Music of Scotland), 1852; p. 11. Sweet (Fifer's Delight), 1964/1981; p. 32. Trim (Musical Heritage of Thomas Hardy), 1990; No. 4 (appears as "Miss MacLeod of Ayr"). Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 1), 1999; p. 19. White's Excelsior Collection, p. 42. White's Unique Collection, 1896; No. 170, p. 32.

Recorded sources: Biograph 6003, The Bogtrotters – "The Original Bogtrotters" (appears as "Hop Up Ladies"). Brunswick (78 RPM), John McDermott (N.Y. state), 1926 (appears as 1st tune of "Virginia Reel Medley"). Capelhouse Records, James Kelly – “Traditional Irish Music” (1996). CCF2, Cape Cod Fiddlers – “Concert Collection II” (1999). Columbia 15730-D (78 RPM), The Skillet Lickers (1931). County 201, The Old Virginia Fiddlers – "Rare Recordings" (appears as "Hop Light Ladies"). County Records, The Skillet Lickers - "Old Time Tunes and Songs from North Georgia" (1996). Davis Unlimited 33015, Doc Roberts – "Classic Fiddle Tunes" (appears as "Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe"). Decca 12085 (78 RPM), Michael Coleman (1936. Paired with "Philip O'Beirne's Delight"). Document DOCD 8060, "The Skillet Lickers vol. 5 - 1930-1934" (2000). Gael-Linn Records 78 RPM, Tommy Reck (c. 1957). Gael-Linn CEF 045, “Paddy Keenan” (1975. Appears as “McLeod’s Reel/Cor Mhic Leoid”). Glencoe 001, Cape Breton Symphony – "Fiddle." Globestyle Irish CDORBD 085, The Kerry Fiddle Trio – “The Rushy Mountain” (1994. Reissue of Topic recordings). Green Linnet 1023, Joe Shannon and Johnny McGreevy – "The Noonday Feast." Green Linnet SIF1122, Kevin Burke – "Open House" (1992). John Edwards Memorial Foundation JEMF 105, Uncle Joe Shippee – "New England Traditional Fiddling" (1978). June Appal 007, Thomas Hunter – "Deep in Tradition." Larraga MMR112000, Mike and Mary Rafferty – “The Road from Ballinakill” (2001). Nimbus NI 5320, Ciaran Tourish et al. – “Fiddle Sticks: Irish Traditional Music from Donegal” (1991). Parlophone E6094 (78 RPM), Emile Vacher (). Rounder 0057, Frank Dalton and George Wood – "Old Originals, vol. 1" (appears as "Hop Light Ladies"). Rounder 0058, John Patterson – "Old Originals, vol. II" (appears as "Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?"). Shanachie 33001, Patrick J. Touhey – "The Wheels of the World." Shanachie 79053, Liz Carroll et al – “Cherish the Ladies: Irish Women Musicians in America.” Tennvale 001S, Bob Douglas – "Old Time Dance Tunes Fron the Sequatchie Valley" (Appears as "Hop Light Ladies"). Tennvale 003, Pete Parish – "Clawhammer Banjo." Topic 12T309, Padraig O’Keeffe, Denis Murphy & Julia Clifford – “Kerry Fiddles.” Transatlantic 341, Dave Swarbrick – "Swarbrick 2." Victor 20537 (78 RPM), Mellie Dunham, 1926 (appears as 1st tune of "Medley of Reels"). Mickey Doherty – “The Gravel Walks.”

See also listings at:
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Alan Ng’s Irishtune.info [2]
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [3]
Hear Michael Coleman's 1936 Decca recording at the Internet Archive [4] [5]
Hear Emile Vacher's 78 RPM recording at Rare Tunes [6] [7]
Hear the Skillet Lickers 1931 recording at Slippery Hill [8] and at youtube.com [9]




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