My Charmer from Clare

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MY CHARMER FROM CLARE. Irish, Air (3/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. O'Neill (1922) says of his source: "James Whiteside, the 'Bard of Bray', County Wicklow, was a genius-scholar, poet, musician, composer. Born in County Monaghan in 1844, he retired after 40 years service as a schoolteacher at Bray. His playing of the violin won two first honors at two Feiseanna. An interesting sketch of his life appears on pages 384-7, [O'Neill's] Irish Minstrels and Musicians (1913)." This passage reads:

Who in this generation more faithfully typifies the bard of ancient days than James Whiteside of Bray, County Wicklow-- scholar, poet, musician, and composer? Nothing, except perhaps a flowing beard, would improve the combination. Delicacy forbids us to mention the date of his birth, as he is still a bachelor, though confessedly wedded to art. But a quotation from his delightful correspondence epitomizes that story in language both candid and concise:

I am an ex-National Teacher, having retired on pension after forty years' service, so I have plenty of time to devote to my favorite hobby--music. I have been awarded first prize on two occasions: at Oireachtas, 1903, and Feis Ceoil, 1906, for the best performance of Irish music on the violin; and I also play the Irish harp, Irish pipes, and piano, all of which I have in my room. Ia m the holder of a certificate for drawing also; so I must solace myself with painting, poetry, and music, never having been lucky enough to get a wife.

James Whiteside. Photo from O'Neill's Irish Minstrels and Musicians.

Mr. Whiteside being a handsome man, we must leave to conjecture the cause of his celibacy. After all, we may as well admit that the versatile bard was born in 1844, his place of birth being in the County Monaghan.

Did he not openly attribute his good health and exemption from ailments to the effects of total abstinence, we could well surmise his temperance tendencies from the opening lines of several of his original songs, he being the author of no less than two score of them. For instance:

"Sobriety is making way in the Ireland of today,"
"Fill the bumper fair, every drop is poison,"
"Will you walk into my parlor said the spider to the fly?"
"Tis the prettiest little drunkery that erver youd did spy,
"O! Join the Abstainers, an you'll be the Gainers.

In his Anti-Emigration Song, what could be more poetic or pathetic than the cry of blended alarm and regret--

They are going, they are going, and a mother's tears are flowing?

[further passages on temperence excerpted]

With characteristic graciousness, he has submitted his manuscript collection of Irish music amounting to nearly 200 numbers, to Dr. P.W. Joyce of Dublin, who will include a selection therefrom in his next work. An edifying "Essay on Irish Music and Dancing, Accompaniments, etc.," from the facile pen of our bard, we find, much to our regret, too comprehensive for our pages.


Source for notated version: the Whiteside manuscript [O'Neill].

Printed sources: O'Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922.

Recorded sources:




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