Old Grey Goose (1)

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OLD GREY GOOSE [1], THE (An sean gead liat). AKA and see "We'll all take a Coach and Trip it Away." Irish, Double Jig. E Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBCCDEEFF (Taylor): AABBCCDDEEFF (Miller & Perron, O'Neill/1915, 1001 & 1850): AABB'CC'DDEE (O'Neill/Krassen): AABB'CC'DD'EEFF' (Alewine): AABBCCDDEEFFGG (Moylan). The multi-part jig that appears in the great Chicago compiler, Captain Francis O'Neill's Music of Ireland (1903) is a composite melody, made up of two separate tunes grafted together. O'Neill himself identified "an old time jig named "We'll all take a Coach and Trip it Away", a five-part tune printed in [uilleann piper] O'Farrell's National Irish Music, 1797_1800 as the precursor tune to his "The Old Grey Goose." Precursors also appear under the titles "Breeches Loose (2)" (a two-part tune that can be found in the mid-18th century London publications of David Rutherford and the Thompsons) and later, in Scotland, as "Britches Maker (The)/Breeches Maker (The)." O'Neill's story is that the version he printed came about in a rather circuitous fashion, beginning in the 1880's when a renowned Irish piper by the name of John Hicks (a protege of the 'Sporting' Captain Kelly from the Curragh of Kildare) played a venue in Chicago. On that occasion several of his tunes were memorized by local musicians and subsequently entered Irish-American tradition in that city. Hicks' tune is the 1st and 3rd parts of "Old Grey Goose." O'Neill himself heard the 1st and 2nd parts as a jig played by County Leitrim fiddler James Kennedy who called it "The Geese in the Bogs" and when he dictated the melody to his collaborator, fiddler James O'Neill, he discovered James had a manuscript version with six parts. Somewhat arbitrarily, they decided to use the last three parts of J. O'Neill's manuscript version, with the three obtained from Hicks and Kennedy, and, since they already had a tune by the name of "Geese in the Bogs" they decided to call the piece "Old Grey Goose."

A variant of the tune called "Rakes of Kinsale (The)" is to be found in Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909). The first strain of Canon James Goodman's "Humors of Millstreet" is cognate with the first strain of "Old Grey Goose (1)." See also the related "Day after the Fair (2) (The)."

Renowned 78 RPM era fiddler Michael Coleman, originally from County Sligo, recorded O'Neill's setting of the jig in New York for Columbia Records in 1927 (as "Grey Goose (1) (The)"), and this, like other Coleman records, was imported back to Ireland where it made a great impression. Subsequent recordings were made by the Moate Ceili Band in Ireland in 1938, followed by the Aughrim Slopes Ceili Band in 1956. Peter Woods, in his book The Living Note: the Heartbeat of Irish Music (1996), tells of his character's playing the tune on the fiddle for his old teacher in County Clare because he had no gramophone and did not read music:

He was awful quick to pick up a tune. He was like a bone-setter reaching in to find what was important to him and knitting it all together. It was never just the notes with him—it was the notes between the notes. I remember once playing 'The Old Grey Goose' for him, there's six or seven parts to it. 'O Lord,' he says, 'there's fistfuls of music in that jig. Fistfuls.'


Sources for notated versions: Michael Coleman (Co. Sligo, Ireland, and New York) [Miller & Perron]; accordion player Johnny O'Leary (Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border), recorded in recital at Na Píobairí Uilleann, November, 1990 [Moylan].

Printed sources: Alewine (Maid that Cut Off the Chicken's Lips), 1987; p. 27. Cotter (Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor), 1989; 56. Miller & Perron (Irish Traditional Fiddle Music, vol. 1), 1977; No. 5. Miller & Perron (Irish Traditional Fiddle Music), 2nd Edition, 2006; pp. 30-31. Moylan (Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra), 1994; No. 172, pp. 98-99. O'Farrell (Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes), 1804; p. 38 (as "We'll All Take a Coach and Trip it Away"). O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 128, p. 74. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 51. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1000, p. 186. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1986; No. 214, p. 49. Taylor (Where's the Crack?), 1989; p. 20.

Recorded sources: Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 167, Peter Horan & Gerry Harrington – "The Merry Love to Play" (2007). Michael Coleman – "Michael Coleman 1891-1945." Joe Burke, Brian Conway & Brendan Dolan: A Tribute to Andy McGann." Topic Records 12TS335, Tommy Healy & Johnny Duffy – "Memories of Sligo" (1978).

See also listings at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [2]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]
Hear accordion player Bobby Gardiner play the tune at the Comhaltas Archive [4]
Hear James and John Kelly play the tune at the Comhaltas Archive [5]




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