Petticoat Loose (1)

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X:1 T:Petticoat Loose [1] M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Jig S:O’Neill – Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems (1907), No. 90 Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Amin A|GEE cEE|GFG GcA|GEE cEE|A3 A/B/cA| GEE cEE|cde eag|fde cAG|1 EAA A/B/cA:|2 EAA A2|| |:^f|~g3 ged|cAA Bcd|eaa age|edd d2^f| gaf ged|cAA Bcd|e=f/e/d cAG|EAA A2:|



PETTICOAT LOOSE [1] ("Cota-Beag/Cota-Mna Sgaoilte" or "Petticoat Scaoilte"). AKA and see “Banks of Glenoe (The),” "Con Carthy's," "Cota-beag sgaoilte," "Cota-mna sgaoilte," "Peireacót Scaoilte," "Rooms of Dooagh (The)," "Rooms of Doogh (The)," "Pat Canny's Jig," "Paddy Canny's Jig (1)." Irish, Double Jig. A Dorian {& C Major?} (O’Neill): A Mixolydian (Moylan. Is this a printing error? Sounds better in dorian mode). Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'BB (O’Neill): AA’BB’ (Moylan). The French word ‘’Cotillon’’, referring since the reign of Louis XIV to a lively type of square dance for four couples, literally means ‘under-petticoat’ (Old French, from cote ). It was suggested by John Stainer & William Barrett (Stainer and Barrett’s Dictionary of Musical Terms, 1885) that “it is not at all improbably that the tune ‘Petticoat loose” …furnished the title to the Cotillon.”

‘Petticoat Loose’ is an Irish legend associated with lake Baylough, high in the Knockmealdown Mountains of southern County Tipperary. The Knockmealdown range looks down on ancient routes of passage, and means ‘hill of the honey fort’. Petticoat Loose was the nickname for one Mary Hannigan, of the townland of Colligan, not far from the picturesque village of Clogeen. Mary (who is often said to have lived in the early 19th century) was the only child of a farming family and was described as a strong, strapping lass, well able to shoulder the workload of the family farm. Far from making her clumsy, however, she maintained a gift for dancing and was locally renowned for her prowess. Unfortunately, an incident at a dance at a nearby wedding led to her mocking sobriquet. Mary liked to drink as well as dance (in some versions of the tale she is a bartender), and as the celebration proceeded into the early hours of the morning, Mary’s danced with more and more abandon. Finally, in her whirling she snagged her skirt upon a nail, the buttons burst off, and the skirt fell to the floor, exposing her to the jeers and laughter of the company. Embarrassment triggered her violent temper, and Mary cemented her nickname by flailing into the crowd, causing a near riot. Ever after she was “Petticoat Loose” to the neighborhood.

When she married it was to the one young man in the area who could come close to matching her steps on the dance floor. Unfortunately, her new husband died after only a year of marriage under mysterious circumstances. Mary was accused of hindering and intimidating a servant who had heard the man’s cries from the fields and sought to help, and despite a search her husband’s body never was found. He had just gone away, maintained Mary, but would come back to her. The locals, however, saw it more sinisterly and were convinced that Mary had taken a neighboring hedge-schoolmaster as a lover, and that the two of them had plotted and carried out the murder. The reputation of her temper apparently kept questioning to a minimum, and there was never a trial.

Mary continued with her dissolute ways after that. Some time afterward she accompanied a group of workmen to the local pub, where drinking challenges ensued with Mary at the center of the combat. The stakes increased until a half-gallon of ale was placed before her, and Mary drank it down without pause. It was her swan song, for her system had accumulated enough alcohol that, as she turned back to the crowd she suddenly keeled over, not only dead-drunk, but quite dead. ‘Petticoat Loose’ had died without benefit of last rites, and although her wake was a grand affair attended from far and wide, a priest was not in attendance, even for the burial.

After seven years Petticoat Loose was all but forgotten, but this was to change. It was at another dance in Colligan that a man, fatigued and overheated by the dancing by midnight, sauntered outside to take the air and cool himself. He speedily returned inside, and, obviously frightened out of his wits, he breathlessly related that he had just spied Mary sitting on a wall near the dance hall. No one else dared venture outside until morning. Soon Mary’s spirit was revealed to others. A man in a cart offered a lift at night to a woman standing beside the road; she hopped into the back, and as the man twitched the reins, the horse dropped dead in his traces (c.f. the ‘Driving Mary Home’ ghost tales). Mary sightings grew exponentially and the populace armed themselves with folk and religious wards just in case of a chance meeting. Finally, apprehension grew to the point that an appeal was made to the clergy for assistance.

One version of the legend has it that it was a brave priest who finally banished Petticoat Loose. Forearmed with a vial of Holy Water, the clergyman happened on Mary crossing a nearby field. Hailing her, he asked her name, and when she replied “Petticoat Loose,” he doused her with the contents of the vial. At the same time he fervently petitioned that, for the crime of killing her husband, she be banished from the land forever; but only from land, for he damned her to the cold Baylough, high in the mountains, condemning her to empty it with a thimble. It is said Mary’s shade yet resides in the lough, still performing her penance.

Another end to he tale relates that a local priest led a parade of parishioners along the ancient road to the high lake where he exorcised the ghost. He thought that was where Mary dwelt as it was given that the lake’s depths where so deep they had never been plumbed. Mary continues to dwell in the bushes by the lake to this day, a version goes.

This is the legend. Is any of it true? In some versions Mary is a witch, not a ghost, and there do seem to be floating elements of witch and ghost tales mixed in. It may be that a part of the tale is true—tantalizingly, there is this item, published in The Belfast News-Letter [1] of December 22nd, 1772:

I R E L A N D. Carlow, Dec. 16. Last Friday was committed to goal, by our worshipful Sovereign William Brown, Esq; Margaret Neal, otherwise Cassidy, but known by the name of Petticoat Loose ; who, when young, was notorious for decoying husbands from their wives, to the great detriment of their families ; now old, for keeping a house of ill fame, and decoying youth of both sexes to their destruction. Same day, being the fair of Athy, a man expired by excessive drinking of Whiskey ; and next morning a man was found dead on the road near said town, supposed to be murdered, as there were several wounds on different parts of his body.

Some of the elements are of the legend appear in this short piece: the nickname of ‘Petticoat Loose’, criminality, a death by alcohol overdose, a murder. The items appears to imply that the term ‘Petticoat Loose’ was used as a term of sexual innuendo, applied to women whose morals were questionable—as in the more recent term ‘loose woman’. Thus there may have been many women with the nickname ‘Petticoat Loose’.

P.W. Joyce (1909) prints the tune as “<incipit title="load:Glenoe" width=850 link="https://tunearch.org/wiki/Banks of Glenoe (The)">Banks of Glenoe (The)</incipit>.” The tune was played by the musical Canny family of East Clare, and has been called both "Pat Canny's" and "Paddy Canny's." Pat Canny was the father of fiddler Paddy Canny [2] (1919–2008). See also the related “<incipit title="load:Bryan" width=850 link="https://tunearch.org/wiki/Bryan O'Lynn (1)">Bryan O'Lynn (1)</incipit>” and “<incipit title="load:Maiden" width=850 link="https://tunearch.org/wiki/Maiden that Jigs it in Style (The)">Maiden that Jigs it in Style (The)</incipit>.”

Additional notes

Source for notated version: - Con Carthy via accordion player Johnny O’Leary (Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border) [Moylan].

Printed sources : - Cotter (Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor), 1989; 57. Moylan (Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra), 1994; No. 79, p. 45. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 30. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 826, p. 154. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 90, p. 31.

Recorded sources: -Topic 12T357, Johnny O’Leary - “Music for the Set” (1977. Appears as “Con Carthy’s”).

See also listing at:
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [3]
For a thorough discussion of the ‘Petticoat Loose” spirit, see the chapter “’Petticoat Loose’ in Folk Dance Music and Popular Song Traditions” in Anne O’Connor’s The Blessed and the Damned: Sinful Women and Unbaptised Children in Irish Folklore (2005).



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