Pretty Lasses of Loughrea

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PRETTY LASSES OF LOUGHREA (Na mná deasa Bhaile-Locha-Riabhach). Irish, Air (4/4 time). D Major (Joyce): F Major (Howe). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. Known as the "Execution Song." "In Ireland whenever any tragic occurrence takes place, such as a wreck, a murder, an execution, an accidental drowning, etc., some local poet generally composes a 'Lamentation' on the event, which is printed on sheets, and sung by professional ballad-singers through towns, and at fairs and markets. I have a great many of these sheets, and there is usually a rude engraving at top suitable to the subject--the figure of a man hanging, a coffin, a skull and crossbones, etc. The lamentation for a criminal is often written in the first person, and is supposed to be the utterance of the culprit himself immediately before execution: it is in fact an imaginary last dying speech...and the air to which I have set the words was nearly always used for Lamentations in Munster, in my youth; so that these Lamentations were usually composed in the same measure. I have repeatedly heard Lamentations sung to this air in the streets of Dublin" (Joyce). Joyce printed a slow air he learned as a boy in County Limerick (in the 1840's) that he called "Lamentation Air," just before he gave the air "Pretty Lasses of Loughrea" in his Ancient Irish Music (1873). He declared the former to be a precursor version of the latter.

Source for notated version: transcribed from the whistling of Joseph Martin in 1853 [Joyce].

Printed sources: Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 25. Joyce (Ancient Irish Music), 1873; Nos. 27 & 28. Joyce (Old Irish Folk Music and Songs), 1909; No. 401, pp. 210-211.

Recorded sources:




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