Red Haired Man's Wife (2) (The)
X:1 T:Red Haired Man’s Wife , The M:3/4 L:1/8 R:Air S:Stanford/Petrie (1905), No. 359 Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D cd | e2fd ec | d3fec | A4 GF | G2A2c2 | d4 cd | e2 fd ec | d3 fec | A4 GA | E2D2D2 | D4 || =cB | A2G2 EF | D3E F2 | G3 AGF | G2A2 Bc | d4 A/B/c/d/ | eg fd ec | d3 fec | A4 GA | E2 D2D2 | D4 |]
RED HAIRED MAN'S WIFE , THE ("bean an fir ruad" or "Beann an fhir ruaidh"/"Bean an fhir rua"). AKA and see "Caves of Cong (The)," "Loch Lein," "Thios ag beal bearnais." Irish, Air (3/4 time). Ireland, Munster. D Major/Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. O'Sullivan (1983) states this well-known melody is perhaps the most celebrated of the 9/8 meter airs used for Irish folk songs (though the versions in the popular collections are noted in 3/4 time). One edition of the words is to be found in "Cathal Bui" (Breandan O Buachalla, 1975) under the title "Thios ag Beal Bearnais," attributed to Cathal Bui Mac Ghiolla and also to Riocard Bairead. Neither of the two versions printed in Stanford-Petrie (Nos. 115 and 1140) are the same as Belfast collector Edward Bunting's (1773–1843) version. In 1855 collector George Petrie addressed the difficulty, even for those well versed in musical analysis, of parsing tune variants: "I have found the differences between one version of an air and another to have been so great, that it was only by a careful analysis of their structure, aided perhaps by a knowledge of their history and the progress of their mutations, that they could be recognized as being essentially the one air." Citing examples, he mentions:
Nor has Bunting himself, from whom more accuracy might have been expected, been able to avoid such oversights, for, in his last volume, he has given us as different airs: 1. The well-known tune called Bean an fhir ruadh, or "The red-haired man's wife"—or as he calls it, "O Mollv dear"—and a barbarized piper's version of it, which he calls "Cailin deas ruadh", or "The pretty red-haired girl," the first of these settings, as he states, having been obtained from Patrick Quin, harper, in 1800, and the second from Thomas Broadwood, Esq. (of London), in 1815.
The melody also appears in Poets and Poetry of Munster (1849). An English adaptation of the Irish song begins:
A letter I'll send by a friend down to the sea shore,
To let her understand I'm the man that does her adore.
And if she'd but lave that slave I'd forfeit my life,
And she'd live like a lady and ne'er be the red-haired man's wife.
Sean Ó Boyle (1976) relates a story told by the 19th century Tyrone novelist William Carleton, who recorded that his mother was once asked to sing the English version of "Bean an Fhir Rua." She said, "I'll sing it for you, but the English words and the air are like a quarelling man and his wife—the Irish melts into the tune but the English doesn't." "An expression," states Carleton, "scarcely less remarkable for its beauty than its truth." The title 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). See also “Roving Peddler (2) (The) for another variant.