Rocky Road to Dublin (1)

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X:1 T:Rocky Road to Dublin [1], The M:3/4 L:1/8 R:Slip Jig Q:"Allegretto" B:The Dublin Magazine (April, 1841) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Edor B>A A>D D>z|B>A A>D (3FGA|B>A A>D F>z|G>E E>F (3EFG| B>A A>D D>z|B>A A>D (3FGA|B>A A>D F>z|G>E E>F (3EFG|| A>e e>d =c>z|A>e e>d (3=cde|A>e e>d =c>z|c>D D>D (3=FGA| A>e e>d =c>z|A>e e>d (3=cde|A>e e>d =c>z|=c>D D>D (3FGA||



ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN [1] ("An botar sgreagmar go Baile-Ata-Cliat" or "An bothar carrach go Baile Atha Cliath"). AKA and see - Rocky Road (2) (The). Irish, Slip Jig or Air (9/8). A Dorian (most versions): A Mixolydian (O'Neill/1915 & 1001). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Stanford/Petrie): AB (Harker/Rafferty): AAB (Allan, O'Neill/Krassen): AABB (Cole, Hardings, Kerr, Levey, Tubridy): AABB' (Brody, Roche): ABC (Breathnach, Kennedy): AABC (O'Neill/1850, 1001 & 1915). The earliest appearance of "Rocky Road to Dublin" in print is in the Dublin Magazine (April, 1841), where it is given as a dance tune, along with the note:

'The Rocky Road' is, we believe, rather a "Modern Irish Dance." We have been old that the name is taken from a road so called in the neighborhood of Clonmel. Be that as it may, however, it is the air which is sung by the nurses for their children in a great portion of the southern parts of Munster, and they frequently put forward, as one of the advantages to be attained by hiring them, that "They can sing and dance the baby to the 'Rocky Road'."

It is a distanced version of the one familiar today, although the more familiar version of the tune was also collected in Munster in the mid-19th century by Canon James Goodman, and it may be the two versions were extent at the same time. Paul de Grae points out that collector George Petrie's version is in three parts, as is O'Neill's, but that they are not very alike, and passes along that Caoimhin Mac Aoidh recalled learning from somewhere that O'Neill's third part was composed by Chicago fiddler James McFadden. De Grae suggests "it may owe something to Petrie's variant setting, "Black Rock (3)", though O'Neill did not have that collection when his Music of Ireland (1903) was published"[1].

O’Neill (Irish Folk Music, 1913) states a special dance was performed to this melody, and further remarks:

"The Rocky Road to Dublin" probably the most widely known of Hop or Slip Jigs, is not one of the oldest. The earliest printed versions which we have found are in "The Citizen" magazine, published in Dublin in 1841. The music editor, Dr. Hudson, says it is a "modern Irish dance." It is said the name is taken from a road so called in the neighborhood of Clonmel. It is the air which is sung by nurses for their children in a great portion of the southern parts of Munster, and they frequently put forward as one of their recommendations that "They can sing and dance the baby to "The Rocky Road." ... [p. 107]

The title of the slip jig 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). “Rocky Road to Dublin” was also made into a song and distributed in an anonymous broadside of the 19th century. It goes:

In the merry month of May from my home I started
Left the girls of Tuam nearly broken-hearted
Saluted Father dear, kissed my darlin' Mother
Drank a pint of beer my grief and tears to smother
Then off to reap the corn, and leave where I was born
I cut a stout blackthorn to banish ghost and goblin,
In a bran'new pair of brogues I rattled o'er the bogs
And frightened all the dogs on the rocky road to Dublin,

Chorus:
One, two, three, four five, hunt the hare and turn her
Down the rocky roaad, and all the ways to Dublin
Whack fol-lol-de-ra.

In Mullingar that night I rested limbs so weary,
Started by daylight next morning light and airy,
Took a drop of the pure, to keep my heart from sinking,
That's an frishman's cure, whene'er he's on for drinking,
To see the lasses smile, laughing all the while,
At my curious style, 'twould set your heart a-bubbling,
They ax'd if I was hired, the wages I required,
Till I was almost tired of the rocky road to Dublin.

In Dublin next arrived, I thought it such a pity,
To be so soon deprived a view of that fine city,
Then I took a stroll out among the quality,
My bundle it was stole in a neat locality;
Something crossed my mind, then I looked behind,
No bundle could I find upon me stick a-wobblin',
Enquiring for the rogue, they said my Connaught brogue
Wasn't much in vogue on the rocky road to Dublin.

From there I got away my spirits never failing,
Landed on the quay as the ship was sailing,
Captain at me roared, said that no room had he,
When I jumped aboard, a cabin found for Paddy
Down among the pigs, I played some funny jigs
Danced among the rigs, the water round me bubblin'
When off to Holyhead I wished myself was dead,
Or better far, instead, on the rocky road to Dublin.

The boys of Liverpool, when we safely landed,
Called myself a fool, I could no longer stand it;
Blood began to boil, temper I was losin'
Poor old Erin's isle they began abusin'
"Hurrah my soul!" says I, my shillelagh I let fly,
Some Galway boys were by, saw I was a hobble in,
Then with a loud Hurrah, they joined in the affray,
We quickly cleared the way, for the rocky road to Dublin.

The title is among those mentioned in Patrick J. McCall’s 1861 poem “The Dance at Marley,” the first three stanzas of which goes:

Murtagh Murphy’s barn was full to the door when the eve grew dull,
For Phelim Moore his beautiful new pipes had brought to charm them;
In the kitchen thronged the girls - cheeks of roses, teeth of pearls--
Admiring bows and braids and curls, till Phelim’s notes alarm them.
Quick each maid her hat and shawl hung on dresser, bed, or wall,
Smoothed down her hair and smiled on all as she the bawnoge entered,
Where a shass of straw was laid on a ladder raised that made
A seat for them as still they stayed while dancers by them cantered.

Murtagh and his vanithee had their chairs brought in to see
The heels and toes go fast and free, and fun and love and laughter;
In their sconces all alight shone the tallow candles bright--
The flames kept jigging all the night, upleaping to each rafter!
The pipes, with noisy drumming sound, the lovers’ whispering sadly drowned,
So the couples took their ground - their hearts already dancing!
Merrily, with toe and heel, airily in jig and reel,
Fast in and out they whirl and wheel, all capering and prancing.

“Off She Goes,” “The Rocky Road,” “The Tipsy House,” and “Miss McLeod,”
“The Devil’s Dream,” and “Jig Polthogue,” “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,”
“The First o’May,” “The Garran Bwee,” “Tatther Jack Welsh,” “The River Lee,”--
As lapping breakers from the sea the myriad tunes at Marley!
Reels of three and reels of four, hornpipes and jigs galore,
With singles, doubles held the floor in turn, without a bar low;
But when the fun and courting lulled, and the dancing somewhat dulled,
The door unhinged, the boys down pulled for “Follow me up to Carlow.”


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - piper Seamus Ennis (Ireland) [Breathnach]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty, born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, in 1926 [Harker]; the mid-19th century music manuscript collection of uilleann piper and Church of Ireland cleric James Goodman [Shields].

Printed sources : - Breathnach (CRÉ III), 1985; No. 58, p. 29. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; p. 233. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 64. Giblin (Collection of Traditional Irish Dance Music), 1928; 64. Hardings All Round Collection, 1905; No. 180, p. 57. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 301, p. 101. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs vol. 1), 1858; No. 33, p. 13. Kennedy (Fiddler’s Tune-Book: Slip Jigs and Waltzes), 1999; No. 69, p. 16. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 2), c. 1880's; No. 221, p. 25. Levey (First Collection of the Dance Music of Ireland); 1858; p. 2. McDermott (Allan's Irish Fiddler), c. 1920's, No. 36, p. 9. O'Neill (O’Neill’s Irish Music), 1915; No. 219, p. 117. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 79. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1116, p. 211. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 411, p. 82. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Mucic, vol. 2), 1912; No. 257, p. 25. Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 95. Shields (Tunes of the Munster Pipers), 1998; No. 164, p. 69. Spadaro (10 Cents a Dance), 1980; p. 26. Stanford/Petrie (Complete Collection), 1905; No. 548, p. 139 (appears as “The Rocky Road”).

Recorded sources : - Tara Records TA 1002, Seamus Ennis - "The Pure Drop" (1973). Transatlantic 341, Dave Swarbrick - "Swarbrick 2.

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Alan Ng’s Irishtune.info [2]



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  1. Paul de Grae, "Notes on Sources of Tunes in the O'Neill Collections", 2017.