Annotation:Roddy McCorley

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X:1 % T:Roddy McCorley M:C| L:1/8 K:D DE | F2EF A,2D(E | E) F2 E D2A,2 | B,2D2D2C2 | D6 FG | A2A2A2FA | B2B2A2FE | D2 B,D G2F2 | E6 FG | A2A2A2 FA | B2B2A2 FE| D2 B,D G2F2 | E6 DE | F2 EF A,2 D(E | E) F2 E D2A,2 | B,2D2D2C2 | D6:|

RODDY McCORLEY. Irish, Air or March (cut time). D Major (Miller & Perron): G Major (Carlin). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Miller & Perron): AABB (Carlin). There were two songs named "Roddy McCorley" (spellings vary). One is older, and may have been written soon after the Irish rebellion of 1798. The other was written in 1898 for the centenary of the rebellion, and while the tune is traditional (also used for the song "Sean South of Garryowen") the words are the product of County Antrim-born Ethna Carberry [1], the pseudonym of Anna MacManus, née Johnston, (1864-1902), an Irish writer and poet. Her poetry was published by her husband after her death in The Four Winds of Eirinn (1902), and proved a popular volume that contained, among many other pieces, her "Rody M'Corley" (pp. 82-83).

The words in her version commemorate a martyr of the 1798 rebellion. They begin:

O see the fleet-foot host of men, who march with faces drawn,
From farmstead and from fishers' cot, along the banks of Ban;
They come with vengeance in their eyes. Too late! Too late are they,
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome today.

Oh Ireland, Mother Ireland, you love them still the best
The fearless brave who fighting fall upon your hapless breast,
But never a one of all your dead more bravely fell in fray,
Than he who marches to his fate on the bridge of Toome today.

The truth of Roddy McCorley is more complicated and confused than Carberry's portrayal. Despite some assumptions he was Catholic, the best information is that he was a County Antrim Presbyterian. He also seems to have come late to the cause of the United Irishmen, and while he may have fought in Antrim, it was for his participation in an organized patriotic gang (The Archer Gang) afterwards that seems to have been the reason for his death sentence. The song was recorded and popularized by the Clancy Brothers, the Kingston Trio and others. It is a frequently heard in march medley’s played by Irish musicians and is considered a ‘grand old chestnut’ of a tune.

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Carlin (Master Collection), 1984; No. 134, p. 82 (appears as “Roddy McCorley’s March”). Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler’s Repertoire), 1983; No. 62.

Recorded sources: -

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