Annotation:Rolling on the Ryegrass (1)

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X:1 T:Rolling in/on the Ryegrass [1] R:Reel M:C| L:1/8 K:D |:"D"A2AF DFAF|"G"G2BG dGBG|"D"A2AF DFAF|"Em"GBAF E2D2:| |:"D"ABde f2df|"Em"g2eg fedB|"D"ABd ef2df|"D"afdfe2d2:|

ROLLING ON THE RYEGRASS ("Ag liatrad air an seagal" or "Ag cornad ar an braimfear"). AKA and see "Boil the Kettle Early (1)," "Kitty Got a Clinking (1)," "Kitty Got a Clinking Coming from the Races (1)," "Ladies Tight Dress (The)," “Ladies Top Dress,” "Lady on the Railroad," "Listowel Lasses (1) (The)," "Love Among the Roses," "Maureen Playboy," "McCaffrey's Reel," "Old Molly Ahern," "Piper's Lass (The)," "Punch for the Ladies (2)," "Railway Station (1) (The)," "Rathkeale Hunt," "Roll Her on the Banks," "Seán-Mhaire ni Eachthighearn," "Shannon Breeze (1)," "Strac an mhuc an leine," “Telegraph (The),” "What the Devil Ails You? (1)" Irish, Reel. D Major (Roche, Moylan, Taylor): D Mixolydian (O'Neill/1915, O'Neill/Krassen, Tubridy). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Cranitch, Moylan, O’Malley, O'Neill/1850, Tubridy): AAB (Roche): ABB' (O'Neill/Krassen): ABC (O'Neill/1915 & 1001): AABB (Taylor). Francis O’Neill remarked in his book Irish Folk Music (p. 141) that this reel was well-known in his boyhood home of County Cork in in the mid-19th century. He learned it from an elderly informant, as he related in his Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby (1910, p. 142):

Periodically, Mary Ward and her two daughters, who had been driven to mendicancy as a result of the famine, made our farmhouse their headquarters for a week or so at a time. They were always welcome, for the old woman had all the news of the country to relate. In fact, it was through her and her like that news was disseminated in the absence of newspapers in those times. Besides, she could sing a good song, and lilt a good tune in spite of her blindness and poverty. That explains the source of the writer's acquaintance with "Rolling on the Ryegrass" and many another tune either lost or forgotten in this generation.

The third part of Francis O'Neill's version, sounding in the mixolydian mode, is merely a variation of the first strain and is little played in modern times.

County Kerry accordion player Johnny O’Leary remembered that in his last year of life fiddle-master Padraig O’Keeffe was often approached and asked for portions of his vast repertoire. Even on his deathbed someone asked “Have you any few reels in your pocket?” (perhaps to elicit one final rare gem of a tune). “Can’t think of a bit,” he said, “only ‘Rolling in the Ryegrass,’” and died fifteen minutes later (Moylan). Dermot Hanifan, in his book Padraig O'Keeffe, The Man and His Music, states that O’Keeffe composed a great number of tunes, one of which was “Rolling in the Ryegrass.” This would be impossible, in view of O’Neill’s having heard it in West Cork as a boy, as stated above. Additionally, Church of Ireland cleric and uilleann piper Canon wikipedia:James_Goodman_(musicologist) (1828-1896) included the tune as an untitled reel in Book 1 (p. 39, also called "The Telegraph") of his large mid-19th century music manuscripts collection, although he also included a different tune by the name "Rolling on the Ryegrass (2)."

Paul de Grae[1] points out the first strain of O'Neill's "Cameronian Reel (1) (The) is "almost identical" to "Rolling on the Ryegrass". Paul also finds cognate two-part versions (corresponding to O'Neill's first two parts) as "Lady on the Railroad (The)" and "Piper's Lass (The), printed by Elias Howe and William Bradbury Ryan, respectively. "Ryan has another setting, "Rathkeale Hunt" (No. 49), which is similar to O'Neill's in the first part, more in the second part, and identical in the third part except for the ending. It is possible that O'Neill borrowed the third part from Ryan; in any case, these appear to be the only three-part settings"[2]. See also the related “Roll Her on the Hill”/“Roll Her on the Mountain.”

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - accordion player Johnny O’Leary (Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border), recorded in recital at Na Píobairí Uilleann, February, 1981 [Moylan]; fiddler and accordion player John McGrath (1900-1954) [O’Malley].

Printed sources : - Cranitch (Irish Fiddle Book), 1996; p. 96. Giblin (Collection of Traditional Irish Dance Music), 1928; 3. Moylan (Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra), 1994; No. 178, pp. 102-103. O’Malley (Luke O’Malley’s Collection of Irish Music, vol. 1), 1976; No. 74, p. 37. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 162. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1553, p. 287. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 766, p. 133. O’Neill (O’Neill’s Irish Music), 1915; No. 231, p. 123. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1), 1912; No. 150, p. 60. Hugh Shields (Tunes of the Munster Pipers vol. 1), 1998; No. 378. Taylor (Through the Half-door), 1992; No. 39, p. 27. Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 1), 1999; p. 17.

Recorded sources : - Claddagh CC5, Denis Murphy & Julia Clifford- “The Star Above the Garter.” Columbia 33141-F (78 RPM), O'Leary's Irish Minstrels (1927). Philo 1051, Boys of the Lough - "Good Friends, Good Music" (1985). Shaskeen - "Shaskeen Live." Mick Coyne – “Both Sides of the Coyne.”

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Alan Ng’s [2]
Hear O'Leary's Irish Minstrels' 1927 recording at the Internet Archive [3]

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  1. Paul de Grae, “Notes on Sources to Tunes in the O’Neill Collections”, 2017 [4]
  2. ibid.