X:1 % T:Ross Castle M:2/4 L:1/8 R:March S:Aird – Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II (1785) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:G d/c/ | B2A2 | GG c/B/A/G/ | F/G/A/B/ A d/c/ | B2A2 | GG A/B/c/A/ | BGG :||: d/c/ | BGAD | GG c/B/A/G/ | F/G/A/B/ Ad/c/ | [GB]GAD | GG A/B/c/A/ | BGG :| |: (d/c/) | B/c/d/B/ A/B/c/B/ | GG c/B/A/G/ | F/G/A/B/ Ad/c/ | B/c/d/B/ A/B/c/A/ | GG A/B/c/A/ | BGG :|]
ROSS CASTLE. AKA - "Rose Castle." Scottish (?), March (2/4 time) or Triple Hornpipe (3/2 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBBCC. A military march of unknown provenance. The key is mistakenly given with two sharps in Glasgow musician James Aird's Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 2 (1785). Interestingly, the same two-sharps mistake was entered into the c. 1776 music manuscript copybook of American War of Independence fifer Thomas Nixon (Danbury, Connecticut), who perhaps copied it from an original or copy of Aird's publication, although he wrote the title as "Rose Castle". Other period American fifers, Giles Gibbs (East Windsor, Connecticut) and Fife Major Nathaniel Brown (Verplancks Point, New York, and Durham, Connecticut) also entered it into their own music copybooks as "Rose Castle." Period fifer John Treat (1779), flute player Thomas Molyneaux (1788, Shelburne, Nova Scotia), and Abel Shattuck (c. 1781, Colrain, Massachusetts) all recorded it as "Ross Castle."
Another interesting take on the rhythm of the melody is provided by the Winder family, northwest England, who noted it in manuscript form in 3/2 or 'triple-hornpipe' time.
Ross Castle is locate on Lough Leane, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland, the ancient stronghold of the O'Donoghues, that had a barracks at one time. This passage, from J. Stirling Coyne & N.P. Willis's The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland (c. 1841) tells of the fate of one musician-soldier from who resided there:
Mr. Weld in his excellent account of Killarney says, Wandering one day amongst the solitudes of this island, I surprised a poor musician, who sat upon a rude stone at the foot of one of the few large trees that had escaped the general havoc. He seemed wholly absorbed in contemplating the scene around him, while he drew from his instrument tones according with that melancholy which the devastation of it was so well calculated to inspire. On my approach, he broke off with a wild cadence, and entered abruptly into conversation. A few words were sufficient to betray a loss of intellect; but the incoherent rhapsodies of insanity were replete with traits of energy and feeling. He had been playing, he told me, in different parts of the island for five hours that morning; and, pointing round with his hand, asked, with no small degree of enthusiasm, if I was not enchanted with the lake, the rock, the mountains. For his part, in the midst of such scenery, with his violin for a companion, he found himself quite happy, and wished for nothing. The neighbouring people, he added, supplied him with food and lodging; they also gave him clothes to cover him, and administered to all his wants; in short he was happy, very happy.
The man possessed considerable talents for music ; he understood composition, and played well on a variety of instruments. He had formerly enlisted in a regiment of militia as a clarionet player; but for incorrigible drunkenness was sentenced to receive punishment and be dismissed from the service. The regiment lay at that time in the barracks of Ross Castle. The culprit was marched in form into the adjoining woods, tied to a tree, and the drummers began to perform their duty. Through compassion for his infirmity, a few lashes only were inflicted, and he was then released: but the terror of punishment operated so strongly on a mind endowed by nature with much sensibility, and debilitated by habitual intoxication, that he became almost instantaneously deprived of his senses, and never afterwards perfectly recovered them.