Annotation:Seán Ó Duibir an Gleanna (1)

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SEÁN Ó DUIBIR AN GLEANNA [1] (John O'Dwyer of the Glen). AKA - "Seán Ó Duibhir a' Ghleanna." AKA and see "John O'Dwyer of the Glen [1]." Irish, Air (4/4 time) and Set Dance. Ireland, Munster. A Minor (Roche): A Dorian (Breathnach): G Major (Ó Canainn). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Ó Cainainn, Roche): AA'BB (Breathnach). John O'Dwyer of Aherlow, County Tipperary, was a soldier during the mid-17th century wars between the native Irish the English forces under Oliver Cromwell. He was chief of the O'Dwyers of Kilnamanagh (the third son of Darby O'Dwyer, who died in 1629) and lived in Cloniharp Castle near Dundrum. 'The Glen' is the celebrated Glen of Aherlow in County Tipperary[1]. When the Irish were defeated a number fled the country rather than surrender, O'Dwyer among them. He made his way to Flanders where he fought on the side of the Spanish.

The melody, a lament for the hero (the song is still a staple of the Sean nós repertoire), appears in O’Farrell’s c. 1800 Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes and/or his Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes, and also is given in Poets and Poetry of Munster (1849). Joyce included it in his Irish Music and Songs (1909). See also the variant "Uair Bheag Roimh A' La" (A little hour before day), which O'Neill (1910) believes is a variant of this tune; as well as the melodies "Farewell to Ardmore" and "A dhochtuir dhilis." O’Neill (1913) quotes a grand story told by the famous 19th century Donegal uilleann piper Turlogh McSweeney (which will make a bit more sense by reading the note for “The Wild Irishman”):

...when I was living alone in the little cabin after my mother died--God rest her soul--there came to the door in the dusk of the evening a stranger and nothing less than a piper, by the way, who with a ‘God save all here,’ introduced himself as was customary. I invited him in, of course, and after making himself at aise he says, ‘Would you like to hear a ‘chune’ on the pipes? ‘I would that,’ said I, for you know a piper and his music are always welcome in an Irish home. Taking his pipes out of the bag, he laid them on the bed beside him, and what do you think but without anyone laying a finger on them, they struck up “Toss the Feathers” in a way that would make a cripple get up and dance. After a while, when they stopped, he says, ‘Will you play a ‘chune’ for me now?’ I said I would and welcome, pulling the blanket off my pipes that were hid under the bedclothes, to keep the reeds from drying out. ‘Give us “Seaghan ua Duibhir an Gleanna” says I to the pipes, and when they commenced to play, the mysterious stranger, who no doubt was a fairy, remarked ‘Ah! Mac, I see you are one of us.’ With that both sets of pipes played half a dozen ‘chunes’ together. When they had enough of it, the fairy picked up his pipes and put them in the green bag again. If I had any doubts about him before, I had none at all when he said familiarly, ‘Mac, I’m delighted with my visit here this evening, and as have several other calls to make I’ll have to be after bidding you good night, but if I should happen to be passing by this way again, I’ll be sure to drop in.

The first verse of the song goes:

An sionnach rua ar a' gcarraig, Míle liú ag marcaigh,
Is bean go dúch sa' mbealach, Ag áireamh a gé.
Anois tá'n choill dá gearra, Triallfaimid thar cala,
'S a Sheáin Uí Dhuibhir a' Ghleanna, Chaill tú do chéim.
(The red fox on the rock, A thousand shouts from the riders,
And a woman on the roadside, sadly counting her geese.
Now the wood is being cut down, We shall cross the seas,
O Seán Ó Duibhir of the Glen, You have lost your lordship.)

As usual with Irish airs, different versions have differing tonalities, ranging from those set in minor and modal tonality, to Ó Canainn’s, set in a major key. Breathnach (1985) says the set dance is based on the song, and that it is associated with County Clare.

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - fiddler Bobby Casey (Co. Clare, Ireland) [Breathnach].

Printed sources : - Breathnach (Ceol Rince na hÉireann vol. III), 1985; No. 60, p. 30. Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 52, p. 47 (appars as “Seán Ó Duibhir”). Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music vol. 1), 1912; No. 32, p. 16.

Recorded sources : - Claddagh 4CC 39, “The Pipering of Willie Clancy vol. 2” (1983). Mulligan Records LUN 018, Bobby Casey "Taking Flight" (1979). Green Linnet SIF 1084, Eugene O'Donnell "The Foggy Dew" (1988). GTD Heritage Trad. HCD 008, Tommy Peoples - "Traditional Irish Music Played on the Fiddle." Piping Pig Records PPPCD 001, Jimmy O’Brien- Moran – “Seán Reid’s Favourite” (1996. Learned from Willie Clancy).

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  1. Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, A Hidden Ulster: People, songs and traditions of Oriel, Dublin, 2003, p. 296.