Shaskeen Reel (1) (The)
X:1 T:Shaskeen , The M:C L:1/8 S:Séamus Ennis K:G A|:DG G2 A2 Bc|dfed cAAc|BG G2 AGFA|GBAG FAEF| DG G2 ADFA|dfed cAAe|f3d ecAF|1 GBAF G3:|2 GBAF G2|| Bc|dggf g3a|(3bag ag fddc|B2 BG AAAF|GBAG FDDc| dggf g2 fg|abag fddc|B2 GB (3AcA FA|GBAG FAEF| DG G2 ABcA|dfed cAAe|fadf ecAF|GBAF G2||
SHASKEEN REEL , THE (Cor na Seiscinne). AKA and see “Ballinakill Shaskeen (The),” “Shaskan,” “Shaskeen Clog.” Irish, Reel. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Mitchell, O'Neill/1915 & 1001): AAB (Taylor): AABB (Mulvihill): AABB’ (Cranford/Holland, Mallinson): AA'BB' (Harker/Rafferty, O'Neill/Krassen, Vallely). The word ‘shaskeen’ is derived from the Irishseisgeann, meaning either a marshy country or fen, a truss of corn, or gleaned land. Seamus Ennis, once introduced the tune in the Tradition Club by saying the word meant ‘a red piece of flannel that was tied to the tail of a cow that had mastitis’, according to Finbar Doyle, who points out Seamus sometimes had a “delicate conjunction with veracity.” It is the name of a townland in County Sligo. Supposedly, the tune was played by a piper from the area, but instead of being named for the musician (as is often the case), the melody was called by the place the piper lived. A version of the tune, somewhat distanced from that usually played today, was entered as "Sheskan Reel" into Book 2 of the large c. 1883 music manuscript collection of County Leitrim fiddler and piper Stephen Grier (c. 1824-1894).
The first part of the reel is a form of the "fundamental strain" of the tune "Johnnie Cope," observes Bayard (1981). Dr. Henebry, the famous Irish collector, musician and priest, once famously remarked that piper Patsy Touhey’s rendering of “The Shaskeen” was a higher achievement than the Brooklyn Bridge (at the time still an engineering marvel). Later, in the 1920’s, a famous recording was made by Co. Sligo raised, New York fiddler, Michael Coleman. In fact, it was the second recording Coleman ever made, although it was the first he waxed for the Vocalion label, in April, 1921, backed by a competent piano player named John Muller (“The Shaskeen” was paired with “The Bag of Potatoes”). Philippe Varlet reports that Coleman for some reason re‑recorded the "Shaskeen" side a year later for the same company, although he played the tunes somewhat differently, and copies from both masters were issued under the same catalogue number. Two versions of the “Shaskeen” are identified: the East Galway, or Ballinakill, “Shaskeen,” and the more common “Shaskeen” as played in Sligo. Flute player Mike Rafferty’s version (see Harker, 2005) is a prime example of the East Galway version, as popularized by the Ballinakill Ceili Band (on whose 78 RPM recording the “Shaskeen” was paired with “The Green Blanket”).