Swallow's Tail Reel (The)
X:1 T:Swallow’s Tail, The T:Pride of the Ball (The) M:C L:1/8 R:Reel B:Stephen Grier music manuscript collection (Book 2, c. 1883, No. 152, pp. 32-33) B:http://grier.itma.ie/book-two#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=31&z=-759.8197%2C183.8508%2C4495.7388%2C2304.1667 N:Stephen Grier (c. 1824-1894) was a piper and fiddler from N:Newpark, Bohey, Gortletteragh, south Co. Leitrim. Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Amix e2 cA eAcA|Bc/d/ ef gfge|d2 Bd dGBG|GABc dcdf| eA cB/A/ eA cB/A/|Bc/d/ ef gefg|afge dfeA|A2 AB A4|| a2 ab aged|Bdef gfge|d2 Bd dGBG|GABc defg| a2 ab aged|Bdef gefg|afge dfec|A2 AB A4| a2 ab aged|Bdef gfge|d2 Bd dGBG|GABc defg| afbf gfed Bdef|gefg afge|dfec A2 af||
SWALLOW'S TAIL REEL, THE ("An earbuill ainleog," "Earball an ainleoige," “Driobhall na fáinleoige” or "Eireaball na fáinleoige"). AKA - "Swallowtail Reel." AKA and see "Blue Shannon (The)," "Cally in the Grove," "Family Estate (The)," "Girl with the Handsome Face (The),” "Joshua Gray," "McKenna's Reel," "Miss Wright's Reel," "Mollie's Bonnet," "Molloy's Night Cap," "Molly's Night Cap," "Pigeon on the Gate (5)," "Pigeon's Tail (The)," "Pride of the Ball," "Queen's Wedding (The)," "Steeplechase (1)," “Swallowtail Coat (The),” "Take Your Hand Away," "Uncle Willy's Scottish Tune," "Village Reel." Irish, New England, Shetland; Reel. Ireland; County Sligo, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Donegal, Tyrone. Shetland, Yell. A Dorian (Am). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (O'Neill/1850): AABB (Allan, Breathnach, Brody, Flaherty, Mallinson, Miller & Perron, O'Neill/Krassen, Sweet, Tolman, Tubridy). "Swallow's Tail" is a widespread reel with a plethora of variants and titles, current in several traditions. The settings vary from dorian to mixolydian modes, with some a mixture of both (O'Neill himself set the tune in mixolydian in his Music of Ireland (1903) and in in minor in his Dance Music in Ireland (1907)). The oldest version of the tune with the "Swallow's Tail" title is in Book 2 of the c. 1883 music manuscript collection of County Leitrim piper and fiddler Stephen Grier (c. 1824-1894), although close cognate versions were printed almost simultaneously in Ryan's Mammoth Collection (1883) albeit under the titles "Pigeon on the Gate (5)" and "Pride of the Ball." Caoimhin Mac Aoidh (1994) states the tune is more correctly called in County Donegal the “Swallow’s Tail Coat,” named after the long split-tail coats dancing masters wore. Donegal fiddler Danny O’Donnell (1910-2001) said that it was a very popular reel in his home of The Rosses, Donegal, for a particular type of dance, and that people in the lower Rosses knew it under the title “The Queen’s Wedding.” Bronx fiddler Martin Mulvihill also said “Swallow's Tail” was used as an accompaniment for the sixteen-hand reel. Breathnach (1985) gives titles for the tune in Ulster as “McKenna's Reel,” “The Queen's Wedding,” “Mollie's Bonnet,” “Molloy's Night Cap,” and “Joshua Gray.” Paddy Kelly (originally of Co. Tyrone) called the tune “McKenna's Reel” after a local dancer named McKenna. The names under which it appears in O'Neill are “The Swallow's Tail,” “The Steeplechase” and “Take your Hand Away.” P.W. Joyce collected the tune in the mid-19th century in Kilkenny and printed it as an untitled reel in D Mixolydian in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909). Accordion player Joe Burke (b. 1939), originally from Coorhoor, above Loughrea in County Galway, has an early playing memory of fiddler Martin Hanny on a settle bed at a ‘station’ (house mass) fiddling this tune (Vallely & Piggott, Blooming Meadows, 1998), which so impressed him that he wished to get a similar sound on his accordion.
An early recording of “The Swallow’s Tail” was by Ballybay, County Monaghan, piper Robert William “Willie” Clarke (1889-1934) for Columbia Records of London in 1928, for a series of records entitled “The Pipes of Three Nations” (which included a Highland piper and a Northumbrian small-piper). However, the earliest sound recording of the tune may have been by O'Neill himself, who, in the first years of the 20th century, recorded on a cylinder machine a performance of the reel by Chicago fiddler John McFadden (who played a mixoydian version). See also the related melody “Grand Gates of Annesbrook (The).” “McKenna's (2)” is similar enough that it is sometimes called “The Old Swallowtail.”
Paul Fackler finds cognate versions from Erskine Morris and Joe Howell, originally from the Douglastown area of the eastern Gaspé region of Québec, under the title (respectively) "Blue Shannon (The)" and "Uncle Willy's Scottish Tune."