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The Keel Boats

KEEL ROW, THE. AKA - "Merry may the Keel Row." AKA and see "Bagpipe (2) (The)," "Boatie Rows (The)," "Drops of Brandy," "Johnny When You Die (2)," "Lake St. Jean Gallope," "Michael's Reel," "Smiling Polly," "Twin Sisters (4)." English, Irish, Scottish, American; Air, Reel, Highland or (Highland) Schottische, Highland Fling. England, Northumberland. Ireland, Donegal. G Major (Bell, Buttery, Cole, Hall & Stafford, Kennedy, Kidson, Raven, Stokoe, Sweet, Trim, Tubridy, White): A Major (Athole, Cocks, Kerr, Mulvihill, Roche, Surenne): D Major (Balmoral). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Raven, Roche, Surenne, Tubridy): AABB (Balmoral, Bell, Cocks, Cole, Kerr, Kidson, Mulvihill, Sweet, Trim, White): AABB' (Athole): ABC (Stokoe).
Stokoe and Bruce (1882) devote a note to the tune claiming Northumbrian authorship for "The Keel Row," an extremely popular tune in its time (in both Scotland and Northumberland) and "the best known and most popular of all Northumbrian lyrics." He refutes assertions that the tune is Scotch (a provenance often credited), citing the following:

1) the 'keel' is a vessel which is only known on the rivers Tyne and Wear {Kidson points out however that 'keel' is an old Saxon word and has been used in Scotland as well as Newcastle};

2) In the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle is a MS Book of Tunes, dated 1774, in which the tune appeared exactly as it did in Stoke's time;

3) Joseph Ritson, once a celebrated antiquary, included it in his collection of old songs, 'The Northumberland Garland,' published 1793 (a garland is a of eight to sixteen tunes).

Stokoe and Bruce point...


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Hirman Horner (fifer from Westmoreland and Fayette Counties, Pa., 1960) and Frank King (fifer from Westmoreland County, Pa., 1960) [Bayard]; “old highland fling, learned from my mother” [Mulvihill].

Printed sources : - Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 321A‑B, pp. 280‑1. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. 2), 1859; p. 185. Cocks (Tutor for the Northumbrian Half-Long Bagpipes), 1925; No. 35, p. 16. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 23. Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; p. 67 (appears as "Twin Sisters"). Gow (Vocal Melodies of Scotland), 2nd ed., 1822; p. 20. William Gunn (The Caledonian Repository of Music Adapted for the Bagpipes), Glasgow, 1848; p. 25 (appears as "A Bhalgun, a Bhalgun/The Bagpipe"). Hall & Stafford (Charlton Memorial Tune Book), 1974; pp. 24‑25. Jarman (Old Time Fiddlin’ Tunes) 1951; No. or p. 33. Kennedy (Fiddlers Tune Book, vol. 1), 1951; No. 42, p. 21. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; No. 3, p. 19 and vol. 3, No. 94, p. 12. Kidson (Old English Country Dances), 1890; p. 19. Köhlers’ Violin Repository, part 3, 1885; p. 281. J. Kenyon Lees (Balmoral Reel Book), c. 1910; p. 16. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 13, p. 121. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 174. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1), 1912; No. 198, p. 75. Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 47. Saar (Fifty Country Dances), 1932; No. 19. Smith (Scottish Minstrel, vol. 5), 1820‑24; p. 74. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 11. Stokoe & Bruce (Nortumbrian Minstrelsy), 1882; pp. 138‑139. Surenne (Dance Music of Scotland), 1852; p. 144. Sweet (Fifer’s Delight), 1964/1981; p. 58. Trim (Thomas Hardy), 1990; No. 60 (Schottishe). Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 1), 1999; p. 12. White's Excelsior Collection, 1907; p. 27. White’s Unique Collection, 1896; No. 53, p. 10.

Recorded sources : - Columbia A2837 77257 (78 RPM), Patrick J. Scanlon. Topic TSCD607, Billy Cooper, Walter & Daisy Bulwer – “English Country Music” (2000. Originally recorded 1962).

See also listing at :
* Alan Snyder’s Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [3]

  • Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [4]
  • Alan Ng’s Irishtune.info [5]
  • Hear Patrick J. Scanlon's 78 RPM recording at the Internet Archive [6] [7] (as a Highland Fling, followed by "Money Musk (1)").




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