Three Sea Captains (The)

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X:1 T:Three Sea Captains, The M:6/8 L:1/8 K:G D|G2G BGB|c2A F2A|G2A B2c|d2B G2B| c2c ecA|B2B dBG|A2B c2B|ABG FED| G2G BGB|c2A F2A|G2A B2c|d2B G2B| cec A2c|BdB G2F|EcB AGF|(G3G2)|| d|g2g dcB|ABc def|g2g efg|fdd d2d| c2c ecA|B2B dBG|A2B c2B|ABG FED| G2G BGB|c2A F2A|G2A B2c|d2B G2B| cec A2c|BdB G2F|EcB AGF|(G3G2)||



THREE SEA CAPTAINS, THE. AKA and see "Three Captains (1) (The)],” “William Clark's Favorite." Irish, English; Set Dance, Morris Dance (6/8 time), or Jig. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Allan's): AB (Heymann, Kennedy, Raven, Wade). O'Neill records that he found the earliest printed setting in McGoun's Repository of Scots and Irish Airs (1799) as “Mr. William Clark’s Favorite,” although Aloys Fleischman found an earlier printing in John Lee's Collection of Country Dances for the Present Year 1791 (Dublin, 1791)[1]. The tune is used for either a single or polka step in the North‑West (England) morris dance tradition. In Ireland, the tune is called “The Three Captains,” and a set dance is performed to it. The Irish dance set has folk-lore attached that says both tune and dance were composed to be descriptive of the Battle of Navarino, fought in the Ionian Sea by a combined fleet from Britain, France and Russia against the Egyptian and Ottoman fleets in 1827 during the Greek War of Independence. It was the last great sea battle dough with wooden ships and figured decisively in the struggle for Green independence. In the folklore scenario the three sea captains are presumably the commanders of the allied fleets, Edward Codrington, Henri de Rigny and Login Petrovich Geiden. According to some dancers the set dance figures initially describe the ships lining up for the beginning of the battle, then turning about and returning (see the article about Cork set dancer Joe O’Donovan in Set Dancing News, 2003). The music, however, predates that composition of the dance.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - McDermott (Allan's Irish Fiddler), c. 1920’s; No. 115, p. 29. Heymann (Off the Record), 1990; pp. 23-25. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician No. 5: Mostly Irish Airs), 1985 (revised 2000); p. 14. Kennedy (Fiddlers Tune Book, vol. 2), 1954; p. 44. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 107. Wade (Mally’s North West Morris Book), 1988; p. 6.

Recorded sources : - Clairseach Records 2381, Ann Heymann – “Ann’s Harp” (1981). Front Hall FHR‑010, Bill Spence and Fennig's All Stars ‑ "The Hammered Dulcimer Strikes Again" (1977). Green Linnet SIF 1015, Eugene O'Donnell - "Slow Airs and Set Dances" (1978). Topic 12TS 373, John Rea - "Traditional Music on the Hammer Dulcimer" (1979).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’sFolk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]


Alan Ng’sIrishtune.info [2]



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  1. Aloys Fleischman, Sources of Irish Traditional Music c. 1600-1855, vol. 1, No. 3962.