Toss the Feathers (1)
X:1 T:Toss the Feathers  M:4/4 L:1/8 K:Em EB B2 dB B2|EBBA FDFA|BE E2 B2 AB|1 defe dBAF :|2 defe dABA || Beed e2 de|fede feed|febe febe|fede feed| Beed e2 de|fede fgaf|b3 g a3 f|egfe dBAF ||
TOSS THE FEATHERS  ("Craith na Cleití/Cleiteacha,” "Umpuig an Clumac" or “Scaipeadh na gCleití”). AKA and see “Geatley's,” “Humors of Ballagh (The),” "Mountain Lark (9) (The)," "New Reel (1) (The)," “Piper's Choice,” "Shanks Mare," "Thornberry's," "Thresh the Feathers." Irish, Reel. E Aeolian (Breathnach CRE 2, Goodman, Stanford/Petrie, Taylor/Crack): E Dorian (Bayard, Breathnach vol. 1, Feldman & O’Doherty). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Breathnach, Feldman & O’Doherty, Stanford/Petrie): AAB (O'Neill/Krassen, Phillips, Taylor/Crack): AA'B (O'Neill/1001): AABB (Brody. Goodman): AABB' (Bayard). "Toss the Feathers" is identified by Stanford/Petrie as a County Clare reel, although it has been widely disseminated. There are two main variants (as Paul de Grae points out), one group in E minor/dorian and the other in 'D'. Breathnach (1976) says it is known in County Tipperary as “Thresh the Feathers” and “Humors of Ballagh (The).” The title "Toss the Feathers" is supposedly is a euphemism for engaging in sexual intercourse (as in 'vigorous activity' on a feather bed), although P.W. Joyce thought (perhaps naively) that the title referred to feathers in a headdress or helmet. O’Neill (1913) quotes a grand story in which this tune is mentioned, told by Turlogh McSweeney, ‘The Donegal Piper’, a famous uilleann piper of the latter 19th century (which will make a bit more sense by reading the note for “Wild Irishman (3)” first):
...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 I 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 earliest appearance of the tune under the title "Toss the Feathers" is in the large mid-19th century music manuscript collection (vol. 3, p. 157) of County Cork cleric and uilleann piper Canon James Goodman. It was also included in Book 2 of the c. 1883 music manuscript collection of County Leitrim fiddler and piper Stephen Grier." The title appears in a list of tunes in his repertoire brought by Philip Goodman, the last professional and traditional piper in Farney, Louth, to the Feis Ceoil in Belfast in 1898 (Breathnach, 1997). See also the tune “Shanks Mare,” the ‘County Clare “Toss the Feathers.”’ See also variants "Toss the Feathers (2)" and "Toss the Feathers (3)" in the key of 'D', "Toss the Feathers (4)" in the key of 'D dorian', and "Toss the Feathers (5)" in the key of 'D mixolydian'.
- Paul de Grae, "Notes on Sources of Tunes in the O'Neill Collections", 2017 .