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Chris Smith: Words & Music

Set-dance and reels: Poll Ha'Penny/The Old Bush/Within a Mile of Dublin

(Chris Smith (banjo), Randal Bays (fiddle), Roger Landes (bouzouki))
2005-09-08
“Poll Ha’Penny” (“Garraí na bhFéileóig”) is a very old and very widely-distributed tune, appearing in many collections under a number of titles and earlier “A/K/A’s”. It’s in O Neill’s 1850 (#1783), but appears as “Molly MacAlpin,” “Moll Ha-Penny,” and “Holy Ha-penny” in English manuscripts way before that. Carolan is said to have preferred this tune to any of his own composition. I’m sure that I got it from the Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon, and was glad once again to play it with old comrades from Reynardine for Larry Young’s wedding several years back.

“The Old Bush” (A/K/A an tSean-Sceach, “Captain Rock,” or “The Long Hills of Mourne”) is another old tune associated with Willie Clancy. It also appears in O Neill’s 1001 (#781) and Breathnach’s CRE 1 (#105), sourced for the latter from Tommy Potts’s piping father John. The Fiddler’s Companion mentions that “the title to this tune supposedly derives from the Irish custom of planting a special tree as a gathering place, quoting John Dunton (1674): ‘hither all the people resort with a piper on Sundays and Holydays in the afternoon, where the young folks dance till the cows come home.’” The great piper and vaudevillian Patsy Touhey (1865-1923) recorded “Within a Mile of Dublin” (A/K/A “You’re a long time a courting”) on wax cylinder in 1903. It’s another old tune, appearing in Philip Goodman’s 1898 repertoire list and also in CRE II (#179) and O Neill’s 1850 (#1511).