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Chris Smith: Words & Music

Reels: The Sligo Maid/Hand Me Down the Tackle/Come West Along the Road

(Chris Smith (banjo), Randal Bays (fiddle), Roger Landes (bouzouki))
2005-09-08
“The Sligo Maid” (also “The Glendowan Fancy” or “The Sligo Maid’s Lament”) is another reel widely associated with the western counties of Sligo, Kerry, and Clare. There’s a Scottish version called “Down the Broom,” and one from Prince Edward Island (west indeed) called “Old Peter’s Reel.” Both Michael Coleman (1924) and Paddy Killoran (1936) recorded the tune, but this version is an amalgam of Killoran’s and that of Séamus Ennis. Breathnach’s CRE I has it as #124, notated from fiddler Tommy Potts.

Séamus Ennis is also the source of “The Pure Drop,” an a/k/a of “Hand Me Down the Tackle,” but I prefer the piscatorial reference. It’s mostly a Northern tune (a favorite of Donegal’s John Doherty), also played in the Shetland Islands, and was recorded by the Flanagan Brothers in 1928, as well as by Coleman (1921) and Hugh Gillespie (1938). Other great versions have been recorded by Donegal’s Paddy Glackin, Clare’s Noel Hill, and Galway’s Frankie Gavin. O Neill’s 1850 has it as #1271.

“Come West Along the Road,” another tune with a lovely title, is mostly associated with Sligo and the West. It was recorded in New York in 1925 by “Fireman” John McKenna and again in the ‘40s by the Aughrim Slopes Ceili Band. I learned it from a Bloomington concert recording, rain on the roof, of the first duo concert by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, with bits thrown in from the great In Knocknagree live disc of Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon.