Old Favourites

A session in full swing, Levis’ Corner Bar, Ballydehob. Photo by Finola Finlay

The Ballydehob Session has been on the go for many years, so I asked Dick Miles to look out some of his older repertoire to load into this site, so we can all learn (or re-learn) the tunes to play together the next time we meet.

First up is Valentia Harbour – a beautiful slow air which is titled in Irish Amhrán Na Leabhar, meaning ‘Song of the Books’, although sometimes called ‘Song of the Lost Books’.

. . . The song to this air was written by Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháin (1785-1848), a poet and musician from Iveragh (Uibh Ráitheach) or Derrynane, County Kerry. Ó Suilleabhain had been acting-schoolmaster at Caherdaniel and was forced to transfer to Portmagee when another schoolmaster was appointed to the permanent position. As he was leaving he placed his treasured and huge (for the times!) library of leather-bound books for transport on a boat going from Derrynane to Goleen (Goilin, Valentia Harbor), while he himself travelled by road. The boat struck a rock and was lost, tragically along with the priceless collection of books, prompting Ó Súlleabháin to seek solace in song. The air is known in modern times as a slow tempo piper’s tune . . .

Dick’s next track features two hornpipes: Belfast Hornpipe and Madam Bonaparte. These are good ‘standards’, but are not frequently played nowadays. The latter was supposedly written by James Gandsey (1767-1857), piper to the Barons Headley, whose estate was near Killarney.

Lastly, I have added a track from one of Dick’s early CDs. This is the Impudence Schottische: a fabulous and quirky tune. Schottisches in Ireland closely resemble Barn Dances in phrase and timing. I’d love to hear this tune played in our session, although I fear it might be hard work on the melodeon – especially as Dick plays it in B flat! Would you mind if we transposed it, Dick?