Tunes from Swithun

Swithun Goodbody is a Ballydehob session regular and frequently contributes new repertoire to the group. We are pleased to have some tracks from him in this collection.

Firstly, a slow air with a story attached: Mná na hÉireann (Women of Ireland):


If you ever saw Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon you will have heard this: the recurring love theme from that film is played by the Chieftains and taken from one of their earliest albums (1973) – incidentally the first to feature Derek Bell on the harp. The music was composed by Seán Ó Riada to words by the Ulster poet Peadar Ó Doirnin (1700 – 1769):

…Tá bean in Éirinn a bhronnfadh séad dom ‘s mo sháith le n-ól
‘S tá bean in Éirinn ba bhinne léithe mo ráfla ceoil ná seinm téad
Tá bean in Éirinn, ‘s níorbh fhearr léi beo
Mise ag léimneach nó leagtha I gcré is mo thárr faoi fhód
Tá bean in Éirinn a bheadh ag éad liom mur’ bhfaighfinn ach póg
Ó bhean ar aonach, nach ait an scéala, is mo dháimh féin leo
Tá bean ab fhearr liom nó cath is céad dhíobh nach bhfagham go deo
Is tá cailín spéiriúil ag fear gan bhéarla, dubhghránna cróin
Tá bean in Éirinn a bhronnfadh séad dom is mo sháith le n-ól
Tá bean in Éirinn s’ba bhinne léithe mo ráfla ceoil ná seinm téad
Tá bean in Éirinn is níorbh fhearr léi beo
Mise ag léimneach nó leagtha I gcré ‘s mo thárr faoi fhód…


Next, Swithun plays two Kerry polkas Ballydesmond Number 2 followed by Knockabower:


Knockabower – a lovely three-part polka – goes by a variety of names. It’s most likely to be from Knockaboul, in the Sliabh Luachra area on the Cork / Kerry borders, although there is a suggestion that the name should be Knocknabowl – from the Irish `Cnoc na buaile’ – The hill of the milking place.

Swithun has also given us Brian Boru’s March on the tin whistle:


Battle of Clontarf – painted by Hugh Frazer, 1826

Brian Boru (you’ll find him here) died at the Battle of Clontarf on 23rd April 1014. That’s exactly 1,006 years ago! So this is a timely post…

Swithun lives just over the hill from us, so I can happily say ‘Thank you, neighbour!’

Fiddling Away!

Ballydehob Session member Robin Lewando is keeping busy sending in the music! Thanks, Robin. Others please take note: it’s relatively easy to get a few tunes recorded and sent through. Doesn’t matter if it’s repertoire that some of us already know: there are plenty who could be reminded or benefit from learning something new. It doesn’t matter either if you are not from the West of Ireland. In a normal summer we have visitors every week who swell our local group and bring in music from far, far away: it’s great! So please contribute, whoever or wherever you are – it could help us to get through these unprecedented times in good spirit…

Ballydehob, West Cork, under the Covid lockdown – April 2020. It’s a Saturday morning, and the streets would usually be buzzing!

First up from Robin is a tune that he plays by request: Up And About in the Morning. This is an unusual three part jig:


It is suggested that this tune was collected by Breandán Breathnach (1912 – 1985), a piper who learned from Leo Rowsome but also worked for the Department of Education, where he was responsible for collecting tunes from all around Ireland. In his lifetime he collected over 7,000 traditional tunes: many of these would probably not have survived if it was not for Breathnach’s work. Some are contained in the many volumes he published as Ceol Rince na hÉireann (Dance Music of Ireland). These volumes were among my earliest introductions to the Irish tradition way back in the 1970s. As a complete sidetrack, I’ll just direct you to this version of Up And About… played in 2011 by piper Mark Redmond:

And, while we are on Mark Redmond, I’ll also direct you to this post on our sister site Roaringwater Journal: in 2018 we had one of the great musical experiences of our lifetimes when we went to a concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin (now closed because of the lockdown) and heard Mark Redmond leading the tribute to Liam O’Flynn in a performance of Shaun Davey’s The Brendan Voyage.

Sorry about those distractions, Robin! As you know, I always like to attach a story to a piece of music… Here is Robin again, playing a set of three tunes from County Cork – Ger the Rigger, a polka, and two hornpipes: one from the Johnny O’Leary book, number 17, and the last known as Walsh’s.


A great set, Robin, and a good challenge for us all to learn… I’m finishing off with a view of our village, Ballydehob, during last year’s Jazz Festival, just as a reminder of the way things should be!