This is part of the Top 40 of Sliabh Luachra project, an admittedly flawed and limited endeavor based on entirely subjective criteria. Please leave a comment if you have any questions, thoughts, protests, threats, etc, and click on the irishtune.info links for more information on each tune.

In other regional repertoires of Irish traditional music, reels usually hold pride of place. To the outsider, the fact that reels are not central to the Sliabh Luachra tradition is remarkable. Quite often, in fact, it is claimed that they hold no role at all. However, though they are less prominent, the reels do have their place in Sliabh Luachra. Though the line of music which came through Tom Billy to his students entailed relatively few reels, it’s significant that a number of reels bear his name. And the O’Keeffe club were in fact quite devoted to the reels, and in fact considered the polkas and slides mostly a necessity for accompanying the local sets, and felt the reels to be their true calling. Denis Murphy‘s wife reported that when he would play at home for his own enjoyment he invariably would be playing reel after reel. Paddy Cronin decried the polkas as “baby music” and lived for the reels. Because this group in particular were especially devoted to reel playing, you will find that an imbalanced proportion of the following tunes are associated with them than with the other notable figures of Sliabh Luachra. And to be honest, while selecting a “Top 40” for the other collections involved an excruciating triage of what to leave out, it was in fact more difficult finding even 40 reels that could be considered particular to the Sliabh Luachra tunebook. That being said, there were a few contenders I ended up leaving out. If your favorite didn’t make the cut, leave a comment below!

CONTENTS:

Anything for John Joe
Bridie’s Joy
The Broomstick
The Bucks of Oranmore
Callaghan’s
The Celebrated Opera
Denis Murphy’s
Donal a’ Phumpa
The Doon
Durang’s
The Flower of the Flock
The Galtee Rangers
The Game Cock
The Girls of Farranfore
The Glenside Cottage
The Glountane
A Ha’penny for a Cotton Ball
Hickey’s #1
Hickey’s #2
Jack Keane’s
Jackson’s
Jim Kennedy’s
Johnny When You Die
Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrel
The Knocknaboul
Mickey Rattley’s
The Millstream
The Mountcollins
Now She’s Purring
The Pope’s Toe
The Pride of Rathmore
The Purring Girls of the Village
Quinn’s
The Rising Sun
The Road to Town
The Scartaglin
The Scolding Wife 
Seanbhean na gCartaí
The Templeglantine
The Woman of the House

Anything for John Joe

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/976/

Paired with Johnny When You Die on Star Above the Garter and inextricably linked forevermore. Johnny O’Leary sometimes called the pair of them “The Sliabh Luachra Reels” which should tell you something. I have a hunch the title also comes from a song but haven’t been able to track the words down.

Here’s that iconic track from SAtG. The pitch has been brought up to concert to aid learners.

Paddy O’Connell and friends give it a go, courtesy of The Handed Down Sliabh Luachra Audio Archive.

A rare setting of the tune from Johnny Dennehy of Currow, once again from Handed Down.

A bit of silliness from Denis Murphy and Seamus Ennis!

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Bridie’s Joy

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/484/

From Denis Murphy’s playing. He called the Glountane Reel, which insinuates he got it from Pádraig O’Keeffe, but for purposes of disambiguation we’re calling it by an alternate title here. It’s possible this title refers to Denis’ sister, Bridgie, but don’t quote me on that!

Denis Murphy and Pádraig O’Keeffe play Bridie’s Joy from that epic session at Lyon’s back in the day.

The boys of The Smoky Chimney give it their trademark OOMPH

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The Broomstick

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/3790/

Found in O’Keeffe’s manuscripts, but there are no recordings of him or his students playing it (that I know of). However, it was recorded by New York box player Gene Kelly, who got it from Kerry fiddler Paddy Sullivan.


The Broomstick as notated by O’Keeffe, courtesy of the ITMA collection

Gene Kelly plays The Broomstick. He played a two-row accordion, but as you will hear he had more of a one-row style of playing.

The Monks of the Screw play their own setting of The Broomstick.

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The Bucks of Oranmore

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/241/

No, the borders of Sliabh Luachra haven’t expanded to include East Galway, but this shortened version of the ubiquitous reel comes straight from Pádraig O’Keeffe. He is better known for having added new parts to tunes, but in this case he seems to have decided that trimming the fat was what was needed.

Pádraig plays his setting of The Bucks

Aidan Connolly and Andrea Palandri pay tribute to The Master from the album Be Off

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Callaghan’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/2636/

Though Callaghan is a common enough name in the area, any Sliabh Luachra tune called Callaghan’s or Doon is likely from the repertoire of Cal O’Callaghan and passed from him to his nephew Pádraig O’Keeffe. This reel is likely to be pretty old and well-traveled—Donegal fiddler Johnny Doherty’s reel The Bonny Bunch of Ferns is barely different enough to call it a distinct tune. It also seems related to The Celebrated Opera reel (see below). Callaghan’s is the third and final reel in the Sliabh Luachra National Anthem set—see the Galtee Rangers entry for more.

Pádraig plays Callaghan’s reel in D on The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master

Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford play it in the key of G on Kerry Fiddles, which allows for the octave playing at which they excelled. (When they recorded it again for their album The Star Above the Garter, they brought it back to the key of D.)

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The Celebrated Opera

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/319/

This reel can be found in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (listed as CHORUS–JIG, and parts indicated to be played ABCB) and there is some indication that a copy of this tune book may have been circulating in Sliabh Luachra around the time of Pádraig O’Keeffe’s youth, perhaps brought back from America by his uncle Cal Callaghan. It’s has been a popular dance tune in New England at least since the time of Ryan’s collection where it is called, confusingly, the Chorus Jig. It also seems to be related to another Donegal tune, The Glen Road to Carrick.


The “Chorus Jig” reel as it appear’s in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection

Paddy Cronin plays a rip-roaring performance of the Celebrated Opera reel on his early Irish radio appearance. (He would record it again, in a slightly different style, on a 78 recording when he was living in Boston.) The pitch has been altered to aid learners.

Con Curtin and the gang play it on from Paddy in the Smoke.

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Denis Murphy’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/7019/

One of those ABB reels from Denis Murphy. Another baffling Donegal-Kerry connection: it’s closely related to a highland played by Con Cassidy called The Lazy Dog (which in turn is related to Dogs Among the Bushes). No idea how it would have got from Donegal to Kerry. The usual way, I guess.

Denis plays his reel

From the album Where the Bog Is, Bryan O’Leary and Colm Guilfoyle play Denis Murphy’s reel.

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Donal a’ Phumpa

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/5769/

Again from the playing of Denis Murphy, it’s another one of those single reels sometimes played with a repeated B part. The name seems to translate as Donal the Pump or Donal of the Pump, though there is a separate reel known as Donal a’ Clamper (a townland north of Ballydesmond where a popular dance hall operated for many years). Perhaps in a noisy pub, with drink taken, and Cork/Kerry brogues thick and inscrutable, Clamper could be heard as Phumpa? On the other hand, Breathnach would translate English-language titles to Irish, so it could be that Denis gave the name as Dan the Pump. Still doesn’t solve the mystery.

Denis plays Donal a Phumpa (pitch adjusted)

The band Patrick Street play it (though they call it The Coalminer) probably under the influence of their accordion player, a certain Mr. Daly.

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The Doon

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/533/

A lot of Sliabh Luachra reels have been called Doon reels, but this one is THE Doon Reel. Again, the name implies that it was sourced from the Callaghan family. This one has gained popularity all over Ireland, likely originating with Paddy Cronin’s early 78 recording.


The bounds of Doonasleen South on the 19th century Ordnance Survey map

Paddy Cronin plays The Doon reel on an early 78 record

Connie O’Connell plays it nice and clear for us.

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Durang’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/4366/

An American tune that probably entered the Sliabh Luachra repertoire through Ryan’s Mammoth Collection. Though it is labeled a hornpipe in the book, what are called hornpipes in American fiddle music are actually indistinguishable from reels, and it is usually played as such by Sliabh Luachra musicians. This tune was named after a well-known 19th century American stage dancer and circus performer, John Durang, whose biography is worth looking into!


John Durang in character as a sailor to dance a hornpipe

Billy Clifford plays Durang’s from his first solo album.

Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly play Durang’s from their album Rolling On

The Monks of the Screw have their own version, in the way of things.

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The Flower of the Flock

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/7114/

A particular Pádraig O’Keeffe setting of a widely-popular reel by the same name.

Denis and Pádraig play it. (pitch adjusted to aid learners)

Gerry Harrington and Billy Clifford play it on their album Now She’s Purring

The Galtee Rangers

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/690/

Found on Star Above the Garter. Usually played in the key of D, but on Kerry Fiddles they play it in G which makes it possible to play in octaves (what they called “bassing” or “doubling”). These days it is usually followed by The Glountane and Callaghan’s, a set popularized by Jackie Daly and often called the Sliabh Luachra National Anthem. The term “rangers” refers not to a football side but to local militias which maintained armed resistance to foreign occupation for many years.

From The Star Above the Garter, Denis and Julia play the Galtee Rangers in D.

On Kerry Fiddles they play it in G, which allows for “bassing”

Paddy Cronin plays the Galtee Rangers

From the album Sail Óg Rua, Jackie Daly et al play the Sliabh Luachra National Anthem set.

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The Game Cock

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/6012/

This reel seems to be a reworking of the popular slide that goes by the same name but in fact it appears as a reel in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection. This tune was played by Jack “The Lightouse” O’Connell on an old radio program. Jackie Daly, bold as ever, tacked on a third part and gave it a new name, the Bog Carrot. What will he think of next?

Jack Lighthouse Connell plays The Game Cock reel

Jackie Daly plays The Bog Carrot

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The Girls of Farranfore

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/440/

For more info, see this post.

Paddy Cronin plays the Girls of Farranfore

From her album It’s Handed Down, Maura O’Connor plays the Girls of Farranfore

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The Glenside Cottage

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/734/

Jackie Daly recorded this reel which he got from Jack “The Lighthouse” Connell. It appears in O’Neill’s as well.

Jack Connell plays the Glenside Cottage. The pitch has been altered to aid learners; on the original recording, Jack is tuned down a step and a half below concert pitch!

Jackie Daly plays the Glenside Cottage on his first solo album

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The Glountane

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/197/

Played on Star Above the Garter and a number of other classic Sliabh Luachra recordings. Glountane (also spelled Glountaine, Glantane, Glentane, Glentaun, Gleanntán or god help you Glentown) is a reference to Pádraig O’Keeffe’s home, and indicates that any of the many tunes so named came from his repertoire. It’s the second tune in the Anthem set—see the Galtee Rangers entry for more.

Padraig’s house today at Glountane Cross

Paddy Connell and friends play the Glountane reel, courtesy of the Handed Down Audio Archive

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A Ha’penny for a Cotton Ball

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/3793/

Apparently from the repertoire of Paddy Cronin, though I’m unable to find a recording of him playing it. He may have had it from O’Neill’s book. He would often trawl through O’Neill’s and other collections looking for out-of-the-way tunes that caught his ear. The title seems to be from this nursery rhyme but I have a hard time fitting the words to this melody:

A ha’ penny for a cotton ball
A farthing for a needle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel!
Half a pound of tuppeny rice
Half a pound of treacle
Mix it up and make it nice
Pop goes the weasel!

Some people play this with the A and B parts reversed, but they probably think they’re playing it correctly, and that the people playing it correctly are playing it reversed, and who’s to tell them otherwise?

Gerry Harrington plays A Ha’penny for a Cotton Ball

Bryan O’Leary and Colm Guilfoyle play it, too

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Hickey’s #1

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/3702/

One of two reels Denis Murphy is said (by Johnny O’Leary in his tune book) to have learned from a Cork fiddler named Hickey while they were both in America. However, Paddy Cronin at one time maintained that it was in Pádraig O’Keeffe’s repertoire previously. Another fact, possibly unrelated, is that there was a Hickey’s dance hall in Gneeveguilla. This reel is in O’Neill’s 1850 as The Old Pensioner.

Paddy Cronin plays Hickey’s

Denis Murphy plays Hickey’s

Danny O’Mahony and Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh play Hickey’s

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Hickey’s #2

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1741/

See notes to #1. Of the two, this one is more popular throughout the rest of Ireland, going by The Ballinamore Reel in addition to many other names. It’s in Martin Mulvihill’s collection by that name, sourced from a Bronx musician, which lends some credence to the New York connection.

Paudie and Aoife play the other Hickey’s

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Jack Keane’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/4354/

Jack Keane was a box player from the Newmarket area, but this is also called Quinn’s, possibly after Sean Quinn.


Photo of Jack Keane courtesy of the World Fiddle Day Scartaglin website

Jack “The Lighthouse” plays Keane’s, or Quinn’s

Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly play Keane’s

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Jackson’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/6147/

There are countless tunes in the Irish tradition called Jackson’s; some named after the 18th century Limerick piper Walker Jackson, some named for a Monaghan musician, some perhaps unrelated to either. It’s unclear which of these categories fits this reel, but Julia Clifford played it, and that’s good enough for us.

Julia and Billy play Jackson’s (which they attribute to Paddy Cronin)

Paudie and Aoife give us a gorgeous rendition

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Jim Kennedy’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/807/

A great favorite of Pádraig O’Keeffe and Denis Murphy. This is an old reel, related to The Hare’s Paw, and in O’Neill’s book as Jim Kennedy’s Favorite, named for his source, a Leitrim fiddler.

Pádraig O’Keeffe plays Kennedy’s

Denis Murphy plays Kennedy’s

Paudie and Aoife play Kennedy’s

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Johnny When You Die

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1195/

From The Star Above the Garter and a favorite of Jackie Daly’s. The title comes from a tune ditty:

Johnny, when you die, will you leave to me your fiddle-o?
Johnny, when you die, will you leave to me your bow?
Only if you say that you love me dearly,
only if you say that to me you will be true!

A member of a very popular family of tunes, with variants played throughout Ireland, Scotland, and North America. In Sliabh Luachra, it is almost always played with Anything for John Joe.

Connie O’Connell gives us a classic rendering of Johnny When you Die and it’s perennial partner

Matt and Jackie give us their version

Timmy O’Connor plays an interesting setting

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Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrel

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1050/

A very popular tune throughout Ireland, but this particular six-part setting is especially linked to Sliabh Luachra, being from the playing of Pádriag O’Keeffe and likely crafted by him.

Denis Murphy plays Kiss the Maid

Connie O’Connell, a devoted scholar of Pádraig’s music, plays it for us

Paudie O’Connor and John O’Brien give us a great version on pipes and box

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The Knocknaboul

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/7314/

A less-common tune from the playing of Denis Murphy. Knocknaboul Cross would be where anyone from the Kerry side of the Blackwater would turn on their way to Ballydesmond. A number of slides and polkas share the name.

Denis plays the Knocknaboul reel.

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Mickey Rattley’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/3787/

Often played with Ha’penny for a Cotton Ball, this is also associated with Paddy Cronin, though again I’m unable to track down a recording of him playing it. This one is in O’Neill’s Waifs and Strays, but comes from the repertoire of Jeremiah Breen of North Kerry. It seems to be distantly related to The Morning Star. Attempts to identify the eponymous Mr. Rattley have so far been fruitless.

Connie O’Connell, Áine O’Connell, and Francis O’Connor play Mickey Rattley’s at a live concert in honor of Paddy Cronin

The Monks of the Screw play Rattley’s

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The Millstream

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/6010/

This setting of the tune is likely to be the work of Paddy Cronin. It appears in O’Neill’s in a very different form, but Paddy seems to have made his mark on it, as he was wont to do.

Taken from an appearance on the TV show The Pure Drop, Paddy Cronin works his magic on The Millstream.

Bryan and Colm put a cool twist on the B part in their version

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The Mountcollins

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/5597/

A reel from Denis Murphy’s playing, this one hasn’t really taken off yet in popularity, but its day will come. Mountcollins is a town in West Limerick just upon the Cork border a short distance from Newmarket.

Denis rips through the Mountcollins reel like a hot knife through Kerry butter!

Matt and Jackie give us a slightly different setting

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Now She’s Purring

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/266/

When the music was flowing and he felt “in the zone”, Pádraig O’Keeffe was wont to say of his fiddle, “Now She’s Purrring!” Denis Murphy may have been responsible for applying the catchphrase as the title to this tune.

Con Curtin and the gang called it Callaghan’s on the Paddy in the Smoke album

Jackie Daly and Seamus Creagh had a blast with this one.

Gerry and Billy named their duo album after the reel!

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The Pope’s Toe

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1606/

From the playing of Denis Murphy, it is closely related to Lucky in Love. Con Fada Ó Drisceoil has written a delightful song expanding on the premise.

Denis Murphy plays The Pope’s Toe

Jackie Daly must have loved this reel so much that he doubled the parts on his solo album

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The Pride of Rathmore

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1614/

For more info see the post here.

Maestro Jerry McCarthy gives a rousing rendition of The Pride of Rathmore

From their wonderful album The Housekeepers, Sarah Flynn (concertina) and Doireann Glackin (fiddle) play the Pride of Rathmore.

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The Purring Girls of the Village

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/72/

A reel popular in other parts of Ireland as Anderson’s. There is a similar reel in the Goodman collection with an alternate title of The Purring Village Ladies , and it’s also closely related to The Ceangulla Polka aka Salmon Tails Up the Water. A fun, impossible-to-solve puzzle is which came first, and how or when they entered the Sliabh Luachra tradition.

Denis Murphy plays The Purring Girls of the Village

Paddy Cronin puts his own spin on it

Bryan O’Leary and Colm Guilfoyle play it on their album

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Quinn’s

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1629/

Séan Quinn was a flute layer from Cordal, a minute’s walk from Pádraig O’Keeffe’s house, and is known to have given a number of tunes to Pádraig. Confusingly, Denis Murphy sometimes called this one Quill’s?!

Pádraig plays the reel he got from his neighbor Séan Quinn

Denis Murphy plays the reel he got from Pádraig

Jerry McCarthy plays the reel he might’ve got from Denis

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The Rising Sun

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1678/

This one might be more of a B side than a hit single, but Jackie Daly recorded this with The Pope’s Toe on his highly influential first solo LP. There are a number of tunes closely related played throughout Ireland, but this setting is most beloved in Sliabh Luachra.

Gerry Harrington plays the Rising Sun; where does he play it? At Home.

Paudie O’Connor plays the Rising Sun

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The Road to Town

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1494/

Denis Murphy played this on an old radio program. It’s unclear where he got it; it doesn’t seem to be in any of O’Keeffe’s manuscripts, or any other tune collections.

Denis Murphy plays The Road to Town; pitch has been raised to aid learners

Paudie O’Connor and John O’Brien play The Road to Town

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The Scartaglin

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1919/

The second of the Tom Billy’s set on Star Above the Garter. On that record it is played single but elsewhere it is sometimes played double. Denis Murphy played a variation on the A part in the performance on his Music from Sliabh Luachra disc, which you could almost think of as a 3-part setting.

Denis plays the Scartaglin reel, or The New Post Office as it’s listed on his Blue Album. Keep an ear out for that repeated variation on the B part.

Gerry Harrington and Eoghan O’Sullivan play The Scartaglin (recorded in Eb but pitched down for learners)

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The Scolding Wife

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1730/

A favorite of the O’Keeffe crowd, this reel is notable for the fact that the B part is essentially just the A part played an octave higher! Just as often called the Clare Reel. Though in may seem odd for a Kerry tune to be called The Clare, one should considered that what is called The Limerick Road in Cork, is called The Cork Road in Limerick. Surely the same principle applies in this case.

Denis Murphy plays The Scolding Wife (pitch adjusted for learners)

Julia and Billy Clifford play The Scolding Wife, which they called The Clare Reel

Paudie and Aoife play The Scolding Wife (originally in Eb, but pitched down for learners)

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Seanbhean na gCartaí

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/121/

Played on The Star Above the Garter with The Scartaglen, but the pair of them are often just called Tom Billy’s reels, which may indicate they were both in his repertoire, or at least that Denis and Julia thought they were, and they should know! One of a small number of reels played with one A part and two B parts, which is something Denis Murphy in particular was known to do. The title could be translated as “Old Woman of the Cards” or maybe “Old Woman Carthy”. It appears in the hornpipes section of O’Neill’s book where it’s called The Banks of the Ilen; the Ilen (pronounced EYE-len) is a river in West Cork. It also appears in earlier collections, including Goodman, under other names.

Connie O’Connell plays Seanbhean na gCartaí

The West Limerick flute player Paddy Taylor gives us a great setting of Seanbhean na gCartaí from his album The Boy in the Gap (available for free download here)

Paddy Taylor

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The Templeglantine

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/4342/

Denis Murphy gave this reel to Breandán Breathnach for his tune collection. It shares some DNA with the better-known Maids of Mitchelstown. Templeglantine is a town in West Limerick.

Denis plays the Templglantine reel

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The Womans of the Houses

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/2082/
https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1471/

Two tunes for the price of two! The first tune is the most common setting, what you’d tend to hear in any session around Ireland, though Pádraig O’Keeffe and his cohort certainly give it that distinctive Sliabh Luachra touch. (P.W. Joyce collected a version in Castlecomer, Kilkenny, in 1884, so it was around and about long before Michael Coleman recorded it and put it on the international hit parade.)

Denis Murphy plays the usual Woman of the House

The second is pretty different but undeniably closely related. Sometimes called The Old Woman of the House or the Mistress of the House or just O’Keeffe’s Woman of the House. O’Keeffe may have come up with this setting himself, or it may be an older version of the tune—it’s similar in a number of places to the Joyce setting. In any case, O’Keeffe played both of these, but Johnny O’Leary averred in his book that the second tune is what O’Keeffe taught his pupils. Unfortunately there’s no recording of O’Keeffe playing it.

Matt Cranitch plays O’Keeffe’s Woman of the House

Johnny O’Leary starts to play the regular old Woman, then thinks better of it and veers off into Pádraig’s Woman!

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