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 links for more information on each tune.

Slides are the other half of the polka equation, but it’s an uneven balance. In the Sliabh Luachra Set for example, slides are only two figures out of six. In a typical session of Sliabh Luchra musicians, though, slides usually hold their own. To make a very broad generalization about the style of playing, they are usually played briskly—not as fast as in West Kerry, but not as stately and jig-like as in West Limerick, for example. Rhythmically, they can be tricky—tap your foot on every three notes and they can morph into jigs, but tap half-time and they can veer into hornpipe territory! If you’re playing for dancers who know what they’re doing, they will put you on the right track.
In the course of creating this list, I get the sense that, of all the tune forms, slides are least attached to their names. That is to say, in Sliabh Luachra anyway, they are most likely to share names with other tunes, or to have multiple names. I think many Sliabh Luachra musicians could play a dozen slides in a row and not have a definite name for any of them. Interesting, considering they are such a trademark of the music!


Across the Road
Baile an tSamhraidh
Barrack Hill
The Bicycle
Bridgie Con Matt’s set
The Brosna set
Chase Me Charlie
An Chóisir
Con Carthy’s
Cúil Aodha
Danny Ab’s set
Denis Murphy’s set
Denis O’Keeffe’s
Gleanntánn Frolics/Ceannguilla
The Hair Fell Off My Coconut
I’d Rather Be Married Than Left Alone
If I Had a Wife
Is It the Priest You Want?
Jim Keeffe’s/The Clog
Johnny Mickey Barry’s/O’Keeffe’s
Johnny the Tailor’s Fancy
The Kaiser
Katie Scollard’s
The Kishkeam Lasses
Merrily Kiss the Quaker
Mick Mahony’s
The Peeler and the Goat
Rain a Sup
Rathawaun/Hare in the Corn
Scattery Island
She Didn’t Dance and Dance/The Whistling Thief
The Star Above the Garter/The Lisheen
The Weaver’s
Well I Know What Kitty Wants
Where Is the Cat?
The Worn Torn Petticoat

Across the Road

This is almost always called Paddy Cronin‘s; his 1949 recordings, including this tune, made a huge impression. Nowadays it’s usually played down in E minor but on his landmark recording he plays it up in A minor. That key would be ideal for doubling octaves on the fiddle, though he doesn’t do so on that recording. I’m not sure how it migrated down to the lower key. It’s sort of a streamlined version of The Peeler and the Goat.

Paddy Cronin

Paddy Cronin plays Across the Road in the key of A minor from his landmark 1949 radio recordings. The pitch has been adjusted slightly to assist learners.

Cormac Begley and Jack Talty play Across the Road in the more usual key of E minor, from their album Na Fir Bolg

Paudie and Noeleen O’Connor play Across the Road from the album The County Bounds. The setting is interesting: in starting with the D at the beginning of the opening phrase, the harmonic structure becomes more ambiguous.


Baile an tSamhraidh

Pretty much unnamed, but called thus by Denis Doody on his LP for a small townland a few miles south of Scartaglin, now called Summerhill or Ballintourig. I don’t know if he knew someone there or if there was a particular musical connection. Paudie O’Connor’s father was from there, and Paudie reports there was a popular dance hall there in the 30s and 40s, and previous to that an open-air platform. It was local fiddler Mary O’Sullivan’s father who opened the hall. She was an important local figure, a fiddle student of both Pádraig O’Keeffe and Tom Billy Murphy, who famously stood up to the local authorities and resisted the imposition of the 1935 Dance Halls Act. The story goes that the hall held a dance during Lent and was raided by the parish priest, but Mary defiantly refused to stop playing her fiddle!

Mary O’Sullivan and her husband Pat Danny

Jackie Daly plays Baile an tSamhraidh in the key of E dorian from his album Music from Sliabh Luachra Volume 6

Denis Doody plays Baile an tSamhraidh in the key of D dorian from his album Kerry Music. He is playing the same fingering as Jackie in the above clip but on a B/C instrument instead of C#/D, so the pitch is one step lower.


Barrack Hill

Adapted from an old pipe march, and also can be played in polka time as one of the Glin Cottage tunes. It’s unclear what place the tune is named after — under occupation, British army barracks dotted the landscape, and afterwards were sometimes repurposed as dance halls or for other community use. A scrap of a song goes with the tune:

The cat jumped into the mouse’s hole (x3)
And didn’t come down till morning.

Johnny O’Leary plays Barrack Hill on his album Dance Music From the Cork – Kerry Border

Paddy Cronin plays Barrack Hill from his landmark 1949 radio recordings. The pitch has been adjusted slightly to assist learners.

Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch play an interesting setting of Barrack Hill from their album Rolling On


The Bicycle

A unique slide, played and named by Johnny O’Leary for the 5th figure of the set which features a double house around which I suppose could suggest the wheels of a bicycle to a creative mind. When the dancers are feeling ambitious they may try to squeeze an extra revolution or two within the allotted time, and it seems Johnny enjoyed egging them on in that regard, to watch the accomplished dancers succeed triumphantly and the less adept fail hilariously. When Breandán Breathnach collected it from Johnny O’Leary, he noted that it was also played as a reel by Denis Murphy. The reel hardly gets played at all now, if ever, which is a shame. It sounds a bit like The Ashplant.

Denis Murphy tells a humorous anecdote about Pádraig O’Keeffe involving a bicycle

Bryan O’Leary and Colm Guilfoyle play The Bicycle from their album Where the Bog Is


Bridgie Con Matt’s set

Questionable if this really qualifies as a standard, well-known set, but maybe it should be. Recorded together by The Monks of the Screw. One of the Murphy siblings of Lisheen, Bridgie was a fine fiddler in her own right and played concertina as well. After marriage to Cornelius Kelliher, son of Matthew Kelliher, she was often known as Bridgie Con Matt. Sadly there are almost no recordings of her playing. She died in 1993 at the age of 99.

Bridgie with her sister Julia

The Monks of the Screw play Bridgie Con Matt’s slides from their album Brathar na nÓl

The Brosna set

Johnny O’Leary put the first three of these together in his book as being often played together, along with a note that the fourth can be added. Today the set is still a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Johnny associated them with Donal O’Connor of Brosna. They all go by many names individually, as well. The first can be called The Lonesome Road to Dingle, and Cuz Teahan had these words for it:

Are you the man that drives the train
From Annascaul to Castlemaine
Before that I’ll get in to blame
The lonesome road to Dingle.

There was a narrow gauge rail line from Dingle to Tralee from the 1890s to the 1950s. It was apparently infamous for being unsafe and inefficient. Jackie Daly also added a typically whimsical name, The Trip to the Jacks. Johnny O’Leary learned the second tune from Mick Duggan and called it the Scartaglen. The third has no one name that particularly sticks to it—it can be found in a manuscript of one of Tom Billy’s students. The last of the four is often called Nelly Mahony’s, after a musician from Quarry Cross.

A train pulls into Annascaul Station

A session with Johnny O’Leary plays the three “O.G.” Brosna slides


Chase Me Charlie

Related to the Cock of the North, a Scottish tune. There are various words that can go with it, mostly puerile. Feel free to Google them.

Pádraig, Julia, and Denis play Chase Me Charlie from the Kerry Fiddles album. Pitch has been adjusted to assist learners.


An Chóisir

The tune is just as often called the Toormore or Jack Regan’s; the Irish name comes from a well-known song that goes with it. Though the song is now known all over Ireland, the mention of Killarney suggest a local origin:

An Chóisir
Do ghluais an bathlach beag tóstalach,
Is poitín á fhreastal ar bhord aige,
A d’iarraidh leanna chun cóisire,
Chun iad a chuir ar na starraibh./
Ar a theacht abhaile trí Bhóthar Tuir,
is poitín á fhreastal ar chord aige
Do thit an canna ar a thóin ar lic
is siúd a chuid leanna le fána./
San di-dí didil-í di-dí dom
Sí di-dí didil-í di-dí dom
Sí di-dí didil-í di-dí dom
[is siúd a chuid leanna le fána. ] líne versa deireanach arís/
Do bhuail a bhosa go deorach dubh
is dúirt: “Táim creachta go deo leis sin”
Nuair a bhí a channa gan tóin aige,
‘S gan braon sa bhaile ach bláthach
Do bhuail a bhosa go cráite ansin,
is dúirt “”Táim creachta go brách le sin,
ar chuairt in aisce atáim anois,
Gan chlú, gan ainm, gan árthach.
Do bhí fuaim an asail mar cheol acu
is dríodar práisce á ól mar phuins,
rírá ag bacaigh le mórtais ann
is nach orthu “bhí an éirí in airde?”
Do bhí Síle Shalach mar chócaire ‘cu
Is feoil ghabhair ghleabaigh [bhradaigh] á róst’ ar bhior,
Go bhfaighfí boladh dreoite uirthi
ó bheith ina craiceann le ráithe.
Do ghluais an ghasra ar sheol go moch
Is ní raibh capall ná cóiste acu
Ach fotharaga chun pósa orthu
Is iad ag dul go Cill Airne.
Do bhuail an sagart sa ród iompú
Is dóibh do bheannaigh go córach glic
“Téig’ abhaile is tóg tigh
is cuirigí bhur gcapall ar stábla”
Go deimhin a athar ní cóir duit [duinn] sin
Is ní dóigh go nglacfainn led’ comhairle glic
Ach téanam cois balla ‘gus póirse linn
Is béarfaimid cnagaire lán duit.
Do bhuail ar fearg ‘s ba mhór a phluice
“Ní raghad cois balla ná póirse libh,
Ach faigh bhur gcaille’ ‘s bhur rogha fir
is pósfad ar bholg na sráid iad”

The Party
The little arrogant lout travelled,
And poteen attended on a table by him,
Requesting drink for a party,
To put them all stumbling about.
On his coming home by Tuir Road,
And poteen attended on a cord by him
The container fell on its bottom on a flagstone
And thus the drink went astray.
San di-dee diddle-ee di-dee dom
She di-dee diddle-ee di-dee dom
She di-dee diddle-ee di-dee dom
[And thus the ale went astray.] repeated last verse line
He beat his palms woefully dark
and said: “I am ruined eternally by that”
When the container without bottom he had,
And not a drop at home but buttermilk.
He beat his palms torturously then,
and said “I am ruined forever by that,
On a fruitless visit I am now,
Without fame, without name, without vessel.”
The sound of donkeys was the music they had
Sediments of the mess drunk as punch,
Uproar at the despicable boastful people
And aren’t they but “was it getting late?”
Dirty Sheila was the cook they had
And stolen goat’s meat being roasted on a spit,
That you’d get a rotten smell on her
which is in her skin for three months.
The group went off early like that
And they didn’t have a horse or coach
But they were in a fuss for marriage
And them going to Killarney.
The priest met them on the road
And them he greeted pleasantly and shrewdly
“Go home and build a house
And put your horses to stable”
In fact, Father, you [we] shouldn’t do that
And it’s not likely we’ll take your clever advice
But come beside a wall and a porch with us
And we’ll get a full quarter-pint for you.
The greatest anger came into his cheeks
“I’ll not go beside a wall or a porch with you,
But get your old hag and your choice man
and I will marry them at the bottom of the street.”

Gerry Harrington and Eoghan O’Sullivan

Gerry Harrington and Eoghan O’Sullivan play An Chóisir from their album Scéal Eile.  The recording was made on instruments tuned a half-tone higher than concert pitch, but has been adjusted down for ease of learning. 


Con Carthy’s

Johnny O’Leary named this for a local musician on whom we don’t have much information. He played the whistle and fiddle and was a family friend of the Cronins of Reaboy. According to Paddy Cronin, Con was responsible for Paddy getting a fiddle and arranging lessons from O’Keeffe. Paddy said he was from “Leam” which maybe refers to the nearby townland Leamyglissane.

Matt Cranitch plays Con Carthy’s on the CD which accompanies his book Irish Fiddle Tunes


Cúil Aodha

In Johnny O’Leary’s book, this is named after Connie Walsh, a neighbor of the Lisheen Murphys who played the fiddle for local dances but emigrated to America at some point. In Johnny’s memory, Connie had only a few tunes, including this one. The Chieftains recorded it as the Cúil Aodha, perhaps indicating they got it from Sean O’Riada.

Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich plays the Cúil Aodha from the album Music for the Sets Part 1. 


Danny Ab’s set

Denis and Julia got these tunes from their neighbor Danny “Ab” O’Keeffe. He was not a well-known musician in the area but seems to have been a source of tunes for other neighbors as well, such as Art O’Keeffe. He probably got much of his music through his family though he may also have been a student of Tom Billy’s for a time. The first tune in the set seems related to Chase Me Charlie. The second often goes by “O’Keeffe’s” which is sometimes incorrectly assumed to refer to Pádraig. The melody is closely related to the tune known as McNamara’s March/Hy Caisin, found in the Roche collection, which was probably a very old Munster clan march.

Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford play Danny Ab’s from The Star Above the Garter.


Denis Murphy’s set

OK, I’m not really sure this is an official “set”, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard these played together, and I want to make sure they both get on the list! The first one has gone by many names, and none of them have stuck particularly better than the others. The melody is maybe adapted from the Scottish song “The Muckin’ o’ Geordie’s Byre” which is also the air to the Sliabh Luachra song Trasna na dTonnta (Over the Waves). The melody probably came to Sliabh Luachra, like so many others, with British regimental pipe bands. It was recorded for radio broadcast by Paddy Cronin in 1949, and Pádraig O’Keeffe was recorded playing it in 1959. The second tune shares the same opening phrase, which quite often is a prompt to pair tunes into sets. It is often called Dawley’s Delight or the Scart Slide, which seems to suggest it came from the repertoire of Matt Daly, a fiddle player from Scartaglin from whom Pádraig O’Keeffe was known to source tunes. (Dawley would be a phonetic representation of the local pronunciation of the surname Dálaigh.)

Paddy Cronin plays the first Denis Murphy’s from his 1949 radio recordings (pitch has been adjusted to aid learning)

Denis Murphy plays the second eponymous slide from his Blue Album (pitch has been adjusted to aid learning)

In a exclusive recording, Eoghan O’Sullivan gives us his thoughtful and evocative rendition of the two Denis Murphy slides. Following his artistic muse, he has recorded them up a half-step from the usual key—learners beware!


Denis O’Keeffe’s

Named for Denis O’Keeffe, the seventh son of a seventh son from Rathmore, born in the 1900s or 10s, and a well-regarded single-row box player. He played for dances in his heyday, in Ballyvourney and elsewhere. Interviewed by Máire O’Keeffe in the 90s, he remembered, “We’ll go back as far as 1930 we played at Ballyvourney for all night dances at the time… really and truly the long dance we used to start at about nine or half past nine and play until six in the morning… twenty-five shillings a man we used to get… I was the only young fella that had five shillings in my pocket always on account of them things.” Because he played in a slightly different area and with different musicians than the Gneeveguilla crowd, he had many tunes that were deemed “unusual” by them. He would have been outside of Pádraig O’Keeffe’s jurisdiction, as it were, and therefore his style and repertoire not influenced by Pádraig’s teaching. He also played a distinctive instrument: a 1932 Globe Gold Medal Professional Deluxe 6-voice melodeon, which his brothers brought back to him from America. According to Johnny O’Leary, O’Keeffe called this tune “Forget Your Troubles.” In West Kerry this is an extremely popular tune, though played a little differently from the Sliabh Luachra setting.

Denis O’Keeffe with Sliabh Luachra historian and fellow accordionist Dan Herlihy

Denis O’Keeffe plays his eponymous slide, courtesy of the World Fiddle Day Scartaglin archives. He seems to be playing an instrument pitched in G, so the tune comes out pitched much lower than it’s usually played.

Jackie Daly and Máire O’Keeffe play Denis O’Keeffe’s from the album The County Bounds

Seamus Begley and Steve Cooney play the West Kerry setting of Denis O’Keeffe’s. Originally recorded a half-tone higher, the pitch has been adjusted to assist learning


Gleanntánn Frolics/ Ceannguilla

Pádraig O’Keeffe recorded these both together in 1949, and they have been recorded as a set subsequently by Seamus Creagh and Aidan Coffey and Connie O’Connell. Both titles seem to have been made up for recording or collection; the first to indicate a connection with Pádraig’s homeplace, and the second christened by Johnny O’Leary perhaps being the home of his source, one Andrew McCarthy who he remembered as building and playing fiddles out of boards.

Dan Jeremiah O’Connor and Ned O’Connor play the Gleanntánn Frolics set courtesy of the World Fiddle Day Scartaglin archives.

Louise and Michelle Mulcahy play the set from their album Notes From the Heart. Originally recorded on flat-pitched instruments, pitch has been adjusted for learning.


The Glountane

This one hasn’t got a strong connection to any one in particular of its many names. Johnny O’Leary called it Mick Mahony’s after his source, an accordion player from the locality who he remembers playing with Denis Murphy. Johnny Cronin gave it the whimsical name The Cat’s Rambles to the Child’s Saucepan.

Julia and Billy Clifford play the Glountane


The Hair Fell Off My Coconut

A very old Scottish tune, most notably used in the Jacobite song The Hundred Pipers, but the melody probably predates those words. A more prosaic set of lyrics go as follows:

The hair fell off my coconut,
The hair fell off my coconut,
The hair fell off my coconut,
And how do you like it baldy?

There is a full song in Irish along the same lines written by Pádraig Ua Maoileoin of West Kerry, but I’m not sure if the song grew out of the English doggerel or the other way around.

Johnny O’Leary plays The Hair Fell Off My Coconut from his album Dance Music From the Cork – Kerry Border


I’d Rather Be Married Than Left Alone

The title suggests there were once words, but I haven’t been able to track them down. The melody can be found in collections from England and Scotland dating to the 19th century and earlier. The repeated notes in the alternating bars make it a great tune to play for dancers as it mirrors the rhythm of the footwork very closely.

Eoghan O’Sullivan, Gerry Harrington, and Paul DeGrae play I’d Rather Be Married from their album The Smoky Chimney


If I Had a Wife

We still have the words that go with this title:

If I had a wife, the plague of my life,
I’ll tell you what I would do;
I’d buy her a boat and set her afloat,
And paddle my own canoe.


Paudie O’Connor and Aoife Ní Chaoimh play If I Had a Wife from their album Didn’t She Dance and Dance. Pitch has been adjusted to aid learning.


Is It the Priest You Want?

Johnny O’Leary says this came from Din Tarrant‘s repertoire. It can also be found in O’Neill’s and Ryan’s collections, as well as Bunting’s collection, sourced in Co. Mayo in 1792, so it was already pretty old and widespread by the time Johnny got ahold of it. The whimsical title hints at words that may have been attached at some point. Most “straight” traddies know if from the Bothy Band recording.

Bryan O’Leary and Colm Guilfoyle play Is It the Priest You Want? from their album Where the Bog Is


Jim Keeffe’s/The Clog

Jackie Daly recorded these together on his first solo album and they’ve been stuck together ever since. He named the first after his mentor Jim O’Keeffe, also presumably his source for the tune. Jim was a student of Pádraig O’Keeffe’s, so he could have got the tune from him, but it’s notable that it wasn’t recorded by Pádraig or any of his other students. That would seem to suggest it’s native to the Cork side of things. The designation “clog” doesn’t seem to be tied to any particular time signature, but rather suggests it goes with a solo hard-shoe dance. Jackie has words for it that he remembered from his grandmother:

He wasn’t the man I thought he was,
He wasn’t a man at all;
And when I found the man he was,
I banged him against the wall.

Jackie Daly plays the Clog set on his classic album Music From Sliabh Luachra Volume 6. On this track he plays the concertina, and the tunes are in the keys of C and G

More recently he plays the same tunes the other way round with his partner in slides, Matt Cranitch. Here both tunes are played in the key of D.


Johnny Mickey Barry’s/O’Keeffe’s

A standout track from Jackie Daly and Seamus Creagh’s landmark album, these will forever be linked and let no man put them asunder. Jackie had them both from his neighbor Johnny Mickey Barry. The second tune in particular is distinctive—as Jackie says, “it goes all over the place!”

Johnnie Mickey Barry

Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch play Johnny Mickey Barry’s set from a performance at The Cobblestone, courtesy of


Johnny the Tailor’s Fancy

Johnny O’Leary recorded this with The Hare in the Corn as the Quarry Cross slides, but the Hare being already spoken for in this list, this one will have to go it alone. When separated from its partner it is named for John “The Tailor” Brosnan, an influential figure who founded and drummed for the O’Rahilly Ceili Band in the 40s, whose other members included Jerry McCarthy, Willie Reidy, Timmy Spillane, Dan Cronin, and Maida McQuinn. The quarry crossroads in question is a major intersection in the townland of Knocknageeha just north of Gneeveguilla and a number of musicians were from there. It was also the site of the infamous Moving Bog disaster of 1896.

John “The Tailor” Brosnan, courtesy of World Fiddle Day Scartaglin

Billy Clifford plays Johnny the Tailor’s Fancy from his album Echoes of Sliabh Luachra


The Kaiser

Also, and perhaps more often, known as Going to the Well for Water, but that name also applies to another slide. And calling it The Kaiser affords us the opportunity to talk about its namesake, a real character from the old days.

Pádraig O’Keeffe’s nearest neighbor, Thomas Murphy, was known locally as “The Kaysher”, though exactly how he got that nickname is unclear. The Kaiser was an entrepreneur; he organized house dances, raffles and other money-making stunts. His raffles were well known for the first prize always being won by somebody with an address in Sligo or Donegal. Having ‘borrowed’ a house with a kitchen big enough to accommodate the dancers, he would man the door himself to collect the admission fee, about 50p which would have been a substantial sum in 1940s rural Ireland. Had they been caught, he would most likely have been fined five shillings on being summoned for holding a house dance without a dance license; the other attendees would have been summoned for abetting and then released on probation, but not anyone’s idea of a good time. The musicians had free porter all night as their fee, and everyone else was charged sixpence a mug. Terry Teahan (who left for Chicago in 1928) wrote that the usual prize in a house dance raffle was a turkey or chicken; the musicians were often paid with a fowl. Maurice O’Keeffe said that the house dances, which finished around 1950, were called ‘Raffles’, because they were money raising ventures by people with big families to support. He said there were no pubs at that time because people had not the money to go in. Dan O’Connell said that most raffles took place towards the end of the year to raise enough money for Christmas. Maurice commented that when he was young a house dance might consist of the Reel o’ Skip (all reels), the High Cauled Cap (a special dance); and finally a polka set, because it was easy when people were tired.

Some memories of The Kaiser’s antics:

“The Kaiser lived directly across the road and occasionally called to Pádraig for a chat. One day I walked into the kitchen to find “The Kaiser” leaning on the back of a sugan chair, facing the door. Seated on another chair right behind him was Pádraig, and he apparently was sewing the seam of the Kaiser’s pants, which had parted. The Kaiser looked up to see who was coming and, in moving, disrupted Pádraig’s repair-work. Pádraig hit him a resounding slap on the backside and said “Ceartaigh!”. Ceartaigh is an Irish word, meaning “correct your position”, and was used by Gaelic speakers to straighten a cow that wasn’t standing correctly in her stall, and was obstructing the others.

“I remember a house dance the Kaiser organised in Culhane’s down at the bridge. The Kaiser was an entrepreneur before the word appeared in any dictionary. He was the “Noel C. Duggan” of Glountane, always coming up with raffles and stunts for making money. He had unusual prizes. I remember he put up a pony’s trap as first prize for one raffle. We all bought tickets and it never dawned on me to consider what would happen if I won the trap. I had no pony. I need not have worried. I was in no danger of winning it. Somebody with an address in Sligo or Donegal always won the top prize, and a few local people won the lesser prizes, a ten or a five-pound note here and there. This fact was not lost on the local people, but they didn’t mind. It was just a bit of craic and they took part just for the fun of it. The same trap showed up in several later raffles. The Northerners were remarkably lucky. They always won it.

“The biggest problem with the house dance was to get some houseowner to give his house for the night. It had to have a big enough kitchen to accommodate the dancers. There was also the question of damage to property, in case some of the dancers got carried away and accidentally broke some crockery, or the glass of the lamp. On the night, The Kaiser stood in the doorway and collected a half a crown from each person who went in. All the able-bodied men and women in Glountane showed up , including some old-timers who were a bit rusty in the joints, but still had a sparkle in the eye. Half a crown was a substantial sum in those days and I’m sure Jimmy Culhane got a percentage of the take for the use of his house.

“The Kaiser had organised a couple of half-tierces of stout which were located in a room off the kitchen – the kitchen table had been taken in there to make room, and it served as a bar. The musicians, one of whom was Pádraig, started up, and the sets got under way. The musicians had free porter for the night- that was probably their fee. The dancers went at it hammer and tongs. They were all great dancers, but I particularly remember Johnny “Silvey”, who was as good a dancer as he was an athlete, rising high above the crowd like Nijinsky and hammering the flags in great style when he came back down to earth. Above in the room, the old-timers, many of them athletes and dancers in their day, talked of times past and sipped mugs of The Kaiser’s porter at sixpence a mug. The dance went on all night and the following morning, as I made my craw sick way to school, I met one of the musicians, Denny Collins, on his way home. He had his melodeon tied to the bar of his bicycle. There seemed to be something wrong with the steering mechanism of his bike, but Denny didn’t notice. He had a far-away look in his eye, a smile on his face, and he was at peace with the world.

“Everybody agreed that The Kaiser’s house dance was an unqualified success.”

-from Dermot Hanafin’s book Pádraig O’Keeffe: The Man and His Music

The Kaiser’s house has since disappeared, just the outline of the foundation remains.

The Kaiser is played at a session in Browne’s Pub in Castleisland at a recent Patrick O’Keeffe festival

Julia Clifford plays her idiosyncratic setting of The Kaiser from the album The Humours of Lisheen


Katie Scollard’s

A very popular tune but everyone seems to have a slightly different setting. In his book, Cuz Teahan names it after his neighbor Katie Scollard who he recalls from his childhood as being a very fine concertina player. When he returned on a visit in the 70s she had given up playing altogether! The melody is a version of the Moneymusk fling which can be found in Scottish collections of the 18th century. It’s also very close to the Barrack Hill slide.

Terry “Cuz” Teahan plays his setting of Katie Scollard’s

Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch play their version of Katie Scollard’s from their album The Living Stream

The Monks of the Screw play a different setting of Katie Scollard’s from their album Bráithre an Óil



To give you an idea of this tune’s popularity, it appears twice on Pádraig O’Keeffe’s RTÉ album, and on every one of Johnny O’Leary’s albums! Sean O’Riada lifted one of the parts for his pastiche The Dingle Regatta which has caused all kinds of confusion since. The tune is quite old and well-traveled — versions can be found in manuscripts of quadrille music from the early 19th century. Johnny O’Leary called it after Kilcummin in his book with the comment that “most of the polkas and slides come from there, that’s the strange thing.” A number of O’Leary’s sources were from around there, anyway, including melodeon player Jack Sweeney, set dancer Mike Sullivan, and his longtime partner in crime Thadelo O’Sullivan.

Pádraig O’Keeffe plays the Kilcummin on the album The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master. Pitch has been adjusted slightly to aid learners.

Johnny O’Leary plays The Kilcummin on his album The Trooper


Kishkeam Lasses

This one is sure to cause confusion in a session ever since De Dannan pastiched it into their Kathleen Hehir’s. A good way to find out what kind of a session you’re in! The original dates at least back to the time of the Roche collection where it’s found as Rural Felicity. Breathnach sourced a setting from as far away as County Meath and commented that it was considered a quadrille tune, which indicates it’s pretty old. If you want to really mess with people, follow it with Le Tourbillon de la Vie.

Jimmy Doyle plays the Kishkeam Lasses from the album Traditional Music From the Kingdom of Kerry


Merrily Kiss the Quaker

Various settings are printed in a number of 18th century Irish, Scottish, and English collections of country dances. Today there is one setting considered to be the Sliabh Luachra setting and another which is more popular elsewhere; both start with similar A parts but then diverge tremendously in the B and C parts. Makes for fun times playing either of them in a session.

The Quaker’s wife sat down to bake, With all her bairns about her.
She made them all a sugar cake, And the miller he wants his mouter
Sugar and spice and all things nice, all things very good in it,
And then the Quaker sat down to play a tune upon the spinet.
Merrily danced the Quaker’s wife, And merrily danced the Quaker
Merrily danced the Quaker’s wife, And merrily danced the Quaker.

As Jackie Daly is wont to say: “They were all at it!”

It is sometimes followed by The Kilcummin, but maybe not often enough to call them a standard set.

Connie O’Connell, Jimmy Doyle, and Seamus MacMathuna play Merrily Kiss the Quaker from the album Ceol Go Maidin. This is the most usual version played in Sliabh Luachra

Pádriag O’Keeffe plays Merrily Kiss the Quaker in a recording that comes courtesy of World Fiddle Day Scartaglin. This setting is different from the previous in a few small ways. The pitch has been adjusted slightly to assist learners.

Tony MacMahon plays the setting of Merrily Kiss the Quaker heard more often outside of Sliabh Luachra. Pitch has been adjusted to aid learning.

Graham Guerin plays a North Kerry setting of Merrily Kiss the Quaker, courtesy of the North Kerry Traditional Music Archive


Mick Mahony’s

Another tune Johnny O’Leary got from Mick Mahony, brother of Nellie Mahony and brother-in-law of Pa Keane, both of whom also lent their names to other tunes. Also recorded as If I Had A Wife but the phrasing of the melody doesn’t seem to match well with those words.

Mick O’Mahony, courtesy of World Fiddle Day Scartaglin

Johnny O’Leary plays Mick Mahony’s from his album Music For the Set

Pádraig O’Keeffe plays Mick Mahony’s from The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master. Pitch has been adjusted to assist learners.



Pay close attention to the placement of the apostrophe on this one–Jackie Daly got it from the playing of fiddler Dan Jeremiah O’Connor of Knockeenahone and fiddle and box player Ned O’Connor of Mullen. The two often played together at sessions and dances around Scartaglin, but though they shared a name they were not related by blood. They were both students of Pádraig O’Keeffe, and indeed this tune can be found in his manuscripts.

Dan Jeremiah O’Connor and Ned O’Connor

Jackie Daly and Máire O’Keeffe play O’Connors’ from the album The County Bounds.


The Peeler and the Goat

This one comes straight from a song, and in fact, it’s one of the few cases where we still have all the words! They were composed by Tipperary poet Diarmid O Riain in 1830. He had been arrested for protesting the Tithe Acts decreed that year, and penned this bit of satire as a means of poetic revenge. Apparently it is based on a true story, if you can (or are willing to) believe that.

A Bansha Peeler went one night
On duty and patrolling O
And met a goat upon the road
And took her for a stroller O
With bayonet fixed he sallied forth
And caught her by the wizzen O
And then he swore a mighty oath
‘I’ll send you off to prison O’

‘Oh, mercy, sir’, the goat replied
‘Pray let me tell my story O
I am no Rogue, no Ribbon man
No Croppy, Whig, or Tory O
I’m guilty not of any crime
Of petty or high treason O
I’m sadly wanted at this time
This is the milking season O’

‘It is in vain for to complain
Or give your tongue such bridle O
You’re absent from your dwelling place
Disorderly and idle O
Your hoary locks will not prevail
Nor your sublime oration O
You’ll be transported by Peel’s Act
Upon my information O’

‘No penal law did I transgress
By deeds or combination O
I have no certain place to rest
No home or habitation O
But Bansha is my dwelling-place
Where I was bred and born O
Descended from an honest race
That’s all the trade I’ve learned O’

‘I will chastise your insolence
And violent behaviour O
Well bound to Cashel you’ll be sent
Where you will gain no favour O
The magistrates will all consent
To sign your condemnation O
From there to Cork you will be sent
For speedy transportation O’

‘This parish and this neighbourhood
Are peaceable and tranquil O
There’s no disturbance here, thank God
And long may it continue so.
I don’t regard your oath a pin
Or sign for my committal O
My jury will be gentlemen
And grant me my acquittal O’

‘The consequence be what it will
A peeler’s power, I’ll let you know
I’ll handcuff you, at all events
And march you off to Bridewell O
And sure, you rogue, you can’t deny
Before the judge or jury O
Intimidation with your horns
And threatening me with fury O’

‘I make no doubt but you are drunk
With whiskey, rum, or brandy O
Or you wouldn’t have such gallant spunk
To be so bold or manly O
You readily would let me pass
If I had money handy O
To treat you to a poiteen glass
It’s then I’d be the dandy O’

Connie O’Connell plays The Peeler and the Goat from the CD that accompanies his book Irish Fiddle Music from Counties Cork and Kerry


Rain a Sup

The name seems curious, but it probably refers to the small townland of Renasup, just a short walk up the road from Lisheen on the way to Glountane. This slide can be found by this name in Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra, but like many tunes, goes by other names as well: Bridgie the Weaver’s, The Barna, The Annablaha, The Kiskeam… and probably more besides.

Julia and Billy Clifford play the Rain a Sup slide from their album Ceol as Sliabh Luachra

John Brosnan and friends play Rain a Sup from his album The Cook in the Kitchen


Rathawaun/Hare in the Corn

The iconic opening track of The Star Above the Garter, it’d be hard to play the first without the second nowadays. They are sometimes considered jigs rather than slides, and they do seem to have traits of both types. There is no place called Rathawaun, but it is probably a corruption or mishearing of Rathduane, a small townland between Rathmore and Millstreet. This is a very old tune – a setting can be found in the Skene manuscripts of Scottish music arranged for the mandore (a small 5 course lute) from the early 1600s. The second tune shares its name with a host of other tunes. One might assume it’s a typical rural tableau along the lines of geese in bogs and ducks in oats, but a tune in a William Fitzgerald manuscript bears the name The Hair in the Corner which could maybe indicate there’s an entendre or two at work, or simply inspired by barber shop sweepings?

The Rathawaun set from The Star Above the Garter


Scattery Island

In Sliabh Luachra the more usual title for this tune is Going For Water, but that is very similar to Going to the Well for Water, another name for The Kaiser. (You can see why a better system is “the one that goes diddley dum, a diddley dum…”) To avoid confusion, let’s go with the name Scattery Island. The island itself sits at the mouth of the River Shannon between Clare and Kerry, and is emblematic of the cultural exchange between the two counties. The Irish name is Inis Cathaigh, which after anglicization and subsequent garbling became Scattery. Fiddler John Kelly used to spend time there with his grandmother’s family. Her remembered: “My grandmother had a lot of tunes that weren’t known in County Clare: polkas, slides, and single jigs. She told me that when she was a girl, boatloads of people from Kerry would put in to the island almost every Sunday in summer. Then there was a dance in the lighthouse. In this way the Scattery people picked up the Kerry music. From my grandfather and grandmother I learned quite a number of Kerry style tunes…later when I got to know Willie Clancy I played these tunes for him. He had never heard of them in his part of the county.” It seems likely that this tune was indeed sourced from musicians on the island, as it was played by Clare and Kerry musicians alike, but I have a hunch that it was John Kelly that first christened this tune Scattery Island. As might be expected of such a widespread tune, there are a dozen or so different settings to choose from. A version not much different from John Kelly’s appears in a collection of tunes from up in Ulster published in 1909 (though notated as a reel, strangely enough.)

Photo of Scattery Island courtesy of the outstanding website dedicated to the music of John Kelly,

John Kelly Sr. plays Scattery Island in the key of C

Johnny O’Leary and Donal O’Connor play Scattery Island from a performance at The Cobblestone courtesy of

Terry “Cuz” Teahan plays his distinctive setting of Scattery Island from the album Old Time Irish Music in America

The Four Star trio play an interesting version of Scattery Island


She Didn’t Dance and Dance/The Whistling Thief

Sometimes garbled as “Didn’t She…”, the title comes from the words of a very old and widely-known dandling song (like a lullaby but intended to entertain, rather than soothe). The words (as transcribed from the singing of Elizabeth Cronin of Muscraí) are:

Hups, a Sheáin, a bhráthair, fuair do mháthair bás
Ó, ní bhfuair, ní bhfuair do chuaigh sí suas an tsráid
Hups, a Sheáin, a bhráthair, fuair do mháthair bás
Ó, ní bhfuair in aon chor, chuaigh sí suas an tsráid
Cuc-a-neandí-neandí, cuc-a-neandí-ó
Cuc-a-neandí-neandí, cuc-a-neandí-ó
Cuc-a-neandí-neandí, cuc-a-neandí-ó
Portín Sheáin an tsíoda is iníon Philib an cheoil
He didn’t dance, dance, and he didn’t dance today,
He didn’t dance, dance, no, nor yesterday
He didn’t dance, dance, no, nor yesterday
Throw him up, up, throw him up high
Throw him up, up, and he’ll come down by and by
Throw him up, up, and he’ll come down by and by
Throw him over, over, throw him over sea
Throw him over, over, he’ll be here today
Throw him over, over, throw him over sea
Throw him over, over, he’ll be here for tea

The song is in 9/8, so I’m guessing local musicians adapted the well-known melody into slide-time to suit their purposes. Julia Clifford, Johnny O’Leary, and Matt Cranitch all follow with the next one. Confusingly, there is a song about the whistling thief but it’s sung to the other tune! This one is also similar to the Clare tune Mind Yourself Of the Turkeycock Or the Turkeycock Will Bite You!

Julia Clifford plays the air Ó Raghallaigh’s Grave, then these two slides

Bryan O’Leary and Colm Guilfoyle play the Dance and Dance set from a performance at The Cobblestone, courtesy of


The Star Above the Garter/The Lisheen

The closing track of the landmark LP that put Sliabh Luachra on the map. The first is a very popular tune that is notable for its absence from Johnny O’Leary’s tune book. Maybe one of those tunes that’s so popular that nobody ever plays it! The whimsical title seems to be in homage to a Listowel pub called the Star & Garter that Denis used to frequent. In turn, the pub was named for the emblem of the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St Patrick, sort of the Irish equivalent to the Order of the Garter in England.

Insignia of the Knights of St. Patrick

The Star & Garter pub in Listowel

The second tune closes the album out, featuring beautiful octave doubling. I suspect Denis and Julia didn’t have a name for it before they were required to come up with one for the album sleeve. A version can be found in O’Neill’s 1001 with a third part as Jackson’s Frieze Coat, and a similar tune is in Breathnach’s fifth book.

The Star Above the Garter set from The Star Above the Garter



Not much to say about this little tune except that it’s a good one and that Johnny O’Leary got it from Thadelo Sullivan.

The Four Star Trio play Thadelo’s slide from their album Magnetic South


The Weaver’s

A very popular tune, even known to outsiders, probably stemming from The Chieftains 1973 recording. The Weaver, to the members of The Chieftains, would be Denis Murphy, not his father Bill as we might expect. By most accounts, the Murphys were no longer in the business of weaving flax linen even by Bill’s day, but in fact there are some written accounts of him providing a set of bedlinens to newlywed couples in the area.

A description of flax weaving in Kerry, from [click image to view larger]

Julia Clifford plays The Weaver from The Humours of Lisheen


Well I Know What Kitty Wants

This goes by lots of names and has lent itself to many songs but Denis Doody had it under the Kitty title. An old setting is found in the Joyce collection called The Yellow Horse. In fact, nearly a dozen old tunes go by that title, but its significance seems to have been lost. This melody leads a double life as the polka Maggie in the Woods. The words that inspired both titles are along these lines:

If I had Maggie in the woods (3x)
I’d roll her in my arms.
Well I know what Maggie wants (3x)
To keep her belly warm!

Denis Doody plays Well I Know What Kitty Wants from his album Kerry Music


Where Is the Cat?

Where’s the cat, he’s fine and fat,
Wallop the cat from under the table.

Also goes by Taidhgín an Asail‘s, for the travelling fiddle master of that taught Tom Billy Murphy. It must be a pretty old tune if he was playing it.

Johnny O’Leary (photo by Jill Freedman) and Julia Clifford (photo courtesy of I Looked East). Both seem to have been cat people! 

Julia Clifford and Seamus MacMathuna play Where Is the Cat?

Jackie Daly plays Where Is the Cat in the key of A from his album Music From Sliabh Luachra Volume 6

An elaborate setting is found in a turn-of-the-century collection of music from the Ulster cultural region known as Oriel. Check out this performance by fiddler Darren Mac Aoidh


The Worn Torn Petticoat

I have a hunch there must be words to this one but I haven’t been able to track them down. The melody has been known to stray from slide to reel in some places.

Pádraig O’Keeffe plays The Worn Torn Petticoat from The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master. (Listen to how he playfully sharpens those Cs and Gs for effect!)

Paudie and Noeleen O’Connor and Joe Sullivan play The Worn Torn Petticoat from Paudie’s album Different State


2 thoughts on “The Top 40 Sliabh Luachra Slides

  1. This site is an astonishing resource which I’ve only just discovered. Thanks for all the careful work that has gone in to this – it’s lovely to find new (old) recordings of some tunes, and a whole host of tunes to learn or relearn. I do hope you get to airs section, as there are some I would love to see indexed (e.g. Lament for O Donnell). Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

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