The suggestions relating to "birl" the piping ornament are probably more
plausible than my original, merely poetic interpretation: as a
corruption of "burl," the swirly grain in the root portion of a tree. I
took that image as a reference to the somewhat unusually twisty melody
of the second part of the tune, especially as it contrasts with the
You might look at Breathnach's transcription in Cuid 1, #195, if you
don't have one of the many recordings of this tune to listen to:
About the spelling of "beryl":
- 3 recordings call this tune only "Drowsy Maggie," presumably because
of the similarity of the 1st part of this tune with the 1st part of
Drowsy Maggie. A good example of why one should never rely on tune titles!
- Elizabeth Crotty's recording is labeled "Reel with the Beryl"
- The Chieftains called it "Reel with the Beryle"
- Micho Russell, even though his recording of it on his album "Limestone
Rock" is labeled "Drowsy Maggie," later recorded it (released on Wooden
Flute Obsession 1) as "Reel with the Birl in It"
- John Williams, known for his connections with Micho Russell, recorded
it as "Reel with the Birl"
- Martin Hayes recorded it as "Reel with the Burl" - maybe he and I
coincidentally share the same idea of the wood-grain "burl" metaphor?
And finally, coming full circle on this topic, Breathnach called it only
"Toss the Feathers" = "Craith na Cleiteacha" and his source was the
senior John Kelly.
Alan Ng, PhD . [log in to unmask] . http://www.alan-ng.net/
Madison, Wisconsin, USA