At 08:02 AM 6/23/2009 -0400, Don Meade wrote:
>Thanks Alan, but a 1949 recording date does not make it impossible for
>Chris Droney, who would have been 23 or 24 at the time, to have composed
>the "Bellharbour Reel" that is on The Flowing Tide (i.e., your no. 635).
>Many composers are at their most prolific at that age (Martin Mulhaire
>would be a good example).
As some of you may know, Chris Droney's 1975 Topic album "The Flowing Tide"
was recently re-released on CD, with six additional tracks, and the
original sleeve notes, as part of the "Clare Set" 6-CD box set.
"The Bellharbour Reel" (# 635 in Alan Ng's index, and the one I have known
under that title for as long as I have been playing this music) is the very
first tune on the album. Interestingly enough, the tune is mentioned in
Neil Wayne's original notes, but not to acknowledge Droney's authorship.
Rather, it says: [Droney's style] can be an intense, driving style--notably
on reels like "The Bellharbour" (his father's favourite) [...]"
Also of interest is the fact that Alan's other tune, # 3018, is also on
that album (track 4, # 2) as "Chris Droney's Favourite," and played in A
Dorian, therefore in the *same tonality* and under the *same title* as the
printed versions in Martin Mulvihill's book and in Bulmer-Sharpley Vol. 4.
Alan, I submit that this should be the title used for the tune in your
index. By the way, this particular tune is not included in Stephen
Jardine's thesis, "The Bellharbour Reel" is the only tune credited to Chris
Coming back to the "Bellharbour Reel" (# 635), Stephen Jardine writes that
Chris Droney (born 1925) started composing at about 30 years of age (ca
1955). According to my index, the first recordings of the tune are:
- Martin Mulhaire, on a Dublin 78 (late 1950s?), as "O'Brien's Reel"
- the Leitrim Ceili Band, Dublin LP ca 1960, as "The Rough Road"
- the Assaroe Ceili Band, on Avoca LP (ca 1965?), as "O'Brien's"
- Tom Cawley, private recording reproduced on "The Coleman Archive Vol. 1,"
date in question, as "Doocastle"
Martin Mulhaire came to the US with the Tulla Ceili Band in 1958. The
famous LPs released on the Dublin label (Canny-Hayes, Kilfenora, Tulla)
were made around that time, and I am pretty certain that, although the
medium was on its last leg in the US, the 78s were made then too.
Stephen Jardine mentions that Chris Droney was playing with the Bellharbour
Ceili Band in the 1950s and 1960s and that "The Bellharbour Reel" was
played by the band. So the presence of the tune on other ceili band
recordings from that period may be significant--the assumption being that
someone from another band would have heard the tune from Chris and his
band, possibly at a competition.
Now, Alan Ng dates the Tom Cawley recording from 1949, but that date
doesn't appear anywhere on "The Coleman Archives Vol. 1." The notes only
say the recording was made privately in the US in the 1940s, a very
suspicious wording which makes me think that most likely there was no
precise record of when the recording was made, and the source could have as
well said the 1950s... Considering the history and availability of the
technology to make such recordings, the later date is in fact more
probable. Curiously, though, my information is that Tom Cawley, who
recorded some 78s in the 1920s, passed away in 1945, but I'm not certain
that the date is correct.
In my mind, the most likely scenario is that Droney did compose the tune in
the mid 1950s, the tune started circulating in Co. Clare thanks to the
ceili band, and was picked up by Martin Mulhaire who thought it might be a
Paddy O'Brien tune. Incidentally, Paddy O'Brien played with several ceili
bands, including the Tulla (1949-1952) and the New York (1954-1962), during
that same period, and may have been the one who picked it up and whom
Mulhaire heard play the tune. But the Tom Cawley recording remains a bit of
So here's my two... well, more like five cents, to add to the general
confusion. I'll be curious to see if more solid, actual facts come to light.
P.S.: I think it has been mentioned before that there is a Paddy O'Brien
composition called "Newtown Bridge," but it's a double jig (see the CD by
that title recorded by Paddy's daughter, fiddle player Eileen O'Brien).
Hard-to-find imported Irish CDs
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