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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 
Droney there.

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 
a mystery.

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).


Philippe Varlet
Hard-to-find imported Irish CDs
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