Roger Millington Publishing...

the web home of   Packie Manus Byrne








From the jigs section of A Dossan of Heather...

Showers of autumn

Listen to Showers of autumn and A dossan of heather from the companion CD ( .mp3 clip, 800K) Played by Jean & Steve (whistles)

"I was at a party in a hotel in Donegal a couple of months ago for a cousin of mine, she's ninety years. She's a Mrs Boyle. She was asking me if I remembered any of the old songs that were going around when we were young. She had ten brothers and they were all singers. She danced that night with her grandsons!

Now her brother was a great fiddler player, and that was one of his favourite tunes. He was Manus Gallagher and he went away to America in his young days, but before he went away he was a nice fiddle player, and his brother Peter was a good fiddle player. Probably I learned the tune from Manus Gallagher.

It's a very mild sort of a tune! It might be a Scottish tune, because a lot of the old folk in our area went to Scotland for the winter months, and they had no entertainment, except they brought their fiddles over with them, and they swapped tunes with the Scottish people. That might be one that came back from Scotland. I wouldn't think that Manus Gallagher went to Scotland, but his father did, and my father did."

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From the highlands section of A Dossan of Heather...

The forgotten highland

"That's an old one - from my cradle days I suppose maybe."

Listen to The forgotten highland and Unnamed highland from the companion CD ( .mp3 clip, 800K) played by Jean (flute), Steve (fiddle), Golo (guitar)

When we visited Packie Manus in 1994, he told us that he had stopped playing the whistle altogether. As a ruse to get him playing, Jean asked Packie to try a wooden whistle he had brought from Canada. Packie promptly played this beautiful tune, which we had not heard before.

"That has happened. People'll hand me a whistle and say, "Try that", and while you wait, I'll think of a tune that I hadn't thought of for maybe sixty years.

Names: I have no names for any highlands in fact, because we just got up and danced the thing, and we never bothered the names of the tunes at all. Nobody ever wrote down a tune, and where was the point in somebody writing it, nobody could read it so."

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From the reels section of A Dossan of Heather...

Packie learned this fascinating tune from his grand-uncle Big Pat Byrne. Here is the gist of the story that invariably accompanied Pat's playing of the tune:

One night, while Pat was on his way home from a wedding or ceili in the early hours of the morning, he took shelter from a sudden storm in an abandoned house. As his eyes adjusted to the dark interior, he realized that there was another man in the room. They began to converse and when Pat learned that the stranger was a fiddle player, he suggested they pass the time by playing tunes. The other man promptly played this unknown tune, which immediately mesmerised Pat. They played on, but the stranger mysteriously vanished as the first light of dawn appeared in the window. Pat, realizing the stranger was a ghost, named the tune.

"Pat played it that way, and every time he played it he told the story. Pat had a very good memory, he could tell the story exactly the same way, and maybe he would tell it two or three times for one evening.

The house in the story belonged to Rosie McHugh. She lived away on the hill facing Corkermore, and when she died in the house, it was supposed that there was a ghost there, some man... You know the way that people talked years ago: if a woman was carrying on with a man or vice versa, something bad was surely going to happen to them. It appears there was this fellow hanging around with Rosie, and nobody liked him because he was playing around with her. When she died there was a curse put on him and he became a ghost in Rosie's house. Do you know that Big Pat believed those stories."

Packie recorded this piece on The Half Door, an album that is well worth hunting out for his playing of this tune alone.

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From the airs section of A Dossan of Heather...

A song widely circulated in the old days

Listen to The Glen Finn lass from the companion CD ( .mp3 clip, 800K) played by Jean (whistle) and Joanne (harp)

The song Finn waterside appears as no. 240 in Songs of the People: the Sam Henry collection.1 We are grateful to John Moulden for providing us with the words.

As I roved out one evening, being in the summer time,
I heard a voice made me rejoice, to wait I did incline,
I overheard my own true love, so sweet as he did sing,
"Come down along Finn waterside," he made the woods to ring.

My parents thought all in my prime for to banish me away,
To dwell among the Indians and leave sweet Inver Bay,
But I'll let them know before I go, whatever may betide,
That I have a true love of my own, dwells nigh Finn waterside.

There is many a clever tall young man lives nigh Finn waterside,
But above them all, both great and small, I would rather be his bride,
I would rather hear my own true love sing in the month of May
Than all the herring fish or ling that swim round Inver Bay.

Farewell unto Finn waterside, where oftimes I have been,
Likewise unto sweet Inver Bay, adieu, you woods so green,
You lofty mountains I must cross, they do call Barnesmore,
Down by the rocks and yon rural well and along by the salt sea shore.

1. Songs of the People (ISBN 0 8203 1258 4): edited by Gale Huntington and Lani Herrman with contributions from John Moulden. University of Georgia Press.

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