Big John McNeil reel

Also known as Big John MacNeil, Big John MacNeill, Big John McNeal, Big John McNeil’s, Big John McNeill’s, Big John McNiel, John MacNeil, John MacNeil’s, John Macneils, John McNeil’s, John McNeill’s, John Mcneils, Lord Ramsey, Lord Ramsey’s.

There are 46 recordings of a tune by this name.

A tune by this name has been recorded together with The Iron Man (a few times), Langstrom’s Pony (a few times), The Tap Room (a few times), The Inverness Gathering (a few times), The Mason’s Apron (a few times).

Big John McNeil has been added to 276 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Three settings

X: 1
T: Big John McNeil
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
A2|:A,2 CE FECE|AECE FECE|A,2 CE FECE|FAGF EDCB,|
A,2 CE FECE|AECE FECE|A,CB,D CEDF|1EGBd (3cBA A2:|2EGBd (3cBA cd||
|:eAfA eAcd|eAfA e2 (3agf|eAfA eAce|dece B2 cd|
eAfA eAcd|eAfA e2 fg|agfe fedc|1defg a2 cd:|2defg a2 A2||
ABC
X: 2
T: Big John McNeil
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
a | e>A A/A/A a>Ac<a | c/d/e =g>d B>GG>f |
e | a/g/f e>A a>Ac<a | =g/f/e d>G g>GB<g |
ABC
X: 3
T: Big John McNeil
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
G2|:G,2 B,D EDB,D|GDB,D EDB,D|G,2 B,D EDB,D|EGFE DCB,A,|
G,2 B,D EDB,D|GDB,D EDB,D|G,B,A,C B,DCE|1DFAc (3BAG G2:|2DFAc (3BAG Bc||
|:dGeG dGBc|dGeG d2 (3gfe|dGeG dGBd|cdBd A2 Bc|
dGeG dGBc|dGeG d2 ef|gfed edcB|1cdef g2 Bc:|2cdef g2 G2||
ABC

Twenty-eight comments

Big John McNeil

I couldn’t find this tune anywhere on The Session, and given its popularity in Canada, it seemed an amazing omission. Chris Ricker had the nicest arrangement that I could find, so I, um, adapted it from his site. Or "adopted" may be the better word.

I’ve seen the tune attributed to Trad, but I believe the author is Peter Milne, who called it simply "John O’Neill". However, I think the robust nature of the piece earns it the "Big".

This tune is of Scottish origin. I think Big John McNeil was one of the McNeils of Barra, in the Hebrides - the same family which brought us Brian McNeil of the Battlefield Band and the traditional Scots Gaelic singer, Flora McNeil.

Big John McNeil

I learnt this tune from one of my tutors,the famous lochilart fiddler, Angus Grant .Angus is very good friends with the famous Bert Murray from Aberdeen. Bert played this tune in a very good march,strathspey and reel set. First of all he played a pipe march called "The Stirlingshire Milita",then he played a strathspey called "A Gloomy Winter"(which is also played by Richard Wood) and then he finished of with Big John McNeill.

There’s actually a recording

Though this won’t be much help: There was a commercially available cassette made of the players who won or placed in the National Scottish Fiddle championship of (?year?). This tune is played by one of the performers in his set. Email me if you want and I’ll try to locate it.

Big John McNeil

De Danann recorded this under a wrong name on "The Mist Covered Mountain" LP. A setting was published in Tony "Sully" Sullivan’s first tune collection.

The tune works amazingly well on a fiddle tuned AEAE ("high bass" as they call it in Cape Breton), so well that I wonder whether this wasn’t the way it was initially played.

Recordings

there’s also a recording of this tune on the barachois CD, but it doesn’t come up on the list of recordings, because it’s in a set called "les deux johns"
Anders

Old-Timers

Many of the old-time fiddlers that I know play this after St. Anne’s Reel.

Composers, names

Peter Milne wrote it, and did so under the name "John McNeill’s Reel"

John McNeill’s Reel

John McNeill was a famous Highland dancer at the turn of the 20th century. The legendary piper Angus MacPherson competed against McNeil several times, and said of him, “Oh aye, he threw a fine leg!” Peter Milne (the composer of the tune)’s student and friend James Scott Skinner wrote another tune for McNeill:

X:407
T:John McNeill’s Highland Fling
C:James Scott Skinner
B:Harp & Claymore
Z:Nigel Gatherer
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:A
a | e>A A/A/A a>Ac<a | c/d/e =g>d B>GG>f |
e>A A/A/A a>Ac<a | c/d/e a>e c>AA :|
e | a/g/f e>A a>Ac<a | =g/f/e d>G g>GB<g |
a/g/f e>A a>Ae>d | c/d/e a>e c>AA>e |
(3agf (3edc (3agf (3edc | (3gfe (3dcB (3gfe d>f |
e>A A/A/A a>Ac<a | c/d/e a>e c>AA |]

Big John McNeill

Can anyone direct me to the sheet music or ABC of the version on Slide’s Harmonic Motion album?
Thanks

Re: Big John McNeill

Thanks, but it’s not the version I’m looking for.

Re: Big John McNeill

I’ve only ever heard the one version.

Re: Big John McNeill

Molaoch - Do you know of any Youtube clips of it, or somesuch like? (…the things we take for granted these days.)

There’s another version here http://www.thesession.org/tunes/1277 posted as Lord Ramsey. This is the version I’ve heard most often in Ireland, although usually in A, not in G as posted here.

NameChanges….
Thanks for your help. No, it’s not that Lord Ramsey one either. The only place I’ve heard the version I’m looking for is on the Slide album.

The American band Fiddle Fever do an amazing version of this tune, with the second part sliding down the keys.

"I think Big John McNeil was one of the McNeils of Barra, in the Hebrides - the same family which brought us Brian McNeil of the Battlefield Band and the traditional Scots Gaelic singer, Flora McNeil."

Not quite. It is as Nigel says. Brian McNeill (two ‘ls’) is a Falkirk man, not from Barra. Flora MacNeil has a daughter, Maggie MacInnes, who is a fine singer and harpist, and lives near Symington in Ayrshire.

Big John on You Tube

Nice version by Sierra Noble, Daibhí. She’s fast and clean, with spirit. Just learned this as John McNeil

Brian McNeill (two ‘ls’) is a Falkirk man

It would be unlikely that Brian McNeill’s family have been from Falkirk from the year dot. Is is equally unlikely that their surname would have been spelt in exactly the same way throughout the last several hundred years. There are a few branches of McNeils etc. ( see for instance the various spellings of the name even for this tune) but they don’t all come from Barra, some might be from Colonsay , for example.

"It would be unlikely that Brian McNeill’s family have been from Falkirk from the year dot"

Obviously not. However, it is patently obvious that "the family who brought us Flora McNeil" ain’t the same one who "brought us" Brian. The spelling would also suggest a link with the Argyll MacNeills - that would encompass the Colonsay MacNeills forby. The MacNeils of Barra wouldn’t have been there from the year dot, either. It is believed that they stem from Irish Ua Néills. Things get too convoluted to start making precise claims of lineage, though.

" see for instance the various spellings of the name even for this tune"

Aye, but John McNeill, the dancer, spelled his own name "McNeill". It is also believed that he was from the Gigha MacNeills - the Argyll mob. The various way tunes get spelled doesn’t always tally with the person they are dedicated to.

Posted by .

I would suggest that the title "Big John MacNeill" came about to distinguish this tune (with 8 bar parts) from Peter Milne’s original "John MacNeill’s Reel" (with 4 bar parts). I.e., it’s "John MacNeill’s" made bigger.