The Butterfly slip jig

By Tommy Potts

Also known as Barney’s Goat, The Bug, The Butterfly Gig, Eitil Im, Fiona, Im Ag Eitilt, Kick The Peeler, The Red Admiral Butterfly, The Red Monarch Butterfly.

There are 124 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

The Butterfly appears in 4 other tune collections.

The Butterfly has been added to 461 tune sets.

The Butterfly has been added to 4,791 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Twelve settings

X: 1
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
|:B2E G2E F3|B2E G2E FED|B2E G2E F3|B2d d2B AFD:|
|:B2d e2f g3|B2d g2e dBA|B2d e2f g2a|b2a g2e dBA:|
|:B3 B2A G2A|B3 BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A|B2d g2e dBA:|
X: 2
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
|:B2 E G2 E F3|B2 E G2 E FF/G/A|B2 E G2 E F3|B2 d d2 B AFD:|
|:B2 d e2 f g2 d|B2 d g2 e dBA|B2 d dd/e/f g2 a|b2 a g2 e dBA:|
|:B3- B2 A G2 A|B3 B^AB dB=A|BcB B2 A G2 A|Bcd g2 e dB^A:|
X: 3
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
|:B3 G3 F3|B3 G3 E3|B3 G3 F3|B3 d3 F3:|
|:B3 e3 g3|B3 g3 A3|B3 e3 g3|b3 g3 A3:|
|:B3 B3 G3|B3 B3 d3|B3 B3 G3|B3 g3 A3:|
X: 4
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
|:B2 E G2 E FED|B2 E G2 E FGA|B2 E G2 E F3|B2 d- d2 B AFD:|
|:B2 c e2 f g3|B2 ^c g2 e dBA|B2 d e2 f g2 a|b2 a g2 e dBA:|
|:B3 B2 A G2 A|B3 B^AB dB=A|BcB B2 A G2 A|B2 d g2 e dBA:|
|:B2 c e2 f g2 c|BB/c/d g2 e dB^A|B2 c e2 f g3|baf gfe dB^A:|
|:B2 ^c e2 f g2 A|B2 ^c gec d2 A|B2 ^c e2 f g2 a|b2 a g2 e dBA:|
|:B2 d e2 f g3|B2 d g2 e dBA|B2 d e2 f g2 a|b3 ag/f/e dBA:|
|:*B3 e2 f g3|*B3 g2 e dBA|*B3 e2 f g3|b2 a g2 e dBA:|
X: 5
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:"Em"B2E G2E "D"F3|"Em"B2E G2E "D"FED|"Em"B2E G2E "D"F3|"G"B2d d2B "D"AFD:|
|:"Em"B2d e2f g3|B2d g2e "D"dBA|"Em"B2d e2f g2a|"G"b2a g2e "D"dBA:|
|:"Em"B3 B2A G2A|B3 BAB "D"dBA|"Em"B3 B2A G2A|"G"B2d g2e "D"dBA:|
# Added by Bryce .
X: 6
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
|:B2E G2E F3|B2E G2E FGA|B2E G2E F3|B2c d2B AFD:|
|:B2d e2f g3|B2d g2e dBA|B2d e2f g2a|b2a g2e dBA:|
|:B3 B2A G2A|B3 BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A|B2d g2e dBA:|
# Added by JACKB .
X: 7
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
|:"Em"B2E G2E "D"F3|"Em"B2E G2E "D"FED|"Em"B2E G2E "D"F3|"C"B2d d2B "D"AGA:|
|:"C"B2c e2f g3|"D/B"B2e g2e dBA|"Am"B2c e2f g2a|"C"b2a g2e "D"dBA:|
|:"Em"B3 B2A G2A|B3 BAB "D"dBA|"Em"B3 B2A "G"G2A|"C"B2e g2e "D"dBA:|
X: 8
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
"Em"B2 E G2 E "D"F2 A|"Cmaj7"B2 E G2 E "Bm7"FED|"Em"B2 E G2 E "D"F2 A|"G"B2 d d2 B "D"AFD:|
|:"Em"B2 c e2 f g3|"Cmaj7"B2 c g2 e "D"dBA|"Em"B2 c e2 f "Cmaj7"g2 a|"G"b2 a g2 e "D"dBA:|
|:"Em"B3 B2 A G2 A|BAB BAB "D"dBA|"Cmaj7"B3 B2 A G2 A|"G"B2 d g2 e "D"dBA:|
"_additional bar to end""Em"B2 E "Bm7"G2 E HF3||
# Added by Bazza .
X: 9
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
"Em" B2 E G2 E"D" F3|"Em" B2 E G2 E "D" FGA|"Em" B2 E G2 E"D" F3|"G" B2 ^c d2 B "D" AFD:|
"Em" B2 c e2 f g3|"G" B2 c g2 e "D" dBA|"Em" B2 c e2 f g2 a|b2 a g2 e "D" dBA|
"Em" B2 c e2 f g3|"G" BAB g2 e "D" dBA|"Em" B2 c e2 f g2 a|"G"bag "D"agf "C"gfe||
"Em" B3 B2 A"G" G2 A|"Em" B3 BAB "D" dBA|"Em" B3 B2 A"G" G2 A|"Em" B2 d g2 e "D" dBA:|
X: 10
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
[M:15/8]|:B2E G2E F3 B2E FED|B2E G2E F3 BdB AFD:|
|:B2d e2f g3 B2e dBA|B2d e2f g2a bge dBA:|
|:B3 B2A G2A BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A g2e dBA:|
X: 11
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
B,2E G2A|"Em"^A2B A2=A G3"Bm7"B,3D3|"Em"E3E3E3 "Bm7"FG/FE/D3|
"Em"E3E3E3 "Bm7"DE/DB,/ A,3|"Em"B,3B,3B,3 "Bm7"B,2E G2A||
"Em"^A2B A2=A G3"Bm7"B,3D3|"Em"E3E3E3 "Bm7"DE/DB,/ A,3|
"Em"B,3B,3B,3 "Bm7"FG/FE/D3|"Em"E3E3E3z6||
"Cmaj7"e2g z2e c3 "Am7"A2B c2^c|"Bm7"d2fz2d B3 "Em7"G2A ^A2B|
"Am7"c2e z2c A3 "D7"F2G A2^A|"Gmaj7"B2^A B2c d3 d2^cd2^d|
"Cmaj7"e2g z2e c3 "Am7"A2B c2^c|"Bm7"d2fz2d B3 "Em7"G2A ^A2B|
"Am7"c2e z2c A3 "D7"F2A d2c|"C#m7b5"B3B3B3 "B7b5"B,2E G2A||
z6|B2E G2E F3 B2E FED|B2E G2E F3 BdB AFD|
B2d e2f g3 B2e dBA|B2d e2f g2a bge dBA|
B2d e2f g3 B2e dBA|B2d e2f g2a bge dBA||
B3 B2A G2A BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A g2e dBA|
B3 B2A G2A BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A g2e dBA|
B3 B2A G2A BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A g2e dBA|
B3 B2A G2A BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A g2e dBA||
X: 12
T: The Butterfly
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Emin
|:B2E G2E F3|B2E G2E FED|B2E G2E F3|B2d d2B AFD:|
|:B2c e2f g3|B2c g2e dBA|B2c e2f g2a|b2a g2e dBA:|
|:B3 B2A G2A|B3 BAB dBA|B3 B2A G2A|B2d g2e dBA:|

Ninety-seven comments

This tune has something trance-like about and is quite often played many, many times over so it’s a good idea to throw in some variation to avoid monotony.

This is one of the few Irish tunes that can be played in rounds. Just like “Row, row, row your boat” 🙂 You’ll only be able to do this when you’re not playing on your own, of course, but try playing one part behind or ahead of everybody else i.e. if everybody else is playing the first part, play the second or third, and when everybody else is playing the second part, play the third or first.

Here’s a tip from Stuart Hall for variation in the second part:
play the D, the second note in part 2, as C-natural. More jazzy!


I must say: This tune is my favourite and everytime I hear it I can’t help my mind from making up new steps and my feet from doing them. Being an Irish dancer I’ve heard this tunes being play by various musicians in various ways and one way I love is the way Merv and Mike do it!

Isn’t this a Tommy Potts tune? Or am I mistaken?


Sean Potts

I believe it’s by Sean Potts, the whistle player who was with the Chieftains. Tommy Potts is an older Fiddler (perhaps Sean’s father?) who died in 1970, I think.

About the second part: I think it should definitely be c natural and not d. That is the way the Bothies play it. The studio version is on the 1975 album, by the way. And I think they are playing harpsichord on it to start the tune off. Cool.

The page in French that i posted above says Tommy:
“The Butterfly est une slip-jig

Tommy Potts

According to Fintan Vallely’s “Companion to Irish Traditional Music,” Mr. Potts was born in the Coombe, Dublin, in 1912. He died in 1988. He was known as an eclectic improvisational composer on fiddle, following a conscious choice on his part to “explore alternative routes in setting and key.” Word has it that Tommy would alter trad tunes so far that he found his music poorly suited for sessions and ensemble playing. He included influences from jazz and classical, and he is credited with having perhaps a deeper influence on IRTRAD today, through the playing of Martin Hayes, Joe Ryan, Paddy Canny, and Paddy O’Brien, than even Michael Coleman (I’m paraphrasing Vallely’s book here, so don’t go yelling at ME about Coleman’s influence–yes, I mean you Brad 🙂 ).

So if Potts was indeed the Butterfly’s composer, he’d probably wonder why people would debate c natural vs. d or Bm chords vs Em. “Use ’em both,” he’d probably say. “Wonder what other notes/chords might work?”


Posted .

Tommy Potts

Yes, I do believe you’re right, Will - although he probably wouldn’t bother saying it, he’d probably just have laughed. 🙂


I can’t remember where I heard this, but the B and C parts are older than the A part, which was composed by Tommy Potts. The last 2 parts are also called Barney’s Goat. (or, at least that’s who fathered the current version we all know and love). It can be found in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection of Fiddle Tunes.

All those Potts

In the meantime I found out that Tommy Potts was Sean Potts’ uncle. Sean’s grandfather (and therefore Tommy’s father) was John Potts, a piper. And it was he who died in 1970. 🙂

Tommy Potts -Travelling Folk

Go to the Links Section and look for my Radio Scotland link -press the “listen again” button and you’ll hear in amongst the rest of the programme some tracks off Tommy Potts “Claddagh” album.I coudn’t believe the speed he plays “the Butterfly” - I always thought that this tune be played slower but knowing the history of the tune better than I do ……………..

The Butterfly

Most folk in sessions seem to play this tune slowly, but we use FAST it for the Belmont Sword Dance (Longsword - NE England) and it storms along.


Great recording of this tune in the first Bothy band album.

Only partly by Tommy - ?

It’s my understanding that only the “A” section is fully by Tommy Potts. The “B” and “C” sections are (or are at least were based on) a traditional slip jig called Bill Groggin’s Goat.
I think a good set is to play two or three rounds of Bill Groggin’s Goat and on the last repeat of the “B” section play the “C” section of the Butterfly instead; and then finish off with remainder of the Butterfly.

Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke also plays it wonderfully on his live concert album…very lively, I like it! 🙂


The Red Admiral Butterfly

I played this tune on flute at my senior recital at a conservatory of music! Man was my professor pissed, but then they actually said they liked it! LOL I played it with a bodran player too! I really like the rendition by the Cheiftans with James Galway. (“James Galway and the Cheiftans in Ireland”)

Kevin Burke

I agree, BluFiddle. I love the way Kevin plays Butterfly on In Concert.


Differing melodies and Butterflies

I watched John Sayles’s “The Secret of Roan Inish” last weekend and noticed that “Butterfly” was a featured tune in the movie, but some of the melody lines differed from what’s posted here on That made me curious, so I searched around the web and saw a number of different versions. None of this is surprising for folk music, but I throw out the following for comment.

Generally: Seems to me that trad music requires certain “important” notes to maintain the melody, while grace notes, transitions etc. can appropriately be changed. Where does one draw the line? Would it improve the piece to occasionally alter the melody drastically, or does that destroy rather than improve? The question is similar to another recent post re nontraditional instruments.

Specifically:’s “Butterfly,” B part, first three measures has a C natural. That sounds odd to me. I hear a D in my head rather than a C.

Re: Differing melodies and Butterflies

Are you sure you have got that the right way round?

Re: Differing melodies and Butterflies

As I see it, the session’s version has indeed “B2d e2f g3”, whereas I know it as “B2c e2f g3”. Maybe a slight hick-up in there?

Posted by .

Re: Differing melodies and Butterflies

The Butterfly is played both ways - with a d or a c nat in the B part. Depends on what mode you want to hear. The d comes across as G major noise, the c nat more as E minor noise. Either works, there are no set-in-stone rules on what notes constitute a given tune, though it helps to be aware of the various commonly played settings and how they differ if you want to launch into a tune at an unfamiliar session.

Posted .

Re: Differing melodies and Butterflies

This really has nothing to do with the question, but I have to say that I love the movie, “The Secret of Roan Inish”. It’s always good for a laugh to watch Jimmy speed around in his motor-powered cradle thing while the little girl screams, “Nae! Jimmy!”

Re: Differing melodies and Butterflies

I’ve got it the wrong way round – thesession has the d while ABC tune finder had it with a C nat. Sorry.

Re: Differing melodies and Butterflies

I used to do it with the d but then starting sticking the c in there as well. I must have heard someone else do it that way.

Bcd e2fg3

I do like how it sounds with just the c. Very haunting.

Posted by .


I learned this tune with the c, so maybe I should try the d once of twice…anyway, it’s one of my favorites too - got me to bully my parents into getting me a fiddle 🙂

Another recording

The Utah band, Fiddlesticks did a great recording of this song on their album “Time and again”. If you want to check it out.

Posted by .

Varation on 2nd Part

I’ve heard this played by Lissa Schneckenburger ( and on her version, I think on the repeat of the second part, the LAST measure with B A G E D B A (traditional), she played it: (all in eighth notes) B A G A G F# E D C… then into the third part. I think that it gives it a really cool alternative and transition into the last part. I really like it.

old hat

Posted .

With a H D

This tune is especially eerie-beautiful on the hammered dulcimer–I know, I know, most of you don’t like the H D in sessions, but if this piece is played solo, the ringing makes the stray notes clash in a beautiful way. And I’ve also played this moderately fast on the dulcimer too–a bit of a workout for the arms, but it sounded great with dulcimer and a lone djembe together.

Posted by .

Again…the piper is deprived of his deserved credit. This piece may have been derived from an English piece Bob and Joan perhaps, from O’Farrell’s publications. Perhaps recomposed by Tommy Potts.

The music from Roan Inish

I heard the song first on The Secret of Roan Inish. Years ago I was scouring the internet trying to find sheet music to the songs. Unfortunately, the song titles, as I had found them on as part of the soundtrack, were titled in relation to parts of the movie. For instance, butterfly was called Fiona.

There were several songs on there I wanted to find, but didn’t know the names. I wanted the lyrics to the songs from the movie. I got lucky there. I put up an Altan cd and found a song called An Mhaighdean Mhara which on the soundtrack is just called The Selke Song. So now I have the lyrics and translations in the liner notes.

As far as finding the name of butterfly, a session just started up in my town and we played it there. So I got the title from the other sessioners.

As far as the variation, I with the C natural. I’m curious to see how the session in my town is playing it.

Set Ideas

I’ve played this in a set with The Swallowtail, The Hungry Rock, or Dierdre’s Fancy. Only one of those, not all together.

Slip jig/Hop jig?

I think this is a hop rather than a slip jig, ie., the rhythm goes mostly crotchet-quaver rather than quaver-quaver-quaver, and the emphasis is on the first rather than the third beat. Cracking tune though.

Posted by .

C it be for me

I learned this with the c variation in the B part - haunting & Celtic sounding. very modal. playing it with the d var seems open, more empty almost bland. might be intersting to mix in the odd d in a c based version. would anyone notice among all the other miss’d notes I played (and played notes I miss)?

I love this tune. What others do folks like to combine it with?

Playing the D as a C-natural

I totally agree with playing a C-natural in the second part - I learned the tune this way and it sounds far better!

I’d heard the Butterfly was a Potts tune as well, but then I was browsing through Ceol Rince na hEireann Vol I the other day and I found two slip jigs; one (Bothar an gCloch) which has a first part almost identical to the Butterfly, and another (Oro, a Thaidhg, a Ghra) which has exactly the same two parts as the second and third parts as the Butterfly.

From my limited Irish translation skills, I think Breathnach says that the first tune has appeared in several forms in many collections since the 18th C. and is also a song. He says he got the second tune from a stray page from an American music book and it was also collected by Goodman, which would’ve been well before Tommy Potts’s time. It’s also a song popular in Kerry and Connemara.

Least I think that’s what it all says… my Irish isn’t great for translating such big words!

Coincidentally, that volume of CRE that the tunes are published in is dedicated to one Sean Potts (1871-1956) which I think maybe Tommy’s father (John Potts, moved to Dublin early 20th C.)… I’m sure someone can correct me on that!

Posted by .

Just as an addition to my previous comment there, I just noticed that Sean Potts (Tommy’s father, John?) is listed as a source for the two slip jigs above. However there’s nothing said about him composing them… with the songs and the fact that one of the tunes apparently appeared in the Goodman collection (though i’ve yet to find it in the Hugh Shields edited version of the collection - it’s a lot to get through!) I’d be inclined to say it’s just another of those associations which eventually ends with a tune being attributed to a musician.

But that’s just my reckoning! And I’m not sure why I’m bothered putting the time into checking it out after stumbling upon it by chance, I don’t even like the tune that much…. I’d say I only play it about once a year! ;)

Posted by .

I definitely like the C-variation better. It makes it that much more… emotional, which is why it’s my favorite tune to dance to.
I actually really don’t like the Kevin Burke version. He is absolutely amazing, true, but his version of the Butterfly isn’t danceable. Strike one! ;)

I first heard this played by Orison

I first heard this tune played by Orison, where they play it in three different tempos - slow at first then progressively faster (thought not speeding fast) - I fell in love with that version and I am so happy to find it on here. x)

I play this with a couple differences -

In the second and third measures of the B part and the fourth measure of the C part I play an E instead of the D on the first D in the measure.

In the last two notes of the A part, I play a G instead of the F# and then I go back up to the A instead of the D.

I think that’s how Mairead Nesbitt performs it in her album Raining Up.

You are twisted! It was worth hanging on for that last part. 😀

Flutter by

Whenever I hear this tune, I always think they should have named it the flutterby.

Getting out of Butterfly

Help ! When I play this, I go round and round enjoying the tune, but find it hard knowing how (or even where!) to end it, let alone how and where to ‘hup’ into another tune. Any suggestions, as my current efforts are producing a rather awkward and clumsy finish to the tune.

Butterfly video

pretty much so…

Mairead Nesbitt

This tune isn’t actually on Mairead’s Raining Up album… she HAS recorded it, but only with the Celtic Woman group. The Butterfly on her album is a different version… and I’m not quite sure what it is. 🙂

The recording of Tommy Potts on youtube of has this information:
From the liner notes by Seamus Ennis:
‘An aptly titled slip-jig, depicting the flutter and flying of the butterfly from bloom to bloom high and low played with masterly execution.’

I’ve been paying more attention to real butterflies since hearing that clip. The Potts version came as a bit of a surprise after what I’m used to but his flutter is much more realistic that the flounce that is often served up.

? Tommy Potts tune

i don’t think any one wrote this tune, cos i think it is coded in human dna - you just have to find it - and once you do you just can’t stop listening to it ( I first heard it on After hours by the Bothy Band and tha started me listening to irish and other trad music) you especially cannot stop playing it once learned it grabs you and doesnt let go

That note

have just tried it both ways on mandolin - it has to be c, i dont think this is just familiarity with the BB version, it just feels more exciting

C ~ ^c ~ d ~ it doesn’t end there & it don’t really matter

X: 4
T: Butterfly, The
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
R: slip jig
K: Emin
|: B2 E G2 E FED | B2 E G2 E FGA | B2 E G2 E F3 | B2 d- d2 B AFD :|
|: B2 c e2 f g3 | B2 ^c g2 e dBA | B2 d e2 f g2 a | b2 a g2 e dBA :|
|: B3 B2 A G2 A | B3 B^AB dB=A | BcB B2 A G2 A | B2 d g2 e dBA :|

& that B-part, for just starters ~

|: B2 c e2 f g2 c | BB/c/d g2 e dB^A | B2 c e2 f g3 | baf gfe dB^A :|

|: B2 ^c e2 f g2 A | B2 ^c gec d2 A | B2 ^c e2 f g2 a | b2 a g2 e dBA :|

|: B2 d e2 f g3 | B2 d g2 e dBA | B2 d e2 f g2 a | b3 ag/f/e dBA :|

The primary notes of the beats in question, the first of the first three bars, are the B, which hangs well being B2, but could also be the frame of the weaker point that allows for this choice, variations, or BcB / B^cB / BdB / BgB / BB/B/B / etc…

|: *B3 e2 f g3 | *B3 g2 e dBA | *B3 e2 f g3 | b2 a g2 e dBA :|

Music, especially something as alive as this, doesn’t perform well starched by unnecessary dogma…


At weak point it really doesn’t matter if one person plays d, another plays ^c, and someone else plays =c, or something else… The B still carries the beat and agreement… This is part of the fun of this music… It allows for a certain amount of individual quirkiness, even in session with others…

Any ideas for other tunes to play around this in a set?

I’m a beginner on the fiddle and am looking for ideas for a set I can play around this tune because I love it. Any ideas?

Old Harp Tune?

This is noted in Buntings as being one of the first tunes that a wire strung harper would learn. It is probably a fairly old tune, at least 1600s, if not before. It also may explain why it is in a lot of beginning and intermediate harp tutors. Ann Heyman includes it in her original primer for clarsach.

You sure…..?

Are you telling us that this setting - a 3-part slip-jig - as posted here is in Bunting’s Collection under the title “The Butterfly” ?

Posted by .

Am I sure???/


Sorry for the late reply. I had copy of Ann’s book, but it is now at my public library. Now that you have me doubting her reference, I will have to swing by and check it again. I believe she states that it is a tune that was used as a first tune for fledgling harpers back in Hempson’s day, and was considered a very old tune.

As a side note, there is an album note on Chieftain’s Six, track is Heddigan’s Fancy. Sean Potts is listed as saying he though the slip jig was the oldest rhythm in Irish music. So perhaps the rhythm, if not the tempo, was there before fiddle was used quite a bit in trad music?

Will try to get back soon.–Scott


Above Chieftain’s album should read, Chieftains Seven.



I do stand corrected. The Bunting tune is a two part tune in 6/8, so it is a different tune altogether. It was called the Butterfly, and was gathered by Bunting from Patrick Quin of County Armagh, who played at the 1792 Belfast Harp festival. It was indeed an early tune learned by student harpers.

No worries……

There’s been a lot of debate about the origins of “The Butterfly”. This was the first time I’d heard it suggested it was in the Bunting collection, so I was just curious. All the best, Scott, and thanks for taking the time to check it out.

Posted by .

History of this tune

This is related to the tune Bobbing Joan, or Bobbing John. See and search down for Boban John, or Bob and Joan. It appears in Playfords 1st ed 1651. It is very old, and has been used for some broadside ballads, including “My Dog and I”, see . It has many variants including “Pawkey Adam Glen ( scots 3/2), mistakenly put here as a waltz

There is a tune in the Dixon Ms that has both parts of Pawky Adam Glen in it’s 9 part variation set, called New way to Morpeth

Order of the parts

Listened to Pott’s recording from ‘The Liffey Banks’ a few times, seems like it goes AABBBBCCAABBBCCAA. Not sure if he meant to do four Bs the first time around and three the next, but that’s how I count. I could be wrong. The man has so much variation in his playing, it’s amazing. And he plays it fairly fast, too.

“The Butterfly” ~ in discussion

Accompaniment for the Butterfly
# Posted on October 12th 2001 by GoldenKeyboard

Discussion: Why? ~ How not to play “The Butterfly”
# Posted on July 30th 2008 by ceolachan

What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?
# Posted on April 1st 2009 by worthy

Online session on youtube (The Butterfly)

# Posted on May 22nd 2009 by -Abraxas

The worst tune in the world
# Posted on January 3rd 2012 by Jon Kiparsky

Worst version the “The Butterfly”
# Posted on February 12th 2012 by Worldfiddler

The Butterfly

When I first learned this tune (The Butterfly) back in 1968 in our weekly session in Comber, Co. Down I was told it was called ‘Late Home At Night’ but now I refer to it as The Butterfly as when you close your eyes and listen to it, it sounds like a butterfly tripping from flower to flower (me thinks: the New Year drinks must still be in the system) Anyway, beautiful tune for beginners to start with when learning.

’S Óró ’Taidhg, a Ghrá

Here are the lyrics for ’S Óró ’Taidhg, a Ghrá, sung by Navan to the tune of The Butterfly on their album Óran nan Tonn


Part A:
’S óró ’Thaidhg, a ghrá
’S óró ’Thaidhg, a chumainnín
’S óró ’Thaidhg, a Thaidgh
’S óró ’Thaidhg, a chumainnín

Part B:
D’éirigh Tadhg aréir;
chuaigh sé ag ‘fiach na ghiorsacha.
D’éirigh Máire ’na dhéigh,
is lean sí é sna bonnachaí

Part C:
Dá mbeadh babaí beag óg agam I gcionn
a bhliadhna – a ráithe – a bhliadhna,
cad a dheánfainn de díobháil
daidí do mo bhabaí beag!


Part A:
’S oro Tadhg, my love
’S oro Tadhg, my little darling
’S oro Tadhg, Tadhg
’S oro Tadhg, my little darling

Part B:
Tadhg got up last night;
he went chasing the girls.
Máire got up after him,
and she followed in his footsteps.

Part C:
If I had a tiny little baby about
a year old – 3 months – a year old,
what the devil would I do
about a father for my little baby!

Posted by .

Awesome Tune!!!

Hello! I really like the tune, and I just learned it. I didn’t know what tune to learn, I just knew that I wanted to learn one. I was looking at popular tunes, and I came across ‘The Butterfly’. I really liked butterflies, so I tried it out. I had thought it was a major tune, but when I saw a video of it on Youtube, I was very surprised, because a tune with a name like that just HAD to be major. Still! I like minor tunes more! and any ways, It is an awesome tune!


Try the B section with an A minor chord.

Re: The Butterfly

Aidriano that is definitely the best version of this tune I’ve ever heard! It’s played so often it got old to me but now I like it again in this version.

Thanks, Fr. Ryan G Duns is such a talent.

Re: The Butterfly

Nice job cheip! Thank you for sharing your playing. 🙂

I also really like what Fr Ryan does with Part A. Smooth as silk that one. I didn’t listen to everything here but this thread had me interested in what others have done with the tune.

I like the Butterfly and we’ve played it at a variety of tempos at session. We’ve settled on about the same as the above 2. (Not Tommy Potts. ;)) We usually go into Lisdoonvarna then Swallowtail, although I like to try new set combos. I find it keeps a tune you really like (but has been played to death) more inviting. But I agree with a few here… somehow I never get tired of this.

I did wind up looking at the “Worst Version” and “Worst Tune” threads. Between Jon K’s huge first rant on the one, and Jim’s rendition of a bad version on the other, well… I couldn’t drink my coffee for 10 minutes and my tummy hurts. Gotta love this site. :D

Interesting on all the history!

The Butterfly rocks!

I love this tune! I play these chords to accompany it: Em and D for part 1, Am and G for part 2, and G and D for part 3. I am intrigued by the fact that the tune is in a single key from start to finish and starts on B in every single bar, and yet the three parts have very different emotive expressions and different chord sets. For me, this tune shows how music can be simple and complex at the same time, and beautiful all the time 🙂

BTW, a link posted many years ago near the beginning of this thread is now broken - here is the updated link for Tommy Potts’ album “The Liffey Banks” at Claddagh Records:

Re: The Butterfly

I’d like some suggestions for chords to this tune.

The Butterfly, X:8

In response to a request for possible chords to accompany this tune … Here’s a suggestion.

Posted by .

Re: The Butterfly

Absolutely loved seeing Mairead Nesbitt play this in an extended version in Celtic Woman “Destiny” tour. Amazing.

The Butterfly, X:10

This version, which I call “Take 15/The Butterfly” matches the rhythm and chords of the jazz tune Take 5.

Originally I improvised it at a party when a guitarist was playing Take 5. Not till I went to write it out that I realized it was in 15/8 hence the name.

Re: The Butterfly

Well I would throw in “blue notes” but I decided to leave them out of the written version.

Re: The Butterfly

Sorry guys I tried your jazz style The Butterfly with dual parts and just cant recommend it. Even at 15/8 your notes are “TO FAR OUT THERE”. Certantly not traditional irish music and the sound of the two parts together hurts my ears.

Sorry, just my humble opinion

M. C.

Re: The Butterfly

Does anyone know if there is any geographical or chronological correlation between whether performers play the C natural or D in the B section?
For example, the C played in the West and D in the East or something along those lines?
I’d be interested to know because I am writing an essay about the variations of the melody.