A lively reel played sometimes in sessions in Bristol. We play this reel without repeats.
The transcription of this tune comes from O’Neill’s Dance Music of Ireland ("An Taoiseach Buinge" in Irish), so it is quite an old tune. I believe "Taoiseach" means "leader" and so perhaps could be applied to any rank from captain upwards.
Does anyone know who "Captain Byng" was? The only historical Byng I can find was an 18th c English admiral who was executed in 1757 for incompetence, "pour encourager les autres" as Voltaire put it. The Prime Minister of the day, the Duke of Newcastle, had apparently organised the court-martial, on capital charges, in order to distract attention from the failings of his administration. This caused quite a furore at the time, and since the Irish were under English rule at the time (and did not have a high regard for their rulers) the Byng affair would have been well-known and discussed in Ireland. But this is all mere speculation on my part, and I would welcome a definitive explanation from an expert.
If it’s in O’Neill’s and the title refers to a rank, then maybe Captain Byng was an officer in the Chicago police force.
Just a guess.
I had came across this tune as a Polka, unsure of the source of that, though. Strange how things twist and turn in the tradition…
Years ago in the Philadelphia area I heard this played as a polka into a reel, both the same tune. The polka is easy enough to imagine, and the reel was spun out a bit more Sligo style, like this:
d|~g3d BG (3Bcd|eaag fdef|~g3d BGGB|cAdc BGGf|
~g3d BG (3Bcd|eaag fdcA|Bdef ~g3e|dBAB GFGA||
|BGdG BGAB|cAeA cAAc|BGdG BGAB|cAdc BGGA|
BGdG BGAB|cAeA cedc|Bdef ~g3e|dBAB GABd||
I’ve had a browse through O’Neill and there are a few tunes with "Captain" in the title. This supports Jeremy’s hypothesis, rather than mine. Perhaps the good Capt. Francis O’Neill, having a few nameless tunes to hand, allocated them to deserving members of the Chicago Police Force.
Anyway, I am now a little wiser about some of the political and naval history of England in the 18th century.
N9YTY - Yes, I’ve heard this one played as a polka. A lot of the polkas played in Kerry and Cork seem to be adaptations of reels (or perhaps sometimes vice-versa). Polkas are more recent arrivals in Ireland than reels (correct me if I’m wrong), so presumably when there was a surge in their popularity, musicians recycled older tunes in order to increase their polka repertoires.
To my ear, this tune has a Scottish feel to it, so perhaps there is a Scottish connection in the title.
Definitely a Scottish feel to it. Nathaniel Gow feel even? :-)
By the way, this tune was written years before Chicago even became a city.
Was it called "Captain Byng" before Chicago became a city?
Ah! Perhaps that strengthens my hypothesis.
Well, I wasn’t around when Nathaniel Gow wrote it so I don’t think anyone could *prove* that he named it, but a) the tune doesn’t seem to go by any other name, and b) Gow tended to name his tunes, unlike e.g. Paddy Fahy, so you could probably assume that Gow named it "Captain Byng" when he wrote it. There was a poet whose name I forget who I think wrote a whole load of stuff slagging off Admiral Byng, and that poet was either from Perthshire or visited there or something. Gow was from Inver and might have come into contact with this poetry, but I’m not sure whether all the dates fit, and you’d have thought that he’d be known as "Admiral" and not "Captain". Maybe Captain Byng was someone completely different who was in the Royal Navy or something, and Gow knew him. Who knows? It’s quite intriguing though…
David Malloch/Mallet, and it wasn’t poetry at all, it was just a general published paper.
Bit of a long shot maybe…
"Taoiseach" in the Irish title of the tune may not necessarily distinguish between "captain" and "admiral", as I hinted above. It means "leader" which could include any high rank of authority, and an English naval captain in command of his ship in the 18th c had authority second only to that of God! Byng of course would have been a naval captain before he became an admiral. As you say, Dow, its intriguing. I wonder if we’re a step nearer the truth, but then I’m no sort of historian, amateur or otherwise.
I too have it as a Polka by Na Fili on Outlet album " Na fili 3". It follows Dalaigh’s polka.
Her’s a polka version
I learned this polka variation of the real by Nils Nolte (An Tor):
~g3 d | BG GA/B/ | (3cBA a>g | fd ef | ~g3 d | BG GA/B/ | (3cBA dF | ~G3 z :|
|: BG dG | BG GA/B/ | cA eA | cA A>c | BG dG | BG GA/B/ | (3cBA dF | ~G3 z :|
"real" meant reel, of course! Sorry.
I’m learning a pipe tune by the same name and it sounds very similar to this reel. I think is is a more "irish" version as the 2nd part of the pipe tune version is full of juxtapositions of C#s and G naturals (which I love) which give it a more "scottish" sound.
There is a (fairly recent) Scottish Country Dance devised by John W. Mitchell - a strathspey - for which he recommended the tune "Colonel Byng’s Favourite" by Niel Gow (1763-1831).
It seems that the tune was also known as "Captain Byng" and "An Taoiseac Buinge"
And the word "Taoiseach" currently means the Prime Minister in the Republic of Ireland. But the word may well have (had) other meanings over the years.
Re: Captain Byng / Bing Polka
https://thesession.org/tunes/8624 is the polka version
Re: Captain Byng
Dr Dow: "There was a poet whose name I forget who I think wrote a whole load of stuff slagging off Admiral Byng."
Possibly the English Admiral, John Byng, who was tried by court martial for failing to do his utmost against the French at the Battle of Minorca. He was found guilty and shot by firing squad on the quarterdeck of HMS Monarch whilst moored in the Solent.