Betty Black barndance

Also known as Bessy Black.

There are 5 recordings of this tune.

Betty Black has been added to 7 tunebooks.

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Nine settings

X: 1
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:F|GFED A2 d2|GFED [A,2A2] D2|GFED A2 d2|A2 D2 D3:|
|:g|fefg a2 A2|BABc d2- dg|fefg a2 A2|1 BABc d3:|2 BABc d2||
AF|:E2- EF G2 AG|FDFA dA F/E/D|E3 F GA AG|1 F2 D2 D2 FD:|2 F2 D2 D2||
B/c/d|:f4 f4|Adfd A/B/d fd|f4 f4|Acec d2 eg:|
|:f2 d2 dcBA|FAGB Aceg|f2 d2 dcBA|1 A2 D2 D2 eg:|2 A2 D2 D3||
|:A|defg agfe|faec dcBA|defg agfe|f/g/a ec d2- d:|
X: 2
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:F|GFED A2 d2|GFED [A,2A2] D2|GFED A2 d2|A2 D2 D3:|
|:g|fefg a2 A2|BABc d2 [D2g2]|fefg a2 A2|B2 c2 d3:|
[DF]|:E2- EF G2 [FA][EG]|FDFA dAFD|E2 EF G2 AG|F2 [D2d2] [D3d3]:|
|:g|f4 f4|Adfd Adf[dg]|f4 f3 f|Acec d3:|
|:g|f2 d2 dcBA|FAGB Aceg|f2 d2 dcB[Ad]|A2 D2 D3:|
|:A|defg agfe|faec dcBA|defg agfe|faec d3:|
X: 3
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmin
K: Bb Major
F|EDCB, F2 B2|EDCB, F,2 B,2|EDCB, F2 B2|F2 B,2 B,3 E|
EDCB, F2 B2|EDCB, F,2 B,2|EDCB, F2 B2|F2 B,2 B,3||
d|dcde f2 F2|GFGA B3 e|dcde f2 FB|GFGA B3 e|
dcde f2 FB|GFGA Bece|dcde f2 FB|GFGA B3||
G/A/B|d4 d3 F-|FBdB FBdB|d4 d3 F-|FAcA B/c/B ce|
d4 d3 F-|FBdB FBdB|d4 d3 F-|FAcA B2||
ce|d2 B2 BA A/G/F|DFEG FAce|d2 B2 BA A/G/F|F2 B,2 B,2 c/c/e|
d2 B2 BA A/G/F|DFEG FAce|d2 B2 BA A/G/F|F2 B,2 B,3||
F|Bcde fe e/d/c|dfcB BAGF|Bcde fedc|d/e/f cA B2 F/G/A|
Bcde fe e/d/c|dfcB BA A/G/F|Bcde fedc|dfcA B3||
X: 4
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A|GFED A2 d2|GFED A,2 D2|GFED A2 d2|A2 D2 D3 G|
GFED A2 d2|GFED A,2 D2|GFED A2 d2|A2 D2 D3||
f|fefg a2 A2|BABc d3 g|fefg a2 Ad|BABc d3 g|
fefg a2 Ad|BABc dgeg|fefg a2 Ad|BABc d3||
B/c/d|f4 f3 A-|Adfd Adfd|f4 f3 A-|Acec d/e/d eg|
f4 f3 A-|Adfd Adfd|f4 f3 A-|Acec d2||
eg|f2 d2 dc c/B/A|FAGB Aceg|f2 d2 dc c/B/A|A2 D2 D2 e/e/g|
f2 d2 dc c/B/A|FAGB Aceg|f2 d2 dc c/B/A|A2 D2 D3||
A|defg ag g/f/e|faed dcBA|defg agfe|f/g/a ec d2 A/B/c|
defg ag g/f/e|fgec dc c/B/A|defg agfe|faec d3||
X: 5
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:B/|c>BA>G B2 g2|c>BA>G A2 D2|c>BA>G B2 g2|A2 A2 G2- G3/2:|
K: D Major
d/|:f>ef>g a2 A2|B>AB>c d2 A2|f>ef>g a2 A2|B2 c2 d4:|
|:E2 E>F G>FE>D|F>EF>D d>AF>D|E2 E>F G>FE>F|D2 d2 d4:|
{e/}f4 f2- f>g|e2 A2 d2 e2|f4 f2- f>a|e2 A2 d2- d>e|
{e/}f4 f2- f>f|e>de>f e2 A2|f>ef>g a2 A2|B2 c2 d2||
|:a>g|f2 d2 d2 A>G|F>GA>F D2 a>g|f2 d2 d2 A>G|1 F>GA>F D2:|2 F>GA>F D2- D3/2||
g/|f>aa>^g a>=gf>f|g>fe>c d>cB>A|f<aa>^g a>=g f2|g>fe>c a2- a>g|
f>aa>^g a>=g f2|g<fe>c d>cB>A|f<aa>^g a>=gf>f|g>fe>c d2- d3/2||
X: 6
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:D/|G>FE>D F2 A2|G>FE>D A,2 D2|G>FE>D F2 A2|E2 A2 D2- D3/2:|
|:e/|f>ef>g a2 A2|B>AB>c d2 A2|f>ef>g a2 A2|B2 c2 d2- d3/2:|
|:A/|F4 F4|E2 E>F G>FE>D|F>GA>B A>GF>E|D2 d2 d2- d3/2:|
|:e/|f4 f2- f>f|g2 g2 f2- f>f|g2 g2 f2 f2|e2 e2 d2- d3/2:|
|:e/|f>ed>c d2 A2|F>AA>B A4|f>ed>c d2 A2|F>AA>F D2- D3/2:|
|:[e/g/]|f>ga>b a>gf>e|d>cd>e d>cB>A|f>ga>b a>gf>g|a2 A2 d2- d3/2:|
X: 7
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:GFED F2 A2|GFED [A,2A2] D2|GFED F2 A2|E2 A2 D4:|
|:fefg a2 A2|BABc d2 A2|fefg a2 A2|B2 c2 d4:|
|:F4 F4|E2 EF GFED|FGAB AGFE|D2 d2 d4:|
|:f4 f3 f|g2 g2 f3 f|g2 g2 f2 f2|e2 e2 d4:|
|:fedc d2 A2|FAAB A4|fedc d2 A2|FAAF D4:|
|:fgab agfe|dcde dcBA|fgab agfg|a2 A2 d4:|
X: 8
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A2|:GFED A2 d2|GFED A,2 D2|GFED A2 d2|1 A,2 D2 D2 F2:|2 A,2 D2 D2||
g2|:fefg a2 A2|BABc d2 D2|fefg a2 A2|1 BABc d2- dg|2 BABc d4||
|:EFEF G2 FE|FDFA dAFD|EFEF G2 FE|1 D2 d2 d3 D:|2 D2 d2 d2||
g2|:f4 f4|Adfd edfd|f4 f4|Acec d2 dg:|
|:f2 d2 dcBA|FAGB Aceg|f2 d2 dcBA|1 A,2 D2 D2 g2:|2 A,2 D2 D2||
c2|:defg agfe|f/g/a ec dcBA|defg agfe|1 f/g/a ec d3 c:|2 f/g/a ec d4||
X: 9
T: Betty Black
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:F|GFED A2 d2|GFED A,2 D2|GFED A2 d2|A,2 D2 D2:|
|:g2|fefg a2 A2|BABc d2 D2|fefg a2 A2|BABc d2:|
|:dD|EFEF G2 FE|FDFA dAFD|EFEF G2 FE|1 D2 d2 d2:|2 D2 d2-||
|:dd|f4 f4|Adfd edfd|f4 f4|Adec d2:|
|:dg|f2 d2 dcBA|FAGB Aceg|f2 d2 dcBA|A,2 D2 D2:|
|:c2|defg agfe|(3fga ec dcBA|defg agfe|(3fga ec d2:|

Twenty comments

“Betty/Bessy Black” R: Country Dance for four couples - circle/square

This first transcription is taken in the rough from the playing of two musicians from County Armagh, Dermot Rafferty on flute and Seamus Sands on fiddle… Both have produced recordings that include this tune and othes from they’re home ground, and both are recommended. Also highly recommended is the following book:

“Handed Down: Country Fiddling and Dancing in East and Central Down”

by Nigel Boullier
Ulster Historical Foundation, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-908448-51-4
pages 92 & 113 ~ two other transcriptions for “Betty/Bessie Black”

If your interests are sparked I highly and especially recommend Boullier’s book. It’s a joy, a work of passion and care that includes photos, bios, tune & dance transcriptions, and history.

Impressive! Inspirational! Brilliant!

Hardbound & 528 pages, a hefty book you could knock someone out with, and packed full, priceless…

X: 2 “Betty/Bessy Black” ~ R: country dance

A simplified transcription with a few minor options. I also have other recordings of the tune and may add further transcriptions of those.

I’m also hoping there may be others out there that may have versions of this tune, or, even information about the dance that went with it, something I’m also chasing and may add later. I have my own notes for it but those that have danced it are no longer with us, as far as I know. The last time I’d heard it had ever been danced was in the 50s. It was a simple body/figure dance similar to “The Sweets of May”, both also sharing a choice of figures. I would love to find an early printed version for the dance but so far no luck. I have had a number of responses from others but it has always been about another dance, “Betty Black”, the wrong time signature and tune, and the wrong dance formation, being longways. The dance was for four couples in a circle/square. It was also a dance that had a clapping pattern for part of the body. There were quite a few ‘country dances’ current in Ireland, but the animosity of The Gaelic League, and the banning of such dances, including the sets of quadrilles, meant that in collecting and reviving many of these dances were overlooked and lost to history. This also happed with tunes and tune forms, some purposefully choosing to ignore what didn’t agree with their preconceived notions of what was ‘Irish’, usually with little basis in fact/history. A lot of fiction still sticks to many stories. I personally believe that what a group of people take to their hearts, their feet, their fingers, their bows, is theirs and I have a high respect for their hearts, within ‘reason’… 😀 (whose reason?)

Re: Betty Black

Good man.“c” - one of my favourite ever flute tunes. Regularly played at Aberdeen sessions, by me and another occasional contributer here. Causes huge confusion when I actually invite any bodhran players - even plural - to play along 🙂

More tunes from Ulster to follow…

Just a little whacked out, no news there, but the following is telling:
“this tune and othes from they’re home ground” ~ intending to type ~ ‘this tune and others from their home ground’… Late nights and a few niggling worries, and a flute that seems to have been misplaced. 😏 Wish me luck!

Re: Betty Black

I’m very pleased to see you round and about mr c. Your tunes have given me much delight over the years. I wish several things for you and luck is the least of them.

Notes: 13. Betty Black (Dance)

This dance was once popular in South Armagh and was played by my uncle Hugh (Savage). Hugh’s wife Marita kept the tradition alive by organizing house-sessions in Drumboney and continues to play in her eighties having passed the music on to her children and grand-children. ~ Dermot Rafferty, flute

CD - “Dermot Rafferty with Emily Rafferty & Seamus Sands: The Green Bunch of Joy” - 2013

X: 5 “Betty Black” ~ going back in time, 1952 & Hugh Savage

The following is a careful transcription of the bow of Hugh Savage, his take on this country dance tune. From what I know of it my suspicions are that it belongs to the family of cotillon/cotillions, and I’m still hoping to find out more, including from past acquaintances who have been more involved in the subject of early dance and its music…

FolkTrax-372 The McCusker Brothers & Hugh Savage:
Dance Music from South Armagh - - - 1952

18. ) Hugh Savage ~ “Betty Black”

X: 6 “Bessie Black”

“Handed Down: Country Fiddling and Dancing in East and Central Down”
by Nigel Boullier - see full entries for this book above

This transcript, after some thought, is based on two similar takes on this tune recorded in Nigel Boullier’s book, pages 92 & 113, the first a rough handwritten notation by fiddler Willie McCloy, pages 90 - 92, the second a transcription made from the fiddling of Willie Savage (the younger), pages 111 - 137, which includes a slew of other transcriptions of tunes from his repertoire. This book really is a gem, more, a bulging treasure chest of information and inspiration… All it’s missing are accompanying reocordings. Let’s hope that’s a possiblity for the future, more likely if more of us support this work with purchase. You won’t be disappointed.

One change I’ve given this is to notate it with the swing, taking Hugh Savage as my reason for this. Too often swing is taken for granted and notations are made straight, without it, as was common with a lot of collections in North America, in particlar with hornpipes and related tunes such as schottisches and barndances, etc… I’ve also chosen to give it with consistent lead-in notes for each of its six parts. As one example - |: D/ |\ - - - D2- D3/ :|

I’ll follow this with a straight transcript sans the lead-ins…

Notes: 13. Bessy Black (figure dance)

X: 3 & 4 ~ CD: “Seamus Sands: Across Bridges”

A six-part dance tune, and also known as Betty Black, once common in Down and Armagh but no longer widely played. Not the typical rhythm of session tunes and I sometimes think the tune has a baroque feel to it, especially when played at a lower pitch, and I play it on a fiddle tuned down two tones (Bb). This version comes from my flute-player friend Dermot Rafferty and was recorded by his uncle Hugh Savage in 1952. ~ Seamus Sands

X: 8 “Betty Black”

S: “The Sweets of May/Aoibhneas na Bealtaine: The Céilí Band Era, Music & Dance of South Armagh”
CD#2, track 16 (39) “Betty Black”

39. ) - 16. ) barndance: Fainne Cairde:
fiddles - Betty Molloy; Shauna Hughes; Martina & Niall Murphy; Sinead, Orla & Ursula Savage; Nicola Byrne; & Josephine Keegan
piano - Kathleen Gavin

“Fainne Cairde” - CD 2 - “Music Today: solo players, groups & singers” 16. ) “Betty Black”

Fainne Cairde / Circle of Friends (tracks 16 & 19) ~ “- predominantly a group of fiddle players who play with piano or guitar accompaniment, and sometimes both. They came together back in 2000 to take part in a double CD published locally. They practiced weekly in the Stray Leaf in Mullaghbawn, learning new tunes and seeking out the best of old ones. The fiddle players number about ten at present and on this recording occassion are pleased to have the services of a guest accompanist, Kathleen Gavin.”
~ an excerpt from the notes for the CD as found in the book, page 19…

I did search online but so far without luck, hoping that “Fainne Cairde” are still going strong…

X: 9 “Betty Black” ~ a bit of promised history: The Luke Donnellan Manuscript

Oriel Arts
The Luke Donnellan Collection
The Collection / Music Manuscripts

“(Lúcas Ó Domhnalláin) was born in Armagh city in 1878 and was ordained a priest in 1902. He ministered in Eglish, County Tyrone, 1902-3 Dromintee, County Armagh, 1903-10 Creggan, County Armagh, 1910-37; Loughgall, County Armagh, 1937-52.”

- - - - - - - - -

“No. 88 ‘Betty Black’s’ is a quirky number, which has been categorised by some as a Barndance. County Down fiddler, Nigel Boullier includes a different version of the same tune more accurately as a figure dance called ‘Bessie Black’ in his collection ‘Handed Down’, fiddle music from central and east County Down. There are subtle differences in the two settings and the Donnellan setting is slightly more intricate, with more leaps across strings (if it was noted from a fiddler).” - fiddler Darren Mhag Aoidh

- - - - - - - - -

“The music notation of the following Donnellan tunes appear in facsimile in A Hidden Ulster, entitled ‘Oriel Songs and Dances’ this collection was notated by Luke Donnellan and published in the County Louth Archaeological Journal Vol. 2 No.2 1909 pp.142-48. Reels, Airs, Hornpipies etc are included and are in no particular order. Many of these pieces are written by him from his notebook of dance tunes which are now in the National Folklore Collection of UCD. Dublin.”

88. ) Betty Black

- - - - - - - - -

Current printed sources for the Donnellan manuscript:

“A Hidden Ulster: People, songs and traditions of Oriel” – Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, Four Courts Press
This contains a print/scan of the original manuscript, and much more of value…

& a recent published collection I have yet to see, so I can’t confirm the content:
“The Rose in the Gap: Dance Music of Oriel from the Donnellan Collection”, compiled and edited by fiddler Gerry O‘Connor (’Connor )
= ​176 pages; 288 melodies & analytical notes on each tune; ​cultural & historical background of Oriel; ​biography of Luke Donnellan; online audio recordings of each melody; alphabetical & numerical index of tunes; colour photos…

I would have suggested ordering the book direct, except that the site now seems to be out of reach, having tried repeatedly today to access it with four different browsers - - - being told that the site is dated!? & insecure!?

Here’s a very reliable source for the paperback edition Claddagh Records - for €34.00, estimated postage for England €9:

It sounds ideal, my sort of book, so if anyone is feeling generous towards me this Christmas, I so would love a copy. I did almost purchase the hardbound from Gerry’s website, which now seems inaccessible, but the postage cost caused me to delay. No doubt it’s more available in Ireland. If I do ever score a copy I’ll gladly return to sing any deserved praises… 😉

- x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x -

In the Donnellan transcription no repeats are shown, but that happens elsewhere in his transcriptions with tunes where the parts are normally and historically repeated, and there are other places where his transcriptions are incomplete, as in the triplet in the last bar. His final bar finishes the tune so:
~ | (3fga ec d2 d2 |]

Re: Betty Black

P.S. I am still desperately hoping to find my missing recordings from Armagh, made in the 1970s. If I do I will be posting that transcription too…

Sadly, over time, a few prized items have been ‘borrowed’ without our consent, and never returned, including from an open access library we kept at our friend Bill Martin’s house - books, recordings, manuscripts - wanting our many resources on music and dance to be available for other musicians and dancers who shared our passion for tradition. Gone missing, along with a box full of our LPs, includes two large books in French on Quebecois quadrilles, Simonne Voyer’s excellent work: “La Danse traditionnelle dans l‘est du Canada: Quadrilles et cotillons”, Les Presses de L’Université Laval, Quebéc, 1986 ~ and highly recommended… One was our own copy and the second was a gift from us to Bill. Some things even went missing while Bill was suffering his last few years with the cancer that eventually took him from us. No doubt, these two copies are floating around somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and are likely the only two, or two of very few to be found there… We can only hope that those things taken are being put to good use for the many rather than just the one who took them…