McShane’s Rambles jig

By Packie Manus Byrne

There are 3 recordings of this tune.

McShane's Rambles has been added to 8 tunebooks.

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Two settings

X: 1
T: McShane's Rambles
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ddor
X: 2
T: McShane's Rambles
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmix

Ten comments

McShane’s Rambles

I Found this on a Grey Larson instructional recording which lead me to the Lucy Farr version. Grey must have gotten it from her because it nearly identical. The harmony makes me think it’s a very old tune. The opening phrase has my ear thinking it’s in G Mix but then it ends on a d which makes me feel like I have to put it in D Dor. The B section sounds like it goes to A min or E Dor. For me, these tunes that have what I perceive as tonal ambiguity have a tendency to really grow on me as I learn them because what begins as confusion becomes new color that has a freshness about it. Maybe I’m just a bit whacky?
Anyway, I thought it should be availible on this great site - it is Lucy Farr after all. I would love to know more about this songs origins. If anyone has any facts or theories please chime in.

Re: McShane’s Rambles

The tune came from Packie Manus Byrne. Lucy Farr got it from their mutual friend, Sharon Creasey, who started the work of recording and collecting Packie’s tunes. Sharon later passed on her recorded material to me, which Jean Duval and I eventually published in 2001 as “A Dossan of Heather”. This tune and 84 others from Packie’s repertoire are in that collection.

Packie Manus always maintained that he got this tune from a traveller named Collins when he chanced upon the Collins family camped by the roadside as he was droving, probably in the late 1940s. The incident is described in his autobiography, Recollections of a Donegal Man. Just before his collection was published, however, Packie Manus finally admitted that he had fashioned the tune from the air of a song called McShane’s Rambles, which Mr Collins had played on melodeon or sung on that day.

More information about Packie Manus and his books, including A Dossan of Heather, can be found at

Re: McShane’s Rambles

Thank you Stiamh. I really didn’t expect such precise information. I did my own searches and came up with relatively nothing. I’ll try to find and acquire your sources.

Re: McShane’s Rambles

You’re welcome JW. I was surprised to see the tune only a few minutes after you had posted it. I’ll add Packie’s setting of the tune a bit later - there are a few differences.

Re: McShane’s Rambles

Stiamh - I have your book now and thank you for the work. I look forward to working with it and discovering the tunes.
The F#s are what what my ear wanted to hear (Lucy Farr and Grey Larson) but the F naturals made it sound old and exotic. According to your book, Lucy Farr lifted the tune from Packie. Did she make the decision to play the F naturals? Did Packie plays F naturals when he played it for her? It seems unlikely if he played it on his D whistle. Did she mis-remember it? I know ultimately it doesn’t matter but it is simply a curiosity of mine - what I call drift or tune drift. Usually it is futile to even try to understand but in cases like this you can examine where and when it changed and speculate how or why it happened. I’m going to study some Lucy Farr’s recordings and see if she had any tendencies to alter the 3rds of the the tune.
If you happen to have access to a recording of Packie playing this tune I’d be abliged if you could share it (I’ve looked for one of course). Thanks again for the help - this is really a lot of fun for me.

Re: McShane’s Rambles

Hi JW. No, Packie did not play F naturals, but F sharps. Lucy didn’t get the tune directly from Packie: she was given it by Sharon Creasey, who got it from Packie. And Sharon certainly doesn’t play it with F naturals.

Are Lucy’s Fs really natural? Or are they are throwback to an older way of playing, where the thirds are in just intonation (and perhaps a little flat of that too)?

I hadn’t noticed that your transcription was in Ddor. I think you should alter it to Dmix. I will add the way I play it now, which is not exactly as it appears in A Dossan of Heather, which was a transcription of a particular playing by Packie on a particular tape. I played it many times with him so I know my setting works 🙂

Re: McShane’s Rambles

I’ll change it to D Mix because you have access to the original source. I have your Dossan of Heather recording now and hear the F#s but Lucy Farr played F naturals and Grey Larson followed suit (I double checked). It was a note that kind of shocked my system because the musical line, to my ear, wants the sharps. If you give me your email I can send you the MP3s if you’d like to hear it for yourself and don’t have them.

Re: McShane’s Rambles

I learnt this tune from Packie Manus Byrne and we (myself, Packie and Bonnie Shaljean) played it after the jig Stepping Stones :
Packie told me he had fashioned it from the song The Rambles of McShane. Lucy Farr then learnt the set from me. Both tunes became popular in the London sessions in the early 80s.

Re: McShane’s Rambles

On the heady subject of F naturals in this tune, I originally learnt it from Packie, on the whistle, and all the Fs were sharps. I taught it to Lucy and we played it together, after Stepping Stones. I have just listened to Lucy’s recording on Heart and Home and I’d say the notes in question are midway between F natural and F sharp. Lucy, like a lot of the older fiddle players, liked to flatten the thirds a little, that is a choice when playing solo or with other fiddlers. But the ‘original’ tune, from Packie on the whistle, had F sharps, and in my opinion that’s how it should be played.