The Boys Of Ballycastle hornpipe

Also known as The Boy’s Of Ballycastle, Gypsy, The Gypsy, Leggett’s, The Shillelah.

There are 18 recordings of this tune.
This tune has been recorded together with

The Boys Of Ballycastle appears in 1 other tune collection.

The Boys Of Ballycastle has been added to 21 tune sets.

The Boys Of Ballycastle has been added to 188 tunebooks.

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Four settings

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Seventeen comments

Played with a nice swing by Kevin Burke on “Up Close”.


Isn’t this tune a hornpipe?

The Boys of Ballycastle

I’d agree, Kenny. The tune has that rhythm at the end of the 4-bar phrases that is typical of so many hornpipes.

It is a hornpipe I think. I play it with Napoleon Crossing the Rhine. They make a nice set.


This tune is certainly a hornpipe and I have come across a few musicians who called it ‘The Gipsy Hornpipe’,
Good Luck

This is called Leggett’s Reel in Kerr’s Merry Melodies. Don’t know why anyone would play it as a reel, though.

Boys of Ballycastle

Jimmy Shand recorded a very similar (major-key) tune called “The cairdin’ o’t” at reel tempo, which Kevin Burke has also recorded.

Gypsy HP

Here’s a marginally different take on this (I know it as the Gypsy’s HP) from our session and before that probably from a workshop CD by Angie Bladen and Martin Ellison.
T:Gypsy Hornpipe
d||: g>fe>d e>dB>d | e>d (3efg B2 B>A | G>FG>A B>AB>d | e2 A2 A2 d2 |
g>fe>d e>dB>d | e>d (3efg B2 B>A | G>FG>A B>cB>A |1 G2 E2 E2 d2 :|2 G2 E2 E2 g>f |
||:e2 B2 B2 g>f | e2 B>A B2 g>f | e>de>f g>fg>a | b2 b2 e2 g>a |
(3bag (3agf g2 g>f | e>d (3efg B2 B>A | G>FG>A B>cB>A |1 G2 E2 E2 g>f :|2 G2 E2 E4 ||

I first heard this tune and played it with a mandolin and guitar group whom I play acoustic bass with. We use a written out arrangement by Steve Kaufman.


I was recently listening to the “Up Close” CD by Kevin Burke when I noticed how similar this tune was to the one which I know as “Gypsy’s Hornpipe” by Steve Kaufman. I think our first mandolin player found it in a book of tunes arranged for mandolin orchestras by Kaufman.


Boys of Ballycastle

I first saw this tune under the name, The Gipsy’s Hornpipe, in the 1954 book, The Second Fiddler’s Tune-Book 100 Tradional Airs, edited by Peter Kennedy.

Re: The Boys Of Ballycastle

The famed fiddler James Scott Skinner (1843-1927) played this under the title “The Shillelah” and published it in his 1903 collection “Harp and Claymore”.

Re: The Boys Of Ballycastle

O‘Neill ’collected’ it in his “Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody.”

Re: The Boys Of Ballycastle

O’Neill got it from a “Pat Dunne manuscript”. Possibly 19th century Wicklow piper Patrick Dunne, owner of a large collection of books and manuscripts which were lost in a fire.

Re: The Boys Of Ballycastle

I know this under the ‘Ballycastle’ title from the Kevin Burke recording (though round my way a slightly different setting is played as Gypsy’s/Gipsy’s Hornpipe. As I remember, KB follows it with ‘Little Stack of Barley’ - which generally seems to be notated in G and is quite similar to ‘Ballycastle’. To differentiate it he puts it in A*, which gives it a real lift. A favourite pair of mine. (*,%20The%20(A).pdf)

Re: The Boys Of Ballycastle

A terrific rendition of this tune (on mandolin, by Gina Le Faux) is on Podcast #14 of The Mike Harding Folk Show. The tune starts at around the 44 minute mark. This hornpipe is then followed by The Old Grey Cat.

Madame Florence’s Favourite, X:4

This four part 2/4 medley of tunes appearing in the Reilly Family MSS (c1900s) is a combination of two tunes The Boys of Ballycastle and The White Cockade