The Grand Spey reel

Also known as Bonnie Anne, The Grand Spy, The Western Lasses.

There are 9 recordings of this tune.

The Grand Spey appears in 4 other tune collections.

The Grand Spey has been added to 2 tune sets.

The Grand Spey has been added to 42 tunebooks.

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Three settings

X: 1
T: The Grand Spey
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
FAdA BAdA|FAdA FEEA|FABc defg|1 afge fddA:|2 afge fdd2||
|:~f3d ~e3d|(3Bcd Ad (3Bcd Ad|~f3d ~e3d|(3Bcd AF FEEd|
~f3d ~e3d|(3Bcd Ad (3Bcd Ad|fbba faed|(3Bcd AG FDD2:|
faaf ~d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe ~d3A|BdAF FEE2|
faaf ~d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe ~d3A|BdAG FDD2|
faaf ~d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe ~d3e|fbba fee2|
faaf ~d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe ~d3A|(3Bcd AG FDD2||
X: 2
T: The Grand Spey
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
FAdA BAdA|FAdA FE E2|FABc defg|1 afge fddA:|2 afge fdd2||
|:f3d e3d|BdAd BdAd|f3d e3d|(3Bcd AF FE E2|
f3d e3d|(3Bcd Ad (3Bcd Ad|fbba faed|(3Bcd AG FDD2:|
|:faaf d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe d3A|BdAF FE E2|
faaf d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe d3A|BdAG FD D2|
faaf d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe d3e|fbba fe e2|
faaf d3e|fbba bafe|(3fga fe d3A|(3Bcd AG FD D2||
# Added by JACKB .
X: 3
T: The Grand Spey
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Cmaj
EGcG AGcG|EGcG EDDG|EGAB cdef|1 gefd eccG:|2 gefd ecc2||
|:e3c d3c|AcGc AcGc|e3c d3c|AcGE ED D2|
e3c d3c|AcGc AcGc|eaag egdc|AcGF ECC2:|
|:egge c3d|eaag aged|e/f/g ed c3G|AcGE ED D2|
egge c3d|eaag aged|e/f/g ed c3G|AcGF EC C2|
egge c3d|eaag aged|e/f/g ed c3d|eaag eg d2|
egge c3d|eaag aged|e/f/g ed c3G|AcGF EC C2||

Thirteen comments

Wow, this is a really odd mix of the Cup of Tea and the Graf Spee. So do Molloy and Keane give any source for this tune?

Posted .

Dont know. I have not the sleeve of the album .

According to the album’s sleeve notes, John and Matt got this four part tune off a 1944 recording of Michael Coleman.

The Grand Spy

That isn’t how Coleman played this, his setting was pretty much that of piper Martin Biernes, who played it on this 78: I wonder what Molloy and Keane/O’Flynn/Carty were smoking here, the first part sounds like the flute has a leak in it, and the 4th part is AWOL. I wrote Bierne’s setting out for the American Pipers’ Club years ago, and wrote a whole paper about the history of the tune to boot. Incidentally Coleman and Bierne called it the Grand Spy, “Grand Spey” is being punny, groan…

The Grand Spy and Kevin Rietmann

Hi Kevin.
As a relation of Martin Beirne, I would really appreciate a copy of the paper that you prepared for the American Pipers’ Club in relation to the Grand Spy.
I met Martin in the U.S in the 1960’s, and enjoyed his music. An opportunity to talk to you would be great when we could exchange some details of this great musician.
Pat (

I heard this last night played in C. The name I was given was The Western Lasses.

Re: The Grand Spey

For what it’s worth, I do actually like this one, especially in the key of C. It’s fun to play it on the fiddle and hear the fiddle play it, if you know what I mean.

I’m surprised Rietman didn’t catch this one. According to Alan Ng, it dates back at least to O’Neill and is present both in the 1903 and 1907 books under the title “Western Lasses”. The 4- or 5-part tune we usually call “The Graf Spee” isn’t noted by Ng until 1936. I find it interesting that this latter tune never made it into O’Neill, while the comparatively unknown “Western Lasses” is in both.

In light of this, I think Molloy/Keane/McGlynn weren’t smoking anything, but rather simply misremembered where they got the tune from like any of us might.

Re: The Grand Spey

That would be O’Flynn, not McGlynn. Both sadly lost to us now. Sorry for my carelessness.

The Grand Spey, X:3

This tune is usually played in the key of C. Matt Molloy, Seán Keane and Liam O’Flynn (RIP) with Arty McGlynn (RIP) play it in C on the wonderful CD ‘The Fire Aflame’ published by Claddagh Records in 1992. This transcription is an attempt to get as close as I can to their version. It is sad that two of the greatest contributors to Irish music in the modern era are now no longer with us. Go ndéana Dia trócaire orthu.

Seán Ryan’s Reel

On the album ‘The Fire Aflame’ The Grand Spey is preceded by another beautiful tune listed on the CD as ‘Sean Ryan’s Reel’. This tune can be found in ‘The Hidden Ireland’, the first selection of Irish traditional compositions of Seán Ryan under its original title ‘The dash to Portobello’. It is also known as ‘The ebb tide’.

The Grant of Strathspey

The tune seems to derive from a strathspey in C called Rothiemurchus Rant. Rothiemurchus is a very old estate in the Scottish highlands near to Aviemore (and bordering on the River Spey).

The Traditional Tune Archive gives alternative titles for Rothiemurchus Rant as: ‘Grant’s Strathspey’ and ‘The Grant of Strathspey’ (an old way of writing a person’s title in Scotland). Maybe this is the origin of the title ‘The Grand Spey’?

It appears as a reel in C in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (published around 1883) as ‘The Grand Spy’ and twenty years later in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (published in 1903) again in C as ‘Western Lasses’.