The Sprig Of Shillelah jig

Also known as Black Joak, Sprig Of Shillelagh.

There are 2 recordings of this tune.

The Sprig Of Shillelah appears in 3 other tune collections.

The Sprig Of Shillelah has been added to 25 tunebooks.

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Two settings

X: 1
T: The Sprig Of Shillelah
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
BGB dBd|ece d2c|BGB dBd|
gfe d2c|BcB BAG|ABA AGF|
X: 2
T: The Sprig Of Shillelah
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:c|Bcd ded|ece d2c|Bcd ded|efg dcB|cac BgB|

Fourteen comments

I haven’t heard this tune—so forgive me if I’m being dense. But is the first half really just six measures, and the second half ten?

Posted .

The Sprig Of Shillelah

Transcribed faithfully from a recording by Paddy Glackin.It’s probably a tune for a set dance,where the number of bars has to fit the steps.Take a look at Jackson’s Return From Dover on this site.

The Sprig Of Shillelah

Or it could be an Irish version of a Welsh tune.Many Welsh jigs have a six/ten bar structure.

Bean setting?

This tune is used for a Bleddington Morris Dance who’s name escapes me for the moment - possibly Bean Setting?

Mick Moloney recorded this on 3 way street with Seamus Egan & Eugene O’Donnell, he explains about the tune with the following : "Seamus and I picked up these unusual tunes at the Great Banjo Meltdown in Lebanon State Park Tennessee in 1993 from minstrel banjo player Joe Ayers from Virginia. They were both published in 1861 in the Converse Banjo Book, one of the first tutors published for the minstrel banjo. Both tunes have an unusual twist. The first is a jig with a single A part and a double B part. The second is clearly an old set dance piece with an A part six bars long, followed by a B part with 10 bars. A song with the same name sung to this tune was very popular on the late 19th century American Stage."

The other tune referred to is the Rambling Boy.

Seamus Connolly recorded The Sprig of Shillelah as a set dance, on I believe Notes from my Mind, can’t find the Album right this minute.

This is also, or rather, was originally, an English tune, used in Morris dances, and is called The Black Joke - the joke being the very unusual timing, described above. There also exist a Red Joke, and other coloured Jokes, but I don’t know them. They are from various parts of rural England, I’m told.

I got it from 3-Way Street, and had it down as an "American-Irish" tune, till I played it in a session with Martin Brown, the well-known English fiddler and mandolin player, who joined in with me as I took up the tune. Afterwards when I mentioned the "name" The Sprig of Shillelagh, I was quickly corrected by Martin as to its real name, and its origin. So there we witnessed a tune going from England, maybe to Ireland, but definitely across the Atlantic to America, then back across the Atlantic via a Scot playing in the Irish tradition, through to an Englishman playing the English tradition…and the tune had picked up a new name on its travels!
Funny ole world innit?

The Black Joke

> the joke being the very unusual timing:
I forgot to say it was explained to me that this unusual timing makes it very difficult to dance to. So I guess they all fell about laughing at each other’s efforts……

…it was probably funny at the time………..

Me ole mucker Peter Kennedy (rest his soul) used to make me play this for dancing. It was, btw, exactly as Dafydd has transcribed it. But he (Peter) had a very specific (couples)dance for it, of which, alas, I have no memory or knowledge, not being a dancer myself.

I’d be interested if anybody knows the dance …

OTOH, he may have cobbled it from some Morris dance or other.

couold be Welsh - I’m just going by what Martin Brown, Paul Gross and John Offord have led me to believe - who am I to argue with THEIR cumulative knowledge of English tunes!!

The Sprig Of Shillelah

There is further discussion of this "joak/joke" tune in the comments on tune #7110 (which is a different version of the tune), and in the comments dated 28/4/2007 on discussion #13496.

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The Sprig Of Shillelah, X:2

O love is the soul of a neat Irishman
He loves all the lovely, loves all that he can
With his sprig of shillelah, and shamrock so green.
His heart is goodhumour’d, ’tis honest and sound
No malice or hatred is there to be found
He courts and he marries, he drinks, and he fights
For love, all for love, for in that he delights
With his sprig of shillelah, and shamrock so green

Who has e’er had the luck to see Donnybrook fair
An Irishman all in his glory is there
With his sprig of shillelah, and shamrock so green.
His clothes spick and span new, without e’er a speck
A neat Barcelona tied round his nate neck
He goes to a tent, and he spends his half-crown
He meets with a friend, and for love knocks him down
With his sprig of shillelah, and shamrock so green.

At ev’ning returning, as homeward he goes
His heart soft with whisky, his head soft with blows
From a sprig of shillelah, and shamrock so green
He meets with his Sheelah, who, blushing a smile
Cries ”Get ye gone, Pat”, yet consents all the while
To the priest soon they go, and nine months after that
A fine baby cries ”How d’ye do, father Pat,
With your sprig of shillelah, and shamrock so green?”

Bless the country, say I, that gave Patrick his birth
Bless the land of the oak, and its neighbouring earth
Where grows the shillelah, and shamrock so green
May the sons of the Thames, the Tweed, and the Shannon
Drub the French who dare plant at our confines a cannon
United and happy at loyalty’s shrine
May the rose and the thistle long flourish and twine
Round a sprig of shillelah and shamrock so green.

From "Crosby’s Irish Musical Repository", published by B. Crosby & Co, 1813.