The Cuckoo’s Nest hornpipe

Also known as All Aboard, Cuckoo, Jack Tar, The Jack Tar, Jacky Tar, The Jacky Tar, The Magpie’s Nest, Nead Na Cuaiche.

There are 75 recordings of this tune.
This tune has been recorded together with

The Cuckoo’s Nest appears in 6 other tune collections.

The Cuckoo’s Nest has been added to 31 tune sets.

The Cuckoo’s Nest has been added to 328 tunebooks.

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Five settings

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Twenty comments

Paddy Kennan?..Paddy Keenan!

Cuckoo’s Nest

This is not the same Cuckoo’s Nest that is on “The Green House” CD by Grey Larsen and Paddy League. It is however a nice and slightly different arrangement then the one I originally learned. The one on Grey and Paddy’s CD is quite different, and a “crooked tune”, as Grey explained to me when I was having trouble learning it, as the beats per measure didn’t resolve evenly.

Words to “The Cuckoo’s Nest” ?

Does anybody have the words to this tune?

Words to “The Cuckoo’s Nest”

I believe one version of the song goes like this:

The Cuckoo’s Nest

There’s a corner in the meadow where the lads and lasses meet
Oh they do here what they couldn’t do in the open street
They play all kinds of games there, but the one I like the best
Is where every laddie rumples up the cuckoo’s nest.

It’s high the cuckoo, low the cuckoo, high the cuckoo’s nest
It’s high the cuckoo, low the cuckoo, high the cuckoo’s nest
I’ll give any maid a shilling and a bottle of the best
Just to rumple up the feathers of her cuckoo’s nest

I wooed her in the morning and I had her in the night
She was my very first one so I tried to do it right
I searched around and wandered and I never would have guessed
If she hadn’t showed me where to find her cuckoo’s nest


When she showed me where to find it I knew just where to go
Through the underbrush and brambles where the little cuckoos grow
From the moment that I found it, she would never let me rest
From rumpling up the feathers of her cuckoo’s nest.


It was bushy, it was prickled, it was feathered all around
It was tucked away so neatly and it wasn’t easy found
She said young man you’re blundering, but I knew it wasn’t true
For I left her with the makings of a young cuckoo

Chorus x2

Mick O’Brien (on May Morning Dew) plays this with the B and C parts switched with one another. I wonder how typical this alternate setting is… anyone else play it this way?

Moher also plays is with the B anc C parts switched. I believe that stv culchie also plays it like this.

Who feels like making a complete transcription of Paddy Keenan’s version?

I think this is one of the best hornpipes in the Irish repertoire.

More Cuckoos ~

“The Cuckoo’s Nest”
Key signature: Gmajor
Submitted on March 2nd 2002 by Mad Baloney.

“The Cuckoo’s Nest” / “Eamonn McGivney’s”
Key signature: E Dorian
Submitted on September 29th 2003 by lazyhound.

“Nyth Y Gwcw” / “Nyth Y Gôg” / “The Cuckoo’s Nest”
Key signature: D Dorian
Submitted on August 16th 2006 by ceolachan.

“Nyth Y Gôg” / “Nyth Y Gwcw” / “The Cuckoo’s Nest”
Key signature: e minor
Submitted on November 17th 2006 by ceolachan.

“The Cuckoo’s Nest”
Key signature: Bdorian
Submitted on January 10th 2007 by Merry-Hielander.

This is NOT the one I know!

I learned from the “dots” out of Mel Bay’s Complete Irish Fiddle Player by Peter Cooper. That version has 2 parts, not 3 and it starts off on a completely different note although the key signature is the same.


Why so…?

What’s frustrating ? There are at least 2 hornpipes known as the “Cuckoo’s Nest” - “ceolachan” has provided links above. Both are good tunes, both worth learning and playing. It may be the tune you are thinking about is the hornpipe generally known in Ireland as “McGiveney’s / McGibbeney’s”. I don’t have Pete Cooper’s book. Check out the links and comments.

Cockoo’s Nest

Here is a setting in D, based on the recording by Nickel Creek

X: 1
T: Cuckoo’s Nest
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: hornpipe
K: D
|:(3ABc|d2dc dfed|c2AB A2AB|=c2cB cedc| BGAF G2FG|

here’s a version of the first part, from the playing of Paddy Keenan

dc | B2BA GBdg | fdcB cedc | B2BG D/E/FGA | BGcB AAdc |
B2BA GBdg | fdcB cedc | B2GD E/F/GAc | B2G2 G2:| (or something like that)

you can also put the cuckoo back in the nest (albeit a male cuckoo, judging by its call) by introducing a “d-B” motif in the tune, something like this for instance:
dc | B2BA GBdg | fdcB cedc | d2B2 dBGA | BAAG A2dc |
B2BA GB/c/dg | fdcB cedc | ddBD DBAc | B2G2 G2:|

Cuckoo’s Nest

Version I posted is similar to that of Fiddler3,
The way it’s played here is more like a fast reel (1/4=200 bpm) rather than a hornpipe.

Re: The Cuckoo’s Nest

I have this version in a 1968 EFDSS leaflet of American Square Dance tunes. It’s a modal melody with a character more Scottish than Irish maybe, so the chords may need attending to.
I’d have thought the natural pace of ths version is maybe a little too slow for square dancing?

(3ef^g |“A” a2 a4 a2 | (3bag e2 e3 f |“G” g2 f2 g2 g2 | agaf d3 f |$“A” e2 fg a2 a2 |
a>b (3agf e2 (3fgf | edBA“Em” GAce |“A” c2 A2 A2 :|$ e2- | eccc AAcA | AcBA G2 B2 |“G” BdBA BdBA |
BdBA G2 B2 |$“A” ABcd e2 fg |“D” agaf d2 gf |“A” edBA“Em” GAce |“A” c2 A2 A2 :|

Re: The Cuckoo’s Nest / All Aboard

Title “All Aboard” from Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (#237)

Re: The Cuckoo’s Nest / All Aboard / Cuckoo

RMC has two settings (#237 and # 840). They are both 2 parters like X:2 in D. The first is as a reel (with C naturals) while the second is as a hornpipe with no C naturals.