The Barren Rocks Of Aden polka

Also known as Dalaigh’s No. 1, Dan O’Leary’s, Dawley’s, Hey Maw, Will You Buy Me That, Ma, Ma, Will You Buy Me A,, Mama Will You Buy Me A, Momma Won’t Buy Me A Banana,, The Sailor’s.

There are 21 recordings of a tune by this name.

A tune by this name has been recorded together with Ballyoran (a few times), Come To The Fair (a few times), Scotland The Brave (a few times) and The Spent Money (a few times).

The Barren Rocks Of Aden has been added to 15 tune sets.

The Barren Rocks Of Aden has been added to 119 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Eight settings

X: 1
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:f2 f>e|df Ad|ce AB/c/|de fd|
f2 f>e|df Ad|ce AB/c/|1 d2 de:|2 d2 df||
|:af df|ef Af|ge ce|d/e/f/g/ a>f|
af df|ef Af|ge ce|1 d2 df:|2 d2 d2||
X: 2
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:e|f>g fe|df Ad|ce Ae|fA de|
f>g fe|df Ad|ce Af/e/|d2 d:|
|:f/g/|a>f df|eg Ae/f/|g>e ce|df Af/g/|
a>f df|eg Ae/f/|g>e ce|d2 d:|
|:f/g/|a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|eg Ae/f/|g/e/c/e/ g/e/c/e/|df Af/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|eg Ae/f/|g>e ce|d2 d:|
X: 3
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:f/g/|a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|
a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|g/e/c/A/ A/e/c/e/|d2 d:|
X: 4
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:d/e/|f>g fe|df Ad|ce A/A/e|fA de|
f>g fe|df Ad|ce A/A/e|d2 d:||
||f/g/|a>f df|ef Ae/f/|ge ce|df Af/g/|
a>f df|ef Ae/f/|ge ce|d2 df/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|ef Ae/f/|g/e/c/e/ g/e/c/e/|df Af/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|ef Ae/f/|ge ce|d2 d||
X: 5
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|: B>d BA | GB DG | FA/F/ ED | BD GA |
B>d BA | GB DG | FA/F/ EF |[1 G2 G>A :|[2 G2 G/A/B/c/ ||
|: dB GB | Ac E>A | cA FD | GB d>B |
dB GB | Ac E>A | cA FD |[1 G2 G>B :|[2 G2 G>A |]
X: 6
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
fg fe | df Ad | ce Bc | d/d/A de |
fg {f/g/}fe | df Ad | ce Bc | d2 d :|
aa/f/ df | eg B2 | gg/e/ ce | df A2 |
aa/f/ df | eg B2 | gg/e/ cA | d2 d :|
X: 7
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:e|f>g fe|df Ad|ce Ad/e/|fA de|
f>g fe|df Ad|ce Af/e/|d2 d:|
f/g/|a>f df|eg Ae/f/|g>e ce|df Af/g/|
a>f df|eg Ae/f/|ge ce|d2 d |
f/g/|a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|eg Ae/f/|g/e/c/e/ g/e/c/e/|df Af/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|eg Ae/f/|ge ce|d2 d |]
X: 8
T: The Barren Rocks Of Aden
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:e|f>g fe|df Ad|ce Ad/e/|fA de|
f>g fe|df Ad|ce Af/e/|d2 d:|
f/g/|a>f df|ef Ae/f/|g>e ce|df Af/g/|
a>f df|ef Ae/f/|ge cA|d2 d :|
e | f>g fe | d/e/f/d/ Ad | c/d/e/c/ A/A/d/e/ | f/f/A/A/d/d/e/e/ |
f>g fe | d/e/f/d/ Ad | c/d/e/c/ A/A/f/e/ | d2 d:|
f/g/|a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|ef Ae/f/|g/e/c/e/ g/e/c/e/|df Af/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|ef Ae/f/|ge ce|d2 d :||
# Added by DomW .

Twenty-nine comments

This tune has become one of my signature tunes. If, like myself, you’re called Aidan, you might also wish to consider adopting this fine Scottish polka as your signature tune. (Unless, of course, you don’t wish people to believe that your rocks are barren … I quite understand!)

I have always thought of this tune as a march. There are 4 parts to the version I know. The version here is similar to the first two parts but still different to that which is normally played in Scotland.
I’ll add the ABC for the whole tune shortly.

It’s interesting how tunes change when they pass from one tradition into the other. All the Irish players that I play with who know this tune, know it as a two-parter.

As for whether a tune is a 2/4 march or a polka - that’s a bit of a moot point. No doubt some 2/4 marches become "polka-fied" when they cross out of the piping tradition where 2/4 marches are a standard type. (Jeremy doesn’t list march as an option in any event since marches come in all time signatures …)

Highland Dance tune

This is the tune (as far as I know) that pipers play for highland dancers when they do the Highland Laddie. I think it’s more of a strathspey in that case but I can’t remember… It’s been a while! Can anyone help me out on this?

It’s a march.

Always thought of this tune as a march.

I learned this tune about 20 years ago from a Scottish piper. He always played it as a march, two parts and pretty much as is written here.

A signature tune

I learnt this tune from the playing of a hammer dulcimar player at the first Winchester Folk Festival about 27 years ago. I play it as the first tune in a set of four, followed by ‘Tie your bonnets’(which I wrote down as Reg Hall of the Rakes was playing at a Ceilidh)
then an english polka from Scan tester (unnamed) finishing with another English Polka from yet another hammer dulcimer player from the north of England entitled ‘Old joe the Boat is going over’
I play ‘Barren Rocks’ a little differently from the version here. If anyone is interested I will submit the set bearing in mind that the rest are English with the exception of ‘Tie Your Bonnets’ which I believe to be an Irish Polka.

Posted by .

Forgotv to add that this set has become a bit of a signature tune-set for my band. We nearly always play it for the final dance of the ceilidh’s we play for.

Posted by .

I play this differently to the posted version too, as a march. Aidan where did this version come from?

Jack … this is the version I grew up listening to various ceili outfits playing in and around the Montiaghs in North Armagh. There was a big Scottish influence on the tunes in my part of the world since many of the players in the ceili bands would also have done their time in various marching bands, including the (pretty famous) St Mary’s Pipe Band from Derytrasna. But - as I say - when I’ve kicked this off in a set of polkas in London a lot of the heads were straight in there, playing the tune as a two]part polka.

Incidentally a few weeks back at my ill-starred 40th birthday party, Alasdair who makes the occasional contribution to this site and who comes from the GHB tradition - played The Barren Rocks as a solo pipe piece. I’ll ask him how he plays it.

Happy 40th Birthday Aidan…

Go raibh míle, ceolachan. Mind you after Messrs Jameson and Power turned up at the party uninvited, the next few days were less than happy!!

Now that I think of it, it is played for dancers as a march, and it’s quite different then the version posted here.

Barren Rocks Of Aden

It’s a lot of years since I last played this but my version goes something like this:

T:The Barren Rocks of Aden
M:2/4
L:1/8
R:March
K:D
|:e|f>g fe|df Ad|ce Ae|fA de|
f>g fe|df Ad|ce Af/e/|d2 d:|
|:f/g/|a>f df|eg Ae/f/|g>e ce|df Af/g/|
a>f df|eg Ae/f/|g>e ce|d2 d:|
|:f/g/|a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|eg Ae/f/|g/e/c/e/ g/e/c/e/|df Af/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|eg Ae/f/|g>e ce|d2 d:|

Some people have a 4th part also, but my settings only 3 parts. I can never remember whether or not you’re supposed to repeat the 2nd & 3rd parts.

4th part

|:f/g/|a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|
g/e/c/A/ A/e/c/e/|g/e/c/A/ A/e/c/e/|
a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|a/f/d/A/ A/f/d/f/|g/e/c/A/ A/e/c/e/|d2 d:|

Maybe this is one of those abc transcriptions where it’s best to make the L: header 1/16…

Thanks DOW. I was going to this but you saved me the trouble.
That’s similar to the way I play it too. I like to play all four parts too but I don’t always meet people who can. :-)
Quite often, it’s only parts one and two, sometimes part three.

The Barren Rocks of Aden

…is one of the first tunes I learned on the pipes, out of the Scots Guards collection of pipe music… Here is a comment from a web site concerned with Scottish regimental tradition.
"The Barren Rocks of Aden was an unnamed composition composed by Piper James Mauchline when a detachment of the 78th was stationed in Aden (during the Aden conflict 1964-67).  Pipe Major Alexander Mackellar re-arranged and named the tune."

I bought a 2nd hand tunebook yesterday for a few shillings- Kerr’s Caledonian Collection - and The Barren Rocks is the first tune set out, as a quickstep.

Here’s the setting:

T:The Barren Rocks Of Aden
M:2/4
L:1/8
R:Quickstep
K:D
|:d/e/|f>g fe|df Ad|ce A/A/e|fA de|
f>g fe|df Ad|ce A/A/e|d2 d:||
||f/g/|a>f df|ef Ae/f/|ge ce|df Af/g/|
a>f df|ef Ae/f/|ge ce|d2 df/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|ef Ae/f/|g/e/c/e/ g/e/c/e/|df Af/g/|
a/f/d/f/ a/f/d/f/|ef Ae/f/|ge ce|d2 d||

Banana on the Rock

The first part of this polka is of course better known as:
"Mama Will You Buy Me A"

"Mama will you buy me a, will you buy me a, will you buy me a
Mama will you buy me a, will you buy me a ba-na-na!…"

This lovely little ditty seems to hold prime of place in the repertoire and psyche of Northerners; I first heard it from Darren Malone and Jwana Stevenson (ex-Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs: a Belfast explosive device that sparked off the peace-process) But the wee song has been covered by many other local acts, such as: Barnbrack, the Sands family or Conán McDonnell (https://thesession.org/discussions/5854/comments) If Conán knew he was playing ‘The Barren Rocks of Aidan’ at the time, no doubt he’d have developed a stage fright for life! It says something about the status of ‘the banana song’ in the North that it actually boosted his profile (and Aiden’s) in the long term! Contrast this with the fate of Aussie David O’Connor who was exiled to Outer Mongolia by his government after he committed this unspeakable crhyme to record! (http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=46212)

Check http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=46212 and http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=42526#2427866 for other (per)versions of it.

Similar themed songs:
Janis Joplin’s "Mercedes Benz"
"Skinny Malinkey"
see also ‘The Banana Feet reel’
https://thesession.org/tunes/1228

An earlier Aden conflict?

Despite the historical comment posted above, this seems to be a rather older tune. Andrew Kuntz, at

http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/BARN_BB.htm#BARREN_ROCKS_OF_ADEN

dates it to the later 19th century. But a Scottish tune it certainly is, in origin. However, it shows up in Bulmer & Sharpley’s 1974 publication"’Music from Ireland" (book 4, tune 760 under the title ‘The Sailor’s Polka’, and is popular at Irish sessions in our area.

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“The Sailor’s Polka” / “The Barren Rocks of Aden” ~ Bulmer & Sharpley

"Music from Ireland, Volume Four"
Dave Bulmer & Neil Sharpley, 1976

"The Sailor’s Polka" ~ page 28, tune #76

X: 4
T: Sailor’s Polka, the
B: "Music from Ireland, Volume Four". Bulmer & Sharpley, page 28, tune #76
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
R: polka
K: GMaj
|: B>d BA | GB DG | FA/F/ ED | BD GA |
B>d BA | GB DG | FA/F/ EF |[1 G2 G>A :|[2 G2 G/A/B/c/ ||
|: dB GB | Ac E>A | cA FD | GB d>B |
dB GB | Ac E>A | cA FD |[1 G2 G>B :|[2 G2 G>A |]

“Dalaigh’s No. 1” / “The Barren Rocks of Aden”

X: 5
T: Dalaigh’s No. 1
S: Brendan Begley
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
R: polka
K: DMaj
|: e |\
fg fe | df Ad | ce Bc | d/d/A de |
fg {f/g/}fe | df Ad | ce Bc | d2 d :|
|: f |\
aa/f/ df | eg B2 | gg/e/ ce | df A2 |
aa/f/ df | eg B2 | gg/e/ cA | d2 d :|

Dawley’s Polka/The Barren Rocks of Aden

On their 2002 album ‘Lonesome Blues and Dancing Shoes’, The Boys of the Lough play this and call it "Dawley’s Polka". Brendan Begley was on the recording, so it may have been a mishearing of “Dalaigh’s Polka” (see post immediately above).

The Barren Rocks Of Aden, X:7

Setting for use with a 32-bar dance whilst still including the variations in the second part.

The Barren Rocks of Aden

Very adaptable tune, more 4/4 than 2/4 in its original form as a pipe march which commemorates a tour of duty in Aden (now Yemen). Often played as a reel but also, without the swing of a march or a reel, as an Irish polka.

Re: The Barren Rocks Of Aden

This tune appeared on Young Victoria on ITV tonight, when she was queen but unmarried , so I guess in the period 1837-40. I’m not really up on that royal stuff and had to wiki it.

Was it anachronistic?

It was played for a Gay Gordons, as I have often at ceilidhs.

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Re: The Barren Rocks Of Aden

It was from when the 78th Highlanders were stationed in Aden in the mid-19th century, not the 1960s.

Yes composed by Piper James Mauchline of the 78th Highlanders, arranged by Pipe Major Alexander MacKellar of the 78th Highlanders, first published in The Ross Collection of 1869.

It quickly became a popular fife & drum tune in the Scottish regiments and eventually spread to Ireland as a polka.

BTW there was no British regiment called the 78th Highlanders after 1881, so the 78th Highlanders could not have served in Aden in the 1960s. In 1881 the old numbered regiments were amalgamated in pairs to create new named regiments. So in 1881 the 72nd Highlanders and 78th Highlanders were amalgamated to form The Seaforth Highlanders.

The second version above appears to match the original Highland pipe tune.

Re: The Barren Rocks Of Aden

I think DomW’s version (one year ago) is closest to what I play, apart from his third part. Generally for dancing (The Gay Gordons usually), we would play just parts 1 and 2. Sometimes play Dom’s 4th part as a 3rd part in sessions if I can get all the notes in!
Adam McNaughtan also used parts 1,2 and 4 of the tune for his song on the history of one of our Scottish delicacies and coffee-time treats, "Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers"!

And if twin fiddler is still about after 13 years - Highland dancing can be done to various rhythms and tunes, march, strathspey, jig or reel - but I’d imagine they dance "Highland Laddie" to……..er, "Highland Laddie", the tune?