The Donegal Traveller
I first heard this reel on a recording by accordionist Finbar Dwyer, who played it in “A” and called it “Gillespie’s”. The “Gillespie” in question was fiddler Hughie Gillespie, who recorded it on an old
78 rpm record. It appears in Bulmer & Sharpley’s "Music Of Ireland" Vol.4 under that title and in that key. I more or less ignored it for years until hearing a concertina player from Kerry playing it at the Clonmel Fleadh in 1994. She played it in the key of “C”, and it is her version I’ve transcribed here. It is often played by Joe Burke, who has been known to give it the curious title of “The Mouse Who Strangled The Cat”. To further complicate matters, it appears on “The Maple Leaf” by Jimmy Noonan and Chris McGrath played in “D”, so if someone springs this on you in the middle of a medley, check which key it is first !
Here’s a 3-part version from Altan, played by Dermot Byrne on box.
T:The Donegal Traveller
|:c2 Gc EcGc|c2 ec dcAB|c2 Gc EcGE|FDGF ECEG|
c2 Gc EcGc|c2 ec dcAg|fedB cBAG|ABcd ecca||
|:g2 eg cgeg|cgef gdBd|(3gag eg cgeg|fagf ecce|
g2 eg cgeg|cgeg gdBd|agfe f2 de|fagf eccd||
|:ecgc acgc|ecgc AcGc|e~c3 acgc|fagf eccd|
ecgc acgc|ecBc AcGg|agfe ~f2 de|fagf ecdB||
Aka. “The Mouse that Caught the Cat”
This tune appears as "The Tuam Reel" on east Galway flute player Sean Moloney’s recent solo album. He learned it from Joe Burke and Paddy Carty. Now, I quote the notes: "Joe informed me that the tune is also called The Mouse that Caught the Cat and is a version of the Donegal Traveller. He obtained it from fiddle player Sean Ryan in the 1950’s. Emmet Gill suggested the name, Tuam Reel, as this is the name on the earliest recording we can find of the tune by P. J. Conlon."
|:g2 g^f gece | gage fdde | g2g^f gece | fagf ecc2|
g2 g^f gece | gage fddf | efge agfe |eagf ecc2 :|
|:GcEc GcBc | GcBc AFD2 | GcEc GcBc | Bagf ecc2 |
GcBc GcBc |GcBc AFD2 | agfe fedc| Bagf ecc2 :|
This tunes appears in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection as Blind Norry. Jerry Holland’s Collection has it as Blind Nora O’Neill and credits its’ strathspey setting to William Gow
Here’s a simplified version of the setting on Michelle O’Brien, Aogan Lynch & Gavin Ralston.
T: The Donegal Traveller
D: Michelle O’Brien, Aogan Lynch & Gavin Ralston
G2DG B,GDG|G2BG FGAF|G2DG B,GAB|1 c2dc BdAF:|2 c2dc BGGB||
d3e dBGB|dedB cBAB|d3e dBGB|cEAc BGGB|
d3e dBGB|dedB cBAB|c3d cBAG|Fedc BGAF||
The Donegal Traveller
A well travelled tune indeed. Martin Mulvihill gives it in his collection very close to Kenny’s Finbar Dwyer version (X:1). I’ve also come across the tune with the titles "The Donegal Rambler" and "McFadden’s". In Cape Breton it was recorded by Donald Angus Beaton as "Blind Norry’s Reel" - referencing Jerry Holland’s "Blind Nora O’Neill".
In Scotland, with the parts reversed, it’s known as a Strathspey called "Lady Loudon" and attributed to William Gow, as Boots said above. I believe it was first published by the Gows in 1788.