Jimmy Allen polka

Also known as Jamie Allen, Jamie Allen’s Rant, The Reel Of Tullochgorum.

There are 13 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

Jimmy Allen has been added to 22 tune sets.

Jimmy Allen has been added to 141 tunebooks.

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Eight settings

X: 1
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
G/A/|:BG GA|B2 GA/B/|cA AB|c2 BA|
Gg ge|d2 B>c|dd c/B/A|1 G3 G/A/:|2 G3 B/A/||
|:Gg g>f|ed cB|Aa a>g|fd ef|
g>a ge|d2 B>c|dd c/B/|1 G3 B/A/:|2 G3||
X: 2
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:G>A|BG GA|B2 GA/B/|c/B/A AB|cd/c/ BA|
Gg- ge|d2 B>c|dd c/B/A|G2:|
|:B>A|Gg gf|e/f/e/d/ cB|Aa- ag|f/e/d ef|
gg/a/ g/f/e|d2 B>c|dd c/B/A|G2:|
X: 3
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
Dd dB|A2 F>G|AA G/F/E|D2:|
|:FE|Dd dc|B/c/B/A/ GF|Ee- ed|cA A/B/c|
d>e d/c/B|A2 F>G|A/A/A G/F/E|D2:|
X: 4
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
Fd dB|Ad/A/ FF/G/|AA GF/E/|D2 D>E:|
|:Fd dc|BA GG/F/|Ee e>d|cA Bc|
d>e dB|Ad/A/ FF/G/|AA GF/E/|D2 D>E:|
X: 5
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
GA|BG GA|B2 GA/B/|cA AB|c2 BA|Gg ge|d2 B>c|dd c/B/A|G2:|
|:BA|Gg g>f|ed cB|Aa a>g|fd ef|g>a ge|d2 B>c|dd c/B/A|G2:|
X: 6
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:BG GA|Bc/B/ GA/B/|cA AB|cd/c/ BA|
Bg ge|de/d/ BB/c/|dd cB/A/|G2 G>A:|
|:Bg gf|ed cc/B/|Aa a>g|fd ef|
g>a ge|de/d/ BB/c/|dd cB/A/|G2 G>A:|
X: 7
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
A>B|:cA AB|c2 AB/c/|dB Bc|d2 cB|
Aa af|e2 c>d|~e2 d/c/B|1 A2 A>B:|2 A2 AE||
|:Aa a>g|fe dc|Bb b>a|ge fg|a>b a/g/f|
[1 e2 c>d|~e2 d/c/B|A2 AE:|2 e/f/g a2|~e2 d/c/B|A2 A>B||
X: 8
T: Jimmy Allen
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:G/A/|BG GA|B2 GA/B/|cA AB|c2 BA|
Gg gf/e/|d2 B>c|dd AB/A/|G2G:|
|:B/A/|Gg gf|ed cB|Aa/^g/ a>=g|fd ef|
g>f gf/e/|d2 B>c|dd AB/A/|G2G:|

Fifty-three comments

Jimmy Allen

This is one of the ultimates in what noxious blanket would call dag. The treasure-house of Northumbrian minstrelsy contains many of these. But this one’s too well-known to be ignored. In North-East England it’s a rant, but it could be tweaked up into an Irish polka.
Jimmy or Jamie Allen was a piper who lived from 1733 to 1810. He was famed for his expertise on Northumbrian smallpipes and other kinds of bagpipes, but was an all-round rogue. At 70 he was imprisoned for stealing a horse, and spent his last seven years in a gaol under the road down to Elvet Bridge in Durham; he died days before a pardon arrived from the Prince Regent. (The underground gaol, very occasionally opened for guided tours, is left just as it was when abandoned, probably soon after Allen’s time: a very dark and spooky place.)
Allen was credited with improvements to the smallpipes, maybe including the first additions of keys to increase the range of the Northumbrian pipes from their basic one octave. If he really did compose this tune as is held - and I don’t know how much proof for this exists - then the tune’s high A would indicate that the addition of at least one high note key was a feature of the chanter he played.

Good tune

I like this tune a l ot… I guess I wouldnt describe it as “dag” but a good melody with a nice flow….

The first 8 bars are a continuous non repeating melody and I like that in tunes… some tunes go 2 maybe even 1 bars before repeating bits of melody, so although simple, this is just good music to me.

I may know something similar to it… I may get back to you on this one.

I’ve also heard this old war-horse marched along…

~ & played in A Major ~ and worse has been done to it, I’ve heard it harmonized to death too, the poor wee marchy thingamajig…

Apocalypse Now

The fact that this tune has been submitted must surely mean that the world is about to end, or something.

1, 2, 3 ~ No ~ let’s start again ~ 3, 2, 1 ~

No it is when the three horsemen arrive, there’s me, you Nox, who’s the third one? Or were there seven? I never was much good with mathematics where the apocolypse was concerned. I also don’t see the sense in giveing it that much credit, capitalizing it, I mean, why? What the hell difference will that make once it has come and gone anyway?

Is it four? Well, then we’re OK for now, the fourth guy is always sick and in bed.

You know what really narcs me, it’s just one more damnation blamed on men… Why couldn’t it be the four horsewomen of the apocolypse anyway? At least they would have pulled it off by now and we could stop worrying about the future… 😏

The Apocalypse has been held up because Jimmy Allen stole the Four Horses. The Four Horsemen were last seen for definite when they embarked on an exhaustive search for them in Kielder Forest, but they are rumoured to appear once every fifty years in front of the telly in remote country pubs, when Newcastle is going to win at home. (Northumberland is one of those places where literally anything is possible.)

Hey guys, don’t worry about Nox and the ‘a’, he’s a closet ‘Jamie Allen’ addict…


Ive never heard Jimimy Allen before ( that I know of), but this little tune is what it reminded me of… although different, they probably could be played back to back..


Jamie Allen

This is more than just a tune. \It is core cultural heritage of the NE of England. Criticise it at your peril. The stresses within the bars are asyemetric. Its a poor reel but a great rant. If you don’t think its great its probably because you aren’t playing it properly.

Jamie Allen’s jail under Elvet Bridge is currently in use as a wine bar.

Angels of the North

Maryland H ! how can you consider playing ‘Jimmy Allen’ back-to-back with ‘Reed’s’?? Their quite incompatable, the one, ‘J A’ being a rant and ‘Reed’s’ being a polka, and their feel is very different. I put tunes together for dancing where it is important to keep continuity. Many years ago I used to play ‘Jimmy Allen’ together with ‘Rattling Bog’ , that worked well. For listening to I would tend to follow a 4/4 or 2/4 with something quite different such as a 6/8 or 9/8.

Posted by .

Ranting and Roaring ~

Yeah, I also love rants and ranting, though I’m out of practice. Unfortunately Noel and Hetty, in North America they tend to play ‘Jamie Allen’ as a polka and use it in sets of tunes for New England style contra dancing…

While your on your rant, how about recommending any recordings made of this tune in your preferred way?!

For a little guidance on ranting ~

minus the footword, for which there are a few ‘versions’, check out Noelbats’ offerings under this classic rant, the first I learned to dance the step to ~

“The Morpeth Rant”
Submitted on January 8th 2003 by sven.

I dont agree

I dont agree with you Hetty… the tunes have basically the same structure and if played at once together… the melodes would have some nice counterpoint going on… Reed’s as I posted should be more like a reel not a polka…. and Jimmy Allen from what I see, Is also listed as a reel. Reed’s should NOT be played in polka fashion at all, thats why I listed it as a reel just like Jimmy Allen is listed as a reel… compare them measure for measure and it’s interesting to see the similarities… of course there are differences…. but its amazing to me to see the similarities between a “true” Norhumberland" staple and a very rare, if ever played in the last 80 years tune collected in SW Pennsylvania from a rural fiddler.

Reels & Polkas ~ another confusion with North America, historically, putting the ‘rant’ aside, the structure of these two tunes suits a 2/4 breakdown, but that doesn’t stop them from being notated as 4/4. In the usual fashion of reels historically, not considering all the hornpipes that are played in a reel fashion in North America, fast and without swing, these two tunes don’t quite sit there ~ it isn’t about how flat or fast you play them, it is about the predominance of quarter notes when you notate them in 4/4, and why they sit better in 2/4, or along the lines of a ‘polka’… Don’t write that off so quickly MH, there were and are all sorts of polkas and ways of playing such tunes, as there are for reels, but these two bare bones airs are a hell of a lot closer to polkas than the general run of reels.

However, I agree with the comments earlier, I like Jamie better as a rant, and I think the two together are like driving a horse and cart with square wheels on the cart. But ~ each to his own, including one’s ears and sense of what is a reel or a polka or a rant ~ but all of those are better determined with some experience under ones belt, such as for what makes a rant rant…

So there, that should qualify as a rant… It would be nice to hear how that SW Penn fiddler scraped this tune to life… Our individual perspectives and measures are based on our various experiences and what we have accumulated over time for comparison…


I listened to a sample of Swarbricks Jimmy Allen and its about the same feels as I would play Reed’s on my mandolin… havent tried it on the fiddle yet…

Sorry! Maryland H but we are not going to agree on this one. For me the very first bar in either tune tells the story. I suppose it could depend on the speed at which you play either tune. Play them both fast and they are reels but maybe you might loose the character of the tunes. if I play ‘J A’ I want to rant, if I play ‘Reed’s’ I want to polka.

Posted by .

I suppose, also, its to do with how I have grown up with playing ‘J A’ and how I respond to playing ‘Reed’s’ (fairly steadily and somewhat slowly) Southern English tendancy perhaps. ‘c’ has already drawn my attention to our geographical differences (presuming that you are in North America, is that right as there is nothing in your profile to indicate that). Incidentally I heard Swarb live last week and as you no doubt know he does take liberties now and then. Superb concert by the way.

Posted by .

American perspective

It is true that in the USA, now and in the past… tunes are given very individualistic treatment… I would play both of the afore mentioned tunes in an almost identical way… I do understand that tune types are more defined in Irish tradition… And I know nothing about the feel of a “Rant”. For how I process these arrangements from notes to music in my head or hands, they are very similar.

Maybe someone could explain the “rant” to me… it may help me understand some of the old music better.

We all take liberties… No MH, I’m over on the t’other side of the big Atlantic bog… I’m actually in England. My concept of things is well polluted. We lived in Eire, Cymru, North America (Canadian Maritimes & the U.S.A.), France ~ & presently here and considering other possibilities… That doesn’t cover all the music and dance influences…

I take it you are in Maryland ol’ friend ~ 😉

Check out that link above, the best lesson is of course your ears, and I would say yours are well trained to catch the difference and appreciate it. Noelbats is a great source for suggested listening, and his quick intro in the comments to the Morpeth Rant is worthy. I would really be surprised if there wasn’t someone in your area, say from the CDS, who could teach you the rant step, and have some music to accompany it, even ‘live’… The Country Dance Society is well entrenched in New England and there’s surely to be someone who could help and would be willing… It’s a kick to dance…


I grew up in western Maryland and West Virginia which is rural and the dancing was/is very Appalachian… square dancing, clogging,,, I cant dance very well… I now live in the Mid West… New England is a different region altogether from Western MD and WV.

You should be careful with that ‘ENTER’ tab, or was that a ‘pregnant pause’?

Yeah, I should know better, but Maryland isn’t that far away from the ‘New England’ states, at least geographically, but we all know that things are divided in other and many ways over on that large continent… Hell, we were almost neighbours ~ I used to live in Georgia, would you believe…

Mid-West? Where are you now? Again though, the CDS is everywhere, and those folks usually have someone in their numbers who is familiar with the ‘rant’. Like with any tune, knowing the dance can really give an extra kick to the dance music. As just one example, Chris Droney, Clare concertina, and family are all fine dancers and musicians…

& do drop an email to noelbats, I’m sure he’d be chuffed to help and suggest some great recordings. Another that would do that is Nox…:


In Kansas now

I have relatives from Georgia somewhere…

Say hello to Dorothy and her little dog too…

Kansas is a long way from the Emerald Empire in the North… I wonder if the CDS has made a foothold on ~ DAMN! ~ I know some folks in your neighbourhood!!! I’ll drop you a note…

FARNE ~ A superb resource, highly recommended!!! ~ THE RANT!!!

More Ranting & Carry On ~

“Jock Wilson O’ Fenton” 4/4
~ with some explanation in the comments
Submitted on August 4th 2004 by Nox.

“Morpeth Rant” 4/4
Submitted on January 8th 2003 by sven.

“The Cheviot Rant” 4/4
Submitted on August 5th 2004 by Nox.

“Come Let Us Dance And Sing” 2/4
Submitted on September 18th 2004 by cj.

“Salmon Tails Up/Down The River/Water” 2/4
Submitted on April 27th 2004 by Grack.

A Welsh Rant?! ~ “Pwt-ar-y-Bys” / “Buttered Peas”

Submitted on November 8th 2006 by ceolachan.

It seems this was swung by the Welsh to accompany a Rant called “The Swansea Rant” / “Miri Abertawe” ~ from “The Annual Cambrian Trifles or South Wales Polite Repertory of Country Dances” ~ W. Burt Hart, 1812

Willy Taylor, Joe Hutton and Will Atkinson ~ a Rant Set

Luminaries Nox mentions in the comments for “Jock Wilson O’ Fenton” ~ here is the set they play on the CD “Good Old Boys - at Whitby Folk Week” ~ and I just know this might start him off on another rant, but here it is, and links to the two tunes not linked to yet:

The Morpeth Rant / Davy Knick Knack / Jock Wilson of Fenton / The Girl With The Blue Dress On / The Cheviot Rant

“Davy-Davy Knick-Knack”
Submitted on October 15th 2004 by CyberSmudger.

“The Girl With The Blue Dress On”
Submitted on May 12th 2006 by OsvaldoLaviosa.

“Y Lili” / “The Lily”

Key signature: D Major
Submitted on October 31st 2005 by flamin fiddler.

“The Stackpole Rant” / “Miri’r Ystangbwll”

K: D Major / Major Dow

Jamie Allen

This tune has been beautifully recorded by Lissa Schneckenburger on her new CD, “Dance.” (See http://www.lissafiddle.com/recordings.htm )
This, by the way, is my 1st post on The Session, tho I’ve been a member for more than a year.
Rodney Freeland, Berkeley, CA

Posted by .

Re: The Peat Fire Flame

Explains why I didn’t find it after a few searches, was filtering for polkas.

Jamie Allen Or The Reel Of Tullochgorum

I didn’t know I knew this until I found myself playing it while noodling away on the fiddle one day. I had to post in the discussions to find out its name. I was surprised to find it wasn’t already in this database.

It’s from the north of England where it’s classed a a rant but it goes nicely as an Irish polka with, say, Rattling Bog or similar. For a lot more info about the tune and Jaimie Allen himself see:

Jimmy Allen, X:6

Loretta Egan Murphy’s & John Brennan’s setting up in Gmaj, with a few minor variations.

Re: Jimmy Allen

“That’s Jayemey Allen” as one English woman corrected me when I referred to the tune as “The Reel of Tullochgorum”

Re: Jimmy Allen

Jimmy Allen appears to me to have been composed by Ian Powrie some time in the late fifties/early sixties under the title of ‘Reel of Tullochgorum’, and published in a booklet of tunes . The earliest recording, I think, was Dave Swarbrick’s ‘Rags, Reels and Airs’ in 1967, and this album was a great inspiration to me and very many others. I suspect the widely held belief that it is an old tune, and was composed by the eponymous piper in the 18th C., is wishful thinking as it does not appear in any old manuscripts etc. (unless it is to be found in the original 1936 edition of the NPS Tune Book?) Perhaps, in 1967, copyright had something to do with it.

Re: Jimmy Allen

Perthshire fiddler Ian Powrie did indeed publish “The Reel of Tullochgorum” in his book “Ian Powrie’s Selection of Scottish Country Dance Tunes” (Published by Mozart Allan, Glasgow. n.d.), but it was annotated “Traditional air collected and arranged by Ian Powrie”. Unfortunately I know very little else. Andrew Rankine (accordion) recorded a track for Parlophone which includes “The Reel of Tullochgorum” in January 1958, but it was unissued, and I haven’t heard it to confirm one way or another.

Another Scottish fiddler, Jim Cameron, recorded the tune in April of 1955, but under the title “Jimmy Allan” (which beats Dave Swarbrick by a good 12 years). On an unspecified date but also in the 1950s, McBain’s Scottish Country Dance Band also recorded it as “Jimmy Allan”.

I think there is more research to be done, but the origins of this fine tune are far from straightforward.

Incidentally, the great Scots singer Jeannie Robertson recorded a song called “The Reel of Tullochgorum” in 1958 - but the air used was the older “Tullochgorum” strathspey.

Re: Jimmy Allen

Although having learned the tune in Scotland as “The Reel of Tullochgorum”, I have heard it so many times south of the border in England as a dance tune for NE England clog dance teams (as Jamie Allen), invariably danced to the rant step. It is almost an anthem for such dance teams!
Recently back from Whitby Folk Week (Yorkshire, England) where they have a Northumbrian Night: plenty of ranting going on there!

Re: Jimmy Allen

Where did you learn it, Trish?

Re: Jimmy Allen

I know I’m not Trish 🙂 but I actually learned the tune by “Osmosis” although my first knowledge of the title was from one of Christine Martin’s books where it called “The Reel of Tullochgorum”.

It wasn’t until one of the Newcastleton Folk Festivals that I learned that the tune was also known as Jamie Allen.

I actually like the tune even although some of the members here refer to it as a “dag”. Thankfully, we don’t hear that word on this site so much these days.

Re: Jimmy Allen

Nigel, probably learned it at one of your slow sessions and from your books, in D.
Later learned it in G from a copied page someone brought along which has 3 tunes in G - Winster Gallop, Jamie Allan and Salmon Tails Up the Water all on the one page: no idea which book that was from.
I like it too.
Btw, is “dag” an acronym or an abbreviation? Not heard it before.

Re: Jimmy Allen

“Dag” was a term employed to belittle tunes which the user did not like, I believe. “Davie Davie Knick Knack” was one of the tunes where you heard it.

Reel of Tullochgorum, X:8

This is the tune as I know it, when played for Scottish Country Dancers. It is commonly played in a set for the dance Mairi’s Wedding as follows: Mairi’s Wedding (A), Reel of Tullochgorum (G), Hopeful Lover (A), Alasdair of the Dunn (Bm), RoTG, HL, AotD, MW to finish.

The dance has 40 bars, so some artistic licence is necessary to make the tunes fit. For this one, I play 8 bars of the A part before moving on to the next tune.