Never Was Piping So Gay reel

By Ed Reavy

Also known as And Never Was Piping So Gay, The Blacksmith’s Anvil, Ed Reavy’s, Reavy’s, Reavy’s No. 4, Shaney Mulhearn’s, Shaney Mulhern, Shaney Mulhern’s, Shanie Mulhearne’s.

There are 34 recordings of this tune.
This tune has been recorded together with

Never Was Piping So Gay appears in 3 other tune collections.

Never Was Piping So Gay has been added to 10 tune sets.

Never Was Piping So Gay has been added to 161 tunebooks.

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Twenty-one comments

Paddy Fahy’s?

This tune sounds an awful lot like one of the tunes listed in The Session as Paddy Fahy’s (one of the ones that Martin Hayes recorded).

I can’t quite decide if they’re the same tune or if there are just enough differences to consider them separate entities. What does everybody else think?

Paddy Fahy’s

Not quite Paddy Fahy’s work but not too far off. This one is by Ed Reavy.

Paddy Fahey’s

It’s that first bar-and-a-half that’s similar, if we’re talking about the same tune - after that they make their distinct identiities known. Incidentally, I’ve seen the said Fahey tune attributed to Larry Redican …..but that’s another story.

Change the name!

i reckon that the title should be changed to Never Was A Piper So Chuffed!

W. B. Yeats

Paddy Fahy played an alternative version of this Ed Reevy tune, he did not compose it. The name of the tune comes from the W. B. Yeats poem “The Host of The Air” of which the final verse is:

But he heard high up in the air
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.


Does anyone have a non-lame pipes friendly setting of this?

No. I’ve never come across a flute friendly setting of the tune, either. But Liam Kelly plays it on flute on one of Dervish’s recordings. It’s actually Paddy Fahy’s version:

Never was Piping So Gay

What’s going on? There are at least a half dozen albums listed as containing this tune that do not contain this tune. Maybe even more. Some of them have Maudabawn Chapel, but some don’t even have a Reavy tune on them.

Probably more than that. It’s because this tune has been given the alternative title - mistakenly - as “Paddy Fahy’s”.

I’m told this one is combined with Maudabawn Chapel to make one huge untitled tune in the The Northern Fiddler book.

A variation of the first part

The way I learned the tune (from Kieran Hanrahan’s playing with Stocktons Wing I think), there’s a distinctive C natural in the first part that is missing from the tune as submitted. Mine goes:

D | G,2B,D GBdB | cafd cAFA | G2BG DGBG | AF~F2 dFAF |
G2BG DGBc | dfed ^cdef | gfgd cBcA | FGAF G2G :||

That misses out a very distinctive low B for me! I have it as this:

X: 1
T: Never Was Piping So Gay
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: reel
K: Gmaj
G2BG DGB,G|Aafd ^cdef|~g3d ~c3A|1 FGAc BGDB,:|2 FGAF G2Bd||
|:~g3d ^cdBG|DGBd cAFA|GBBA BcdB|cafd ^cdef|
gbaf gdBG|DGBd cAFA|BG~G2 AF~F2|1 BdcA G2Bd:|2 BdcA G2DB,||


But can the pipes get down to that bottom G? The flute can’t, so you have to jump up an octave which kind of spoils the effect produced by the statement of the initial low G. Oh well…

Different than the Reavy book

Different than in Reavy’s book, Where the Shannon Rises. There is an alternate ending for the last four bars of the second part.

In Yeats‘ poem, the Host of the Air, O’Driscoll dreamed that his wife Bridget was taken by the Host. O’Driscoll woke to the sound of the pipes in the distance -
"And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay."

A dream of a dream? A reverie?

Never Was Piping So Gay or Fahy’s

I was just on the Reavy music web site. There we learn that Reavy composed over 500 tunes, only 130 of which have been written down and attributed. Most did not acquire names until later. What a blessing it would be to have the other 270 plus Reavy tunes.

It is not uncommon for musicians to call tunes by the name of the person from whom they learned the tunes. Sometimes more than one tune has been known by the same name because they associated with the one musician. Examples would be tunes called “Cooley’s,” “Colemans,” “Fahy’s” or, yeah, “Reavy’s”. There’s more than one of each of those. Many were probably dubbed with the names of musicians who learned them and took them around Ireland. Later, Reavy and his son wrote down the 130 and gave them names of Reavy’s choosing, different from the ones people had been using.

As for portions of a tune varying from what is written somewhere, most Irish musicians of my acquaintance don’t learn tunes from spots on paper. Many fiddlers work out variations on a tune as they play it over the years. It’s possible that Reavy changed parts of his tunes from playing to playing. Hey, they were his, after all.

When I met Paddy Fahy in August 1976, he recommended Where the Shannon Rises to me as a valuable collection of tunes. In his home he played The Ceilier for me and a few other people. His playing of it was wonderful and downright spooky. I did not know it was a Reavy tune until I encountered it in the book later. I have heard recordings of several musicians playing that tune with a second part that does not match closely what is written in the book.

Also known as Shanie Mulhearne’s Reel

According to Jimmy Campbell (in The Fiddle Music of Donegal), this title was often used.

Re: Never Was Piping So Gay

Funny thing: we reprised the original discussion at a session last night in Newcastle. A couple of people started the slower ‘Paddy Fahy’ version (after Martin Hayes style) when my friend said that’s an Ed Reavey tune and ripped into it at 90 miles an hour! I’m sure one is a derivative of the other but who knows?

We enjoyed both versions last night anyway!

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Re: Never Was Piping So Gay

This tune was known as “Reavy’s No. 4” in the Longford area, before Reavy’s given names became known in the area. Michael Reilly formerly of Drumreilly, Co. Leitrim, but having moved to Glannagh, Moatefarrell, Co. Longford, wrote it down around 1960 using that numerical title. Around the same time, William Doherty of Cloone, Co. Leitrim, sent this same tune to Michael’s brother, Hughie Reilly of Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford, using the title “Shaney Mulhern’s”, and saying it was as played by Larry Redican. These manuscripts are now in the Irish Traditional Music Archive, having been donated by Marie Reilly, Michael’s daughter. I myself, about that time too, got a setting of it from Joe Dowd under the title “Shaney Mulhern (Reel)”, as arranged by P. J. McGuire and Joe Dowd. It has piano-accordion chords added in, presumably by McGuire. To add a little diversity to the story, I also received a copy of this tune around 1960 from Frank McCollam of Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, transcribed from the playing of Larry Redican and Andy McGann, who gave no title, but just wrote “Reel by Martin Wynne”!

Re: Never Was Piping So Gay

I learned it from Frank Blaney of Belfast around 1977. He taught it as “Shaney Mulhearne’s”. Went into “Dowd’s Favourite” and then “Ten Pound Float”.