The Keel Row polka

By Joseph Lowe

There are 2 recordings of this tune.

The Keel Row has been added to 7 tune sets.

The Keel Row has been added to 67 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Three settings

X: 1
T: The Keel Row
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:c|B2 G>B|c2 A>c|B2 G>B|A>F D>c|
B2 G>B|c2 A>c|B>G A>F|G3:|
|:D|B>d d>g|e2 d>c|B2 G>B|A>F D>c|
B>d d>g|e2 d>c|B>G A>F|G3:|
X: 2
T: The Keel Row
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:d/c/|Bd GA/B/|ce E>G|FA DE/F/|G/A/B/c/d/e/f/g/|Bd GA/B/|ce E>G|FA DE/F/|G3:|
d|Bd g>f|ed cB|cB AG|FA A>d|Bd gf|ed cB|ce dF|
G3 d|Bd g>f|ed cB|c/d/B/c/ A/B/G/A/ FA A>c|Bd ^ce|df eg|fb a>^c|d3||
|:c|(3Bdg (3 GBd|(3cea (3ABc|(3Bdg (3GBd|(3FAd D>d|(3Bdg (3GBd|(3cea (3ABc|(3Bed (3cBA|G3:|
d|(3BGB (3 dBd|(3gdc (3BAG|(3FDF (3AFA|(3dAG (3FED|(3BGB (3dBd|(3gdc (3BAG|(3Fed (3cBA|
G3 d|(3BGB (3 dBd|(3gdc (3BAG|(3FDF (3AFA|(3dAG (3FED|(3EFG (3FGA|(3GAB (3ABc|(3Bcd (3^cde|
d6|:B2|BGBd g4|cAce a4|BGBd gdBd|cAFA DEAc|
BGBd gdBd|cAce agfe|dgdB AedF|G6:|
c|Bd de/f/|g/f/g/a/ b>B|cA/B/ c/B/A/G/|F/G/A/B/ A>c|B/G/A/B/ c/d/e/f/|
g/f/e/d/ c/B/A/G/|Fe dF|G3 c|Bd d e/f/|g/f/g/a/ b>B|
cA/B/ c/B/A/G/|F/G/A/B/ A>c|Bd ^ce|df eg|fb g^c|d3||
^c/=c/|B2 G>B|c2 A>c|B2 G>B|A>F D>c|B2 G>B|c2 A>c|B>G A>F|G3||
X: 3
T: The Keel Row
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:{A}.B3B .c3c|B~G3 AFDc|B~G3 .c2dc|1 BGAF G2z2:|2 BGAF G3D||
|:{A}B2dB e3d|B~G3 c~A3|Bddg e2dc|BGAF G3D:|

Thirteen comments

First tune submission

This was transcribed from a photo copied hand written sheet I was given at a workshop. Hope I haven’t mucked the abc up! The variations are attributed to ‘Shields’ but I have no idea who that was.

“Variation 1”
|: d/c/ | Bd GA/B/ | ce E>G | FA DE/F/ | G/A/B/c/d/e/f/g/ | Bd GA/B/ | ce E>G | FA DE/F/ | G3 :|
“Variation 2”
d | Bd g>f | ed cB | cB AG | FA A>d | Bd gf | ed cB | ce dF |
G3 d | Bd g>f | ed cB | c/d/B/c/ A/B/G/A/ FA A>c | Bd ^ce | df eg | fb a>^c |“D.C.” d3 ||
“Variation 3”
|: c | (3Bdg (3 GBd | (3cea (3ABc | (3Bdg (3GBd | (3FAd D>d | (3Bdg (3GBd | (3cea (3ABc | (3Bed (3cBA | G3 :|
“Variation 4”
d | (3BGB (3 dBd | (3gdc (3BAG | (3FDF (3AFA | (3dAG (3FED | (3BGB (3dBd | (3gdc (3BAG | (3Fed (3cBA |
G3 d | (3BGB (3 dBd | (3gdc (3BAG | (3FDF (3AFA | (3dAG (3FED | (3EFG (3FGA | (3GAB (3ABc | (3Bcd (3^cde |
“Variation 5”
d6 |: B2 | BGBd g4 | cAce a4 | BGBd gdBd | cAFA DEAc |
BGBd gdBd| cAce agfe | dgdB AedF | G6 :|
“Variation 6 “
c | Bd de/f/ | g/f/g/a/ b>B | cA/B/ c/B/A/G/ | F/G/A/B/ A>c | B/G/A/B/ c/d/e/f/ |
g/f/e/d/ c/B/A/G/ | Fe dF | G3 c | Bd d e/f/ | g/f/g/a/ b>B |
cA/B/ c/B/A/G/ | F/G/A/B/ A>c | Bd ^ce | df eg | fb g^c | d3 ||
^c/=c/ | B2 G>B | c2 A>c | B2 G>B | A>F D>c | B2 G>B | c2 A>c | B>G A>F |“FINE”G3 ||

Not duplicated!

I did search the site pretty thoroughly before posting this tune which is totally unlike the one you linked to and the only one among the many Keel Rows listed here that is a polka. The tune and variations run to two pages and it’s well worth a proper look, I hope you enjoy playing it.

William Shield. 18th century musician and composer from Swalwell near Gateshead.


Thanks for the info crunluath, I’ve spent a fair old time researching William Shield and jolly interesting it was too. My apologies to the members here, I honestly didn’t realise that the site was dedicated to ITM. I’ll retire gracefully, regards to all. 🙂 [/tallship]

Shields variations on the Keel Row

These variations can be found in the Northumbrian Pipers Society’s “The Charlton Memorial Tune Book” Book page pages 24-25.
See also Shields Country dance from the Vicker’s Manuscript another of his tunes.
Born: Swalwell, Gateshead, March 5, 1748
Died: January 25, 1829

William Shield was a composer popular with the kings of his day and who - years after his death -
was claimed to be the person who penned the tune to Auld Lang Syne.

He was first taught music by his father, also called William, but, after his father and mother
Mary died while Shield was still a child, he was apprenticed to a shipbuilder in South Shields.
However he continued to study music with the famous composer Charles Avison in Newcastle.

Shield became a noted violinist in Newcastle concerts before moving to Scarborough to lead a
theatre orchestra. In 1772, he was to play violin in the opera at Covent Garden, now
the Royal Opera House.

Shield also worked as a composer for Covent Garden and met Joseph Haydn. In 1817, he was
appointed Master of the King’s Musick (sic) to George III and George IV. Like Haydn - not
to mention several other composers of his time - Shield was a great plunderer of folk tunes
(in his case mostly from his native Northumbria).

Shield’s penned a large number of works but he is principally known for his light English
opera Rosina (1781). Some regarded it as one of the ancestors of the musical, and Shield as
one of the first composers of musicals.

Shield is buried, in the musicians, section of Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey. A memorial
cross was erected to honour Shield in 1891 at Whickham Church, his native parish.

Quote/fact: In 1998, John Treherne, Gateshead’s musical director, uncovered the original
manuscript for the opera Rosina in the Gateshead Public Library. After copying out the score
and humming it, he believed the melody at the end of the Rosina overture it to be tune of
Auld Lang Syne. Doubts have been cast on their claims, with some saying the tune could be
Northumbrian in origin.

“Keel Row” / “Keelrow” ~ the same tune and definitely 4/4…

X: 1
T: Keel Row, The
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: highland fling / highland schottische
K: Gmaj
|: c |\
B2 G>B c2 A>c | B2 G>B A>FD>c |
B2 G>B c2 A>c | B>GA>F G3 :|
|: D |\
B>dd>g e2 d>c | B2 G>B A>FD>c |
B>dd>g e2 d>c | B>GA>F G3 :|

A duplication completely ~ what difference? But, some great additional comment, valued information… However, this should have gone under the comments of the earlier submission of this rather than being duplicated here, in my opinion… 😏 And, this isn’t a purist website, there’s quite a lot of variety in tunes and information filed here, and generally welcome, even including the occassional Balkan number…

“The Keel Row” ~ as slainte has already said ~ duplicated here

The Keel Row ~ filed under ‘strathspey’
Submitted on October 3rd 2004 by ceolachan.

The Keel Row as a reel

I’ve learned it by a friend who plays it (really quickly) as a reel or fling :

T: Keel Row, The
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:{A}.B3B .c3c | B~G3 AFDc |
B~G3 .c2dc |1 BGAF G2z2 :|2 BGAF G3D ||
{A}B2dB e3d | B~G3 c~A3 |
Bddg e2dc | BGAF G3D :|

Keel Row

I can’t read those “abc” tunes. The Keel Row I know comes from Scotland and has words that run:

Weel may the keel row,
The keel row, the keel row.
Weel may the keel row
That my laddie’s in.

“Keel” means “coal.” Pete Seeger wrote a tune some years ago to the tune in 2/4 time with the following words:

Well may the world go
The world go, the world go.
Well may the world go
When I’m far away.


“At the western end of the Newcastle Quayside is a street called Sandgate which once entered Newcastle by the Sand Gate of the town Wall. This street is however better famed as the one time home of that famous Newcastle community, the Keel Men, who were unique to the region. These were the highly skilled boatmen, who handled the movement of coal from the riverside to ships on the River Tyne. The keelmen took their name from their small vessels called Keels which could carry around 20 Tons of coal. “

Read further:

You can find more authoritative accounts if you’d care to look.

Re: The Keel Row

I’ve just noticed today (7 years later … 🙁 ) that parts of the abc were missing … so it’s complete now …