Tune of the Day: St. Patrick's Day
The first mention of this tune is that it was one of two tunes (with “The White Cockade”) played by the pipers of the Irish Brigade attached to the French forces which helped turn the tide of battle against the English troops at the battle of Fontenoy on May 11, 1745. Rutherford's 200 Country Dances (1756) contains the first country dance printing of the tune, which also appears in English collections as a jig by the name “Barbary Bell”. Typically for popular melodies of the time, it also became the vehicle for many songs, and as song, country dance or quickstep it remained popular for many years.
Queen Victoria requested the melody from piper Thomas Mahon when she and the Prince Consort visited Ireland for the first time in 1849. Mahon was surprised to learn that she and the Prince were familiar “with the best gems in Irish music”.
The melody has been danced and marched to in North America for some two hundred years where it has been very popular, sustained in part by the large immigrant Irish population as a signature anthem.