Tune of the Day: Old Man Dillon
In his 1910 collection Irish Folk Music, Chicago police officer Francis O'Neill relates that while he was walking his patrolman's beat on a summer evening in 1875 he chanced to hear “the strains of a fiddle coming through the shutters of an old dilapidated building on Cologne street”.
The musician was an old man named Dillon, who lived alone, and whom I had seen daily wielding a long-handled shovel on the streets. His only solace in his solitary life besides his dhudeen [clay pipe] was “Jenny”, as he affectionately called his fiddle. A most captivating jig memorized from his playing I named “Old Man Dillon” in his honor.
O'Neill says “inferior versions” were subsequently found under the name “A Mug of Brown Ale”, which he thinks was the original title. The earliest publication of the tune appears to be in R.M. Levey's mid-19th century collection as “The Mug of Brown Ale”.