Derry/Londonderry Tunes

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Derry/Londonderry Tunes

Post by LewisC »

Hi all, I have been looking at genealogy and an Irish ancestor on my mom’s side. One Hugh Dempsey was born in 1816 and emigrated in 1834 out of Londonderry to Boston. Family lore has not much more than that.

How would I go about finding and playing tunes of and from that locale from about 200 years ago? How about local tunes in books of today’s tunes?

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Re: Derry/Londonderry Tunes

Post by TXwhistle »

I can't help you, but what an interesting idea. My 3rd or 4th great-grandfather, Thomas O'Donnell, came to the U.S. from County Donegal.
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Tell us something.: Because I play flute and whistle.

With a toot on the flute and a twiddle on the fiddle
Hopping in the middle like a herrin on the griddle
Up, down, hands around and crossing to the wall
Sure hadn't we the gaiety at Phil the Fluter's ball

Re: Derry/Londonderry Tunes

Post by fintano »

Derry was the major seaport in that part of Ireland. Probably most of the ships taking immigrants from northern Ireland to the USA or Canada would have left from Derry. There is a lot of folklore, songs, etc., about this immigration, but it doesn't pertain just to Derry but to Sligo, Donegal, Monaghan and the other counties in that corner of Ireland. If your ancestor emigrated from Derry, that doesn't necessarily mean that he was born and raised there, but only that it was the most convenient place for him to get a ship. It was common in the 19th century for people to walk from (say) Donegal to Derry to get a ship over to Scotland to work the harvest. I have ancestors from Leitrim who I'm pretty sure shipped out from Derry. Similarly, a lot of people from the south of Ireland shipped out from Cork.

Musically there is a huge body of fine music from that part of Ireland, about which it would be possible to say that perhaps your ancestor heard that tune while going to Derry to take the ship, if not from a local musician, then from another emigrant. But for anything more specific you may need to do more genealogical research.

I'm not from Derry, although I have played at sessions there, so a real local could probably give better information. But Derry is the economic centre of a fairly large catchment area, so I would think that musically it would tend to draw on its surroundings, rather than having a peculiar local tradition.
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