Ronan learned these two pieces from Seán Potts, founding member of The Chieftains, whose grandfather was the famous Wexford piper John Potts.
Hunt the Squirrel (country dance)
An old “country dance” (or “contradance” in USA) in which a man “chased” a woman through the dance figure. It was popular all over Britain, Ireland and North America.
Also known as Droghedy’s March, a tune associated with the Sword Dance or Stick Dance of the Wexford Mummers (Droghedy is a family name and has nothing to do with the town name Drogheda)
These tunes feature Ronan’s wild James Kenna Union pipes which date from circa 1760. These old pipes perfectly suit these two old dance tunes.
This description of the dance is given by Wexford folklorist Patrick Kennedy in his 1812 publication, “On the Banks of the Boro”.
The tune called Droghedy’s March was occasionally danced to among the hornpipes, by a performer furnished with a short cudgel in each hand, which he brandished and clashed in harmony with the tune. But we had the good fortune to see it performed in a complete fashion on the borders of the barony of Bargy, in the old manor-house of Coolcul, whose young men, joined by the stout servants and labourers on the farms, were well able, in country parlance, to clear a fair. Amongst these the present chronicler was initiated into the mysteries of mumming, and was taught to bear his part in that relic of the Pyrrhic or Druidic dance, “Droghedy’s March.” We practiced it in one of the great parlours, and this was the style of its execution: six men or boys stood in line, at reasonable distance apart, and six others stood opposite them, all armed as described. When the music began, feet, and arms, and sticks commenced to keep time. Each dancer, swaying his body to the right and left, described an upright figure of 8 with the fists, both of them following the same direction, the ends of the sticks following the same figure, of course. In these movements no noise was made, but at certain bars the arms moved rapidly up and down, the upper and lower halves of the right-hand stick striking the lower half of the left-hand stick in the descent of the right arm, and the upper half of it in the ascent, and vice versa. At the proper point of the march each man commenced a kind of fencing with his vis-a-vis, and the clangs of the cudgels coincided with the beats of the music and the movements of the feet. Then commenced the involutions, evolutions, interlacings and unwindings, every one striking at the person with whom the movement brought him face to face, and the sounds of the sticks supplying the hoochings in the reels….The steps, which we have forgotten, could not have been difficult, for we mastered them…..This war dance is (or was) performed to a martial tune resembling Brian Boru’s March…