Rory Dall

In old Scottish and Irish music books and manuscripts, you can find tunes which are attributed “by Rory Dall”. In the past, there has been uncertainty or confusion over which Rory Dall these tunes belong to. Some earlier writers even suggest that there was only one person called Rory Dall.

However, if you set down all the tunes, and compare different sources and settings of each, which have different attributions, and different dates of their first appearance; and if you compare the styles and types of composition, then it is clear that all of the instrumental tunes belong to the Irish Rory Dall.

A couple of tunes with Scottish provenance, which have traditionally been assumed to belong to the Scottish Rory Dall (e.g. Cumha Peathar Ruaidhri, ‘Rory Dall’s Sister’s Lament’) can be found in the Straloch lute book written down c.1627, before Rory Dall Morison was born. Such tunes must belong to Ó Catháin.

There are also tunes which seem to be falsely attributed to Rory Dall, such as “A Highland Port by Rory Dall” by James Oswald.

I have made a chart detailing all of the music attributed to both Rory Dalls. Click here for the complete tune-list index (PDF) (updated October 2014)

Ruaidhrí Dall Ó Catháin, the Irish Rory Dall, composed over 10 tunes. The reason I can't be definite abut the number is because there are dubious attributions, and also some of his tunes survive in multiple versions, e.g. Port Gordon. It's not clear if one original composition by Rory Dall has come down to us through two different oral traditions, so that the two end results are so different they are not recognisable as the same tune, or if he composed two different tunes for the Gordon family, both with the same name.

Probably his most famous tune is Da mihi manum, ‘give me your hand’, which in Irish is Tabhair Dom Do Lamh. Other compositions are a series of tunes called ‘Port’ including Port Atholl and Port Gordon.

Ruaidhri Dall Mac Mhuirich, the Scottish Rory Dall, does not appear to have composed tunes at all. He was mainly a poet / songwriter, and his songs use traditional Gaelic song airs. Next...