Pay The Reckoning: Blog

Site Contents

Random Thoughts on Random Tunes 1: The Old Pigeon On The Gate

What's old?  The pigeon or the tune, or both?

Where I live, South East London, one of the most common forms of wildllife is the feral pigeon. On wintry days such as we've experienced recently, they're often to be seen huddled together, in groups of three or four, "balled-up" against the cold.  There is a great sense of stoicism in their enduring the worst that nature can throw at them.

Where I grew up, a lot of people - particularly of my grandparents' generation - were equally stoic.  They'd lived through hard times and they'd worked hard (plastering, "service" - that is to say full-time live-in domestic skivvying, commercial eel-fishing, hemstitching and farm labouring all feature in my parents' and grandparents' upbringings).  They were never going to have more than the barest scrapings to get by on and were never ging to have the respect of anyone except their friends and neighbours.

But their stoicism wasn't bitter - perhaps occasionally so, but everybody's allowed an off-day now and again.  The sense I was always left with was that life had tried to grind them down, but they'd always stayed one step ahead.  Their lead was precarious, but it was a lead nevertheless.  Sometimes I imagine these previous generations like the pigeons in a London winter scene ... slightly hunched and "balled-up" but waiting for the moment to fly.

The tune ... a simple little reel.  I find myself increasingly drawn to these very simple tunes.  I was watching a TV programme the other day which explained how stars, even entire galaxies, disintegrate and the matter from which they were formed may recombine many millions of years later, many millions of miles away to form new stars.  Irish music is a bit like this ... we hear fragments of tunes in other tunes, each new tune that emerges owing a debt to all the others in the ever-shifting universe of tunes.

And I wonder about small tunes such as "The Old Pigeon On The Gate" ...  Is this a "seedling", sloughed off from some much bigger tune(s)?  Or is it an elementary tune ... one whose phrasing and feel serve as fuel for other tunes?

I suspect the latter.  While playing this tune the other day, I found myself twisting it out of shape and, after a time of messing about, realised that I suddenly had a new tune emerging.  After another little time, the only remnant of the "Old Pigeon" which remained was the first two bars which were preserved intact.

What to call this new tune?  Time will tell.  A tune doesn't deserve a name - indeed doesn't need a name - until it's played in public.  So, until then, I'll simply call it "The New Old Pigeon" ...


In London, we are home to large numbers of parakeets.  They're not native and there are those who have a dislike of them. However to my mind they are lovely birds, with a vivid green plumage and, in my humble opinion, as handsome and striking in flight and from a distance as when resting or feeding "close up".  And so, in keeping with the avian theme, I have given a name to the tune I referred to as "The New Old Pigeon On The Gate".  From this point on it will be known as The Parakeet.

The tune is now complete and I set it out in abc format below.


T:The Parakeet




C:Aidan Crossey



G2BG dGBG|F2AF dFAF|E2cE dEcE|A2AB cdef||

|g2dg Bgdg|f2df Afdf|g2dg ecAG|FGAB cdef|

g2dg Bgdg|f2df Afdf|e2ef gfef|d2de dBAB||

I really would appreciate comments from fellow musicians!

All feedback very welcome, by email to

Back to blog homepage

February 2010


Irish Traditional Music Reviews

An Maindilin - recordings of Irish Traditional Music on mandolin

Music Blog

Copyright, Aidan Crossey 2010