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Random Thoughts On Random Tunes 6 – The Road To Lurgan

A few years back, leafing through a copy of “O'Neill's 1001”, I stumbled on a jig called “The Road To Lurgan”.

Having been brought up in the outskirts of Lurgan (the one in County Armagh – I gather there are a few Lurgans scattered throughout Ireland), I set about learning it.

The tune is essentially a two-part version of The Maid At The Spinning Wheel (which has an absolute “hoor” of a fourth part; rarely played and with good reason!).

So, the tune was already familiar to me and I could put away the dots (good thing too, since I struggle a lot with reading music). And, as likely happens to anybody who plays the music, I got stuck in a loop with the tune, playing it through many, many times, trying to work it into that automatic “finger memory” which is essential (to me, at least) for playing a tune in a session.

So, with my eyes closed, and playing the tune, I visualised The Road To Lurgan in my head. Turn out of Wolfs Island, down Wolfs Island Hill, Ballinary Turn on my left, then Ruddle's Bog. The Tones Pitch was to my right as I carried on in my head towards Kitty Smith's Corner and the turn-off to Raughlan and Kinnego. I mentally crossed the Clauset river, then up The Kesh Hill. From there, a mere couple of hundred yards to the Kesh Chapel and the Kesh school, before rounding McGreavy's Corner, through Aghacommon, alongside Balinamony Cottages towards Silverwood. The stretch from Ballinamony to Francis Street - “the head of the plain” - was always the longest bit of the journey into town. Very little in the way of houses, little likelihood of bumping into somebody you might know. You might be getting a bit tired by now, a bit fed up with the foot-slogging. You'd maybe be looking over your shoulder as you hear each car approach, in the hope that it might be somebody from out your way, perhaps inclined to give you a lift, to hear a few bids.

But it got me to thinking … that the particular road to Lurgan that I was rehearsing in my mind is only one of many roads to Lurgan. If I'd lived in any of the other townlands which surround Lurgan, then the road would be a very different one. If I'd lived in, say, Agahagallon or The Bleary or Waringstown or Magheralin, then I would have traced an altogether different route into town...

And I speculated idly – as you do! - as to which of these particular roads The Road To Lurgan was named after.

Sure, we'll never know.

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February 2010


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