Island Boy | Bowing Down Home

About this tune

During the 1991-2 and 2006 projects, we never encountered versions of Island Boy played by fiddlers from outside Prince County. However, a version once played by Central Kings fiddler Hector MacDonald - recorded for us by his son Allan MacDonald - suggests that at one point the tune had a much wider circulation.

At first blush, Island Boy seems to form part of a major North American tune family that also includes Phiddlin’ Phil, Possum Up a Gum Stump, Dubuque, and Whiskey Before Breakfast. In fact, this is just an instance of convergent evolution. The key to the tune’s origins was provided by Ervan Sonier, who refered to it as Larry O’Gaff - which also happens to be the name of a well-known Irish jig in the key of G. Upon close examination, it seems that Island Boy is essentially a variant of Larry O’Gaff, transposed from G to D and “stretched out” so that the original 6/8 melody works in cut time (2/2). Since every three-note group from the jig has to be altered to form a four-note group for the reel, this results in a few unusually phrased passages.

Notation is available on this site for Island Boy as played by Allan MacDonald and as played by Dennis Pitre. Notation for this tune as played by Ervan Sonier & Toussaint Arsenault appears in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.