Paddy on the Turnpike | Bowing Down Home

About this tune

Paddy on the Turnpike -- or Marie à Pierre as it is known among many Island Acadians – was one of the most widely played tunes on PEI both in 1991-2 and 2006. It has been a very long-term resident of the Island repertoire, and newspaper accounts indicate that the tune was played by competitors at the Great Fiddle Contest of 1926.

There are at least three substantially different versions in circulation on the Island, which I'll call the old setting, the new setting, and the A-setting. The old setting and new setting both have a G key center. In the old setting – which predominates in Northeast Kings County and most closely resembles the version found in most published collections – the tune alternates pretty regularly between tonic (G) and "flat-VII" (F-natural) tonal areas. In the new setting, many or most of the F-naturals are played as F#s, some or even most of the tune calls out for "common practice" harmonies (i.e, I, IV, and V chords), and portions of the melody are adapted in order to operate in this revised harmonic universe.

In the A-setting, the contour of the tune is shifted up to an A key center, and adapted to a Dorian-like mode with both minor-3rd and minor-7th scale degrees. Thus far, I have encountered this version only among a few Prince County players.

Here are some G-versions of note.

Old Setting: George MacPhee, Eddy Arsenault

New Setting: Victor Doucette, Elliott Wight

An early appearance of Paddy on the Turnpike in print is in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, aka 1000 Fiddle Tunes (1882). It appears as The Mills are Grinding in The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music (1912). Interestingly, O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) contains a reel entitled Cronin’s Favorite, which – if the F# in the key signature is authentic – seems quite close to the “new setting” as played on PEI. What’s more, another tune in O’Neill’s called The Rainy Day is quite similar to the “A-setting.”

Notation for versions by Victor Doucette (new setting), Joe Albert (A-setting) and Jackie Biggar (A-setting) are available here. Notation for versions by Francis MacDonald (old setting) and Archie Stewart (new setting) are in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.