The Tarbolton: A Scottish reel in Ireland

Tarbolton in Ayrshire has strong associations with Robert Burns, so it is sometimes a surprise to discover a very popular Irish reel that bears its name. The Tarbolton — sometimes called The Tarbolton Reel — was popularised by County Sligo fiddle master Michael Coleman in a set that is often played today.

The tune is originally Scottish, entitled Tarbolton Lodge in some collections but doesn’t seem to be as well known in Scotland, or not in my experience. It is in the Athole Collection and Skye Collection (both 19th Century), for example. Some background information on publications can be found on the Fiddler’s Companion.

Some information on recordings of this tune can be found on the Folk Music Index and at irishtuneinfo. From a flute player’s perspective it is definitely worth checking out Matt Molloy’s version on his first solo album, although this is on an Eb flute.

I have recorded the version that we learned in the class and the notation that was handed out in the lesson will go online there very soon.

Michael Coleman’s 1934 version is below. We will also be learning the other tunes in this set. Comhaltas have other versions of the set as well.

Photo of The Bachelor’s Club, Tarbolton, by Rosser1954, Wikipedia Commons.


2 thoughts on “The Tarbolton: A Scottish reel in Ireland

  1. I di d not know this tune ,Tarbolton lodge,although I, togethter with some other swedish freemasons, visited the lodge in Tarbolton 2014. I am playing fiddle in a swedish “spelmanslag” and will see if we can pick it up.

    • I find it can be inspirational to play music with which you can make a personal connection. Hakan, the notation is widely available online if you can search for it. I hope you have fun with it!

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