Tag Archives: Bohola

High Caul Cap March

High Caul Cap


There is much to be said about this melody which has been documented back as far as the 1600s, commonly referred to as Highland Laddie which has been set as a sea shantey, an Irish dance, a Highland regimental quickstep march, and even set by Beethoven for piano, violin and cello.

The High Caul Cap, or High Cauled Cap is a popular Irish set dance done to the tune.

The tune is also called If Thou’lt Play Me Fair Play, but Robert Burns’ poem Highland Laddie has provided the most long lasting lyrics for the the song, hence the popular title.

As played by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

There are many lyrics set to the tune, but here is one having to do with the Jacobite Rising of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Where ha’ ye been a’ the day?
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie
Saw ye him that’ far awa’
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie

On his head a bonnet blue
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie
Tartan plaid and Hielan’ trews
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie

When he drew his gude braid-sword
Then he gave his royal word.
Frae the field he ne’er wad flee
Wi’ his friends wad live or dee.

Geordie sits in Charlie’s chair
But I think he’ll no bide there.
Charlie yet shall mount the throne
Weel ye ken it is his own

Here is another version from colonial America:

Was you ever in Quebec?
Bonny laddie, Highland laddie,
Loading timber on the deck,
My bonny Highland laddie.

High-ho, and away she goes,
Bonny laddie, Highland laddie,
High-ho, and away she goes,
My bonny Highland laddie.

Was you ever in Callao
Where the girls are never slow?

Was you ever in Baltimore
Dancing on the sanded floor?

Was you ever in Mobile Bay,
Screwing cotton by the day?

Was you on the Brummalow,
Where Yankee boys are all the go?

As played by Great Big Sea – with the Canadian work song lyrics Donkey Riding – referencing a steam donkey (steam engine).

One of my favorite settings of the tune is from Jimmy Keane and Pat Broaders on their album Bits of Bohola.

Hoban’s on 63rd and O’Keefe’s Mother

I play these two jigs in A fairly often. They were learned off of the Bohola album Bits of Bohola and a Bit.  I have learned many tunes from the accordion playing of Jimmy Keane, but I think these may be my favorites. While I had learned the tunes over a year ago, I hadn’t done much digging into where they came from until just recently. I knew that on Hoban’s I took liberties and changed the key to A, but I wasn’t aware of how far I had traveled from the original tune.

It turns out that Hoban’s on 63rd was composed by the banjo player Owen Hackett in the 1970s for his father, and is actually called Tom Hackett’s Dream.

Here is a nice recording of him playing the tune. It has been recorded over the years by many different groups under wildly varying titles: The Ballinteer, Carmel Doyle’s, Owen More, Patty Gavin’s, Port Patrick, and The Road to Ballinakill.


O’Keefe’s Mother or Mamo O’Keefe as Bohola titled it was written in D by the late flute player James McMahon. McMahon is well known for his popular composition The Banshee. This jig has been titled James McMahon’s, James McMahon’s Favorite, and Caherlistrane Jig.



I’m not certain where the connection to O’Keefe’s Mother came into the picture, but while I was looking around, I found an interesting 1912 article in the San Francisco Call paper about Ellen “Mother” O’Keefe who founded the St. Zita’s Home for Friendless Women. It must be the notion of fallen women, or a kindly woman helping troubled souls – but I plan on continuing to call McMahon’s lovely Jig Mother O’Keefe in her honor.