An Irish Tune and Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day

This year, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I have an Irish tune to share and also an Irish recipe with an interesting story. The song, “Dublin City”, is one if my most favorite Irish tunes. It is rhythmic and with a beautiful melody; different from many other Irish songs. I learned the song from folk musician, dulcimer player and teacher, Dallas Cline. The recipe is for Irish Soda Bread and comes from a good friend and fellow dulcimer player. Jan also told of her Irish ancestry.

Fellow dulcimer player, Jan, has taken many trips to Ireland to visit the places of her Irish ancestors. And almost every year she takes a cruise along with her musician son who plays in an Irish band on the cruise ship. So Jan seemed like a good person to share a favorite Irish recipe for my blog post featuring St. Patrick’s Day. Soon a letter arrived in the mail with a recipe for Irish Soda bread. Jan also told a little about her Louisiana Irish ancestry.

Jan states that her mother’s Irish ancestors were Hughes, Quinn, Browne, McCormick, Hannon, and Kenna’s. They immigrated to New Orleans during the Great Famine in Ireland (about 1845-1850) and settled in the Irish Channel. (The Irish Channel is not a waterway, rather it is a neighborhood in the center of New Orleans.)

Many Irishmen arrived in New Orleans in the 1820’s to 1840’s during the potato famines. Cotton ships would unload their cargo in Liverpool and on the return trip to the New World they brought Irish workers along as ballast to weight down the ships. New Orleans was largely free of British influence. Irish immigrants who were suppressed under British rule, including the Church of England, found New Orleans appealing with its Catholic culture.  Here is the Irish Catholic Church in New Orleans in the 1800’s, St. Patrick’s Church. The church still stands.

I associate New Orleans with French culture, but the city really is a melting pot of cultures like so many American cities. The Spanish ruled the city for a period of time and their architectural influence is prevalent in New Orleans. It is interesting that other nationalities settled in the city including Italian, German and Irish along with settlers from the Caribbean Islands. African influence is predominant, too, with Creole recipes adapted from native African cooking foods and methods.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread is a traditional Irish bread which probably dates to the mid-1800’s when baking sodium bicarbonate was introduced. Possibly the bread supplemented the Irishmen’s diets during the potato famines. The bread is a quick bread (like biscuits and scones) with baking powder, soda, sugar, eggs and buttermilk. It was baked in a round loaf with a cross on top (to ward off evil spirits) and baked over an open fire. Often raisins were included in the recipe.

I had a good time trying out several recipe variations for Irish Soda Bread to serve on St. Patrick’s Day. The recipes can be found on my blog at:

Dallas Cline, Folk Musician 

My Irish tune, “Dublin City”, is from Dallas Cline who is a folk musician from the New England region. When I first got to know her, Dallas lived in Connecticut. She was dedicated to folk music and had an extensive knowledge of songs and musical traditions. She taught mountain dulcimer, guitar and autoharp for over 50 years and opened several coffee houses where many well-known folk musicians played. She published ten music books for mountain dulcimer.  Dallas passed away in 2017 at the age of 90 years.

I got to know Dallas Cline through an ad that I placed in Dulcimer Players News offering music tablature notation and typing. Through the years, I typed seven of Dallas’s books. It was interesting to correspond with her and get to know her through this activity. I loved her music and arrangements and was always amazed at her knowledge of songs. One of her books (not pictured) was of Irish music. She learned many of the songs in the book through her trips to Ireland and by listening to other folk musicians.

Dallas was equally comfortably playing in different tunings. Many of her songs have tablature for the DAA tuning. She wrote an entire book on using a capo and playing in different modes. “Hot Marmalade” is a book of her original tunes.

Irish Folk Song – “Dublin City”

“Turning Towards the Morning” is a mountain dulcimer tablature book of another folk artist’s music. Gordon Bok is a folk singer, song writer and music collector. He hails from Maine and has many books and recordings to his credit. I love the collection of Bok’s songs that Dallas included in her book; many are folk songs from New England.

One Irish tune included in the book is “Dublin City” which I find to be a very beautiful and mesmerizing song. This song is know by several other names including “Spanish Lady” and “Wheel of Fortune.” In the song,  the singer observes the “Spanish Lady” as she goes through various activities. All the versions make reference to a candle and the song takes place in Dublin. In this version the singer counts numbers backwards, singing the odd and even numbers separately. Perhaps he was saying “that the lady had ‘both the odds and evens of it’, in other words that she had everything.” A Spanish Lady often refers to a lady of the night. Perhaps she was counting her night’s take. There are many variations to the song and explanations to the lyrics. Two references are included at the end of this blog post.

DAC Tuning

Dallas Cline’s version of “Dublin City” is in a minor mountain dulcimer tuning, DAC. To play the song, tune the melody string on the dulcimer from DAD down one note to DAC. I find that this tuning is very high for a singing voice; I used a baritone dulcimer (AEA tuned down to AEG) to play the song and sing. In addition, the song has a very unusual timing with many of the measures alternating to a 4/5 time signature so there are five beats in the measure. You need to hold the pitch an extra beat. Good luck getting that mastered.

For this post, I modified the song to 4/4 time and included the melody in the tablature. Use tablature charts to add chords, if you wish, otherwise the melody is beautiful alone. A PDF file is included at the end of the post.

Dublin City – Revised

Aubrey Atwater’s Version of “Spanish Lady”

Aubrey Atwater, folk musician from Rhode Island, has posted on YouTube a version of the “Spanish Lady” which she plays on the mountain dulcimer. The melody is the same as “Dublin City” although the lyrics are slightly different. Aubrey plays a very rhythmic accompaniment on the dulcimer and sings the melody. Makes for a very beautiful song. With her permission, I’ve included the YouTube link so you can hear Aubrey singing the song with mountain dulcimer accompaniment. I could listen to this song all night. Don’t know why — but I love the melody and the song seems to flow from phrase to phrase.

St. Patrick’s Day is coming soon. Enjoy some Irish Soda Bread on this holiday as a tribute to all things Irish. And I have gained an insight into the fact that New Orleans is a city of many immigrants and cultures.

In regards to music, I learned many Irish tunes which can be played on the dulcimer from Dallas Cline and appreciate all she did to preserve and promote folk music. Unfortunately, I don’t know where her Irish Dulcimer Book or Turning Towards the Morning book can be purchased.  The dulcimer lends itself well to Irish music. — try to learn one for this St. Patrick’s Day. Here is the PDF file for my modified version of the song, “Dublin City”:

Dublin City – Revised


Several of Dallas Cline’s books can be purchased from The Dulcimer Shoppe in Mountain View, Arkansas.       Unfortunately, “Turning Towards the Morning” is not one of these books.

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