Riding on a Bale of Hay (polka)

Here’s a really fun Irish polka, called Riding on a Bale of Hay.

Sometimes also called ‘Riding on a Load of Hay’, this is a West Kerry polka. The renowned West Kerry fiddler Denis Murphy (1910-1974) was known to play it.

Dennis Murphy was born in Lisheen, Gneeveguilla, County Kerry. Both he and his sister Julia Clifford were taught fiddle by the extremely influential fiddle and fiddle teacher Pádraig O’Keeffe.

Denis moved to the United States but visited Ireland often, and moved back to Lisheen in 1965. He played and recorded extensively with Johnny O’Leary and Julia Clifford, and recorded lots of music for the radio and reordings. His light but driving bowing style has influenced many fiddle players.

The Star above the Garter, recorded with Julia Clifford, is a classic album of the Sliabh Luachra style.

West Kerry fiddler Dennis Murphy, known to have played the polka Riding on a Bale of Hay
Dennis Murphy, of West Kerry

Like many Irish tunes, Riding on a Bale of Hay may be an adaptation of a Scottish tune, the strathspey ‘Miss Ramsay of Barnton’.

It’s not really a beginner’s tune, as it has a couple of slightly tricky phrases, and one note (D sharp) that doesn’t crop up in a lot of fiddle tunes, sothis is an intermediate tutorial.

Don’t let that put you off though – Riding on a Bale of Hay is a great polka, and excellent Irish fiddle tune. Plus, as with any slightly trickier tune, there are some really useful bits of fiddle technique that you can practice here.

I’ll take you through the whole polka phrase by phrase so you can learn the tune on the fiddle. Then we can talk about more advanced elements that you can add in.

Fiddle players, if you would like to take your fiddle playing to the next level, take a look at my online fiddle courses, including my free Irish fiddle course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *