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PADDY’S LEATHER BREECHES



“Paddy's Leather Breeches (or Britches)” is a traditional jig familiarly known as the “Irish Jig” by Scottish dancers, and part of the modern repertoire at dancing schools. It is also known as “Ciamar A Ni Mi An Dannsa Direach" (translated as "How will I do the dance properly") a variant of the tune used as “port-à-beul” (mouth music). Paddy (variant of “Patrick” the Patron Saint of Ireland) is often used by Englishman as a pejorative term for an Irishman.

The Irish Jig, customarily danced to the tune of "Paddy’s leather Breeches" (and sometimes "The Irish Washerwoman"), is performed in a stylised red and green outfit. Female dancers wear green/red dresses/skirts, complete with apron, and hard shoes for ‘stomping out the rhythm’. Male dancers wear green/red tails, breeches, hat, and twirl a shillelagh (1).

        


The Irish Jig is a Scottish caricature of an Irish person, gesturing angrily and frowning, and also a tribute to Irish stepdancing. It is based on traditional Irish steps but with arm movements added. The Scottish version of the Irish Jig is meant to parody an angry Irish washerwoman when she finds out some neighbourhood boys have knocked all her clean washing to the ground. Another version describes a washerwoman who shakes her firsts and flounces her skirt because she is furious with her husband who has been out drinking at the pub until the wee hours and has squandered all the money; he faces her tirade dancing with ‘happy-go-lucky’ mimics. There are several other versions. In some the Irish washerwoman is also tormented by a leprechaun and angry because children have run through her yard and dirtied and stolen the washing that was hung out to dry (2).
When danced by a male, the dance is also said to be the story of Paddy angry because a careless washerwoman has shrunk his favourite fine leather breetches. Paddy is waving his shillelagh and showing his fists in anger to symbolise his rage facing the washerwoman, while she gives a spirited defence of her competence.
  


(1) A shillelagh is a cudgel/club, similar to a wooden walking stick with a large knob at the top, that is associated with Ireland and Irish folklore. Shillelaghs are traditionally made from blackthorn or oak. They are commonly the length of a walking stick (distance from the floor to one’s wrist with elbow slightly bent) but may be shorter. Most also have a heavy knob for a handle which can be used for striking as well as parrying and disarming an opponent. Many shillelaghs also have a strap attached to place around the holder’s wrist. The name, an Anglophone corruption of the Irish sail éille, appears to have become convolved with that of the village and barony, Shillelagh, in County Wicklow. Although originally used for settling disputes in a gentlemanly manner, the shillelagh eventually became a symbol of stereotypical violent Irish behavior.   


(2) On St Patricks day, when young children are present, the story is often changed to a story of some muddly pigs running through the clean laundry and messing it up.



VIDEO SUGGESTION(S)

Scottish vs Irish jig
Highland Irish Jig (females)
Irish Jig (female & male)

Irish Jig (males)
Mouth Music

  Gaelic and English lyrics
  Ciamar a nì mi an dansa dìreach? / How can I do the dance rhythmically?
  Ciamar a nì mi an ruidhe bòidheach? / How can I do the reel prettily?
  Ciamar a nì mi an dansa dìreach? / How can I do the dance rhythmically?
  Dh’fhalbh am prìon’ a bann mo chòta? / The pin has gone from the hem of my coat!

  Dh’fhalbh am prìona, ‘s chuir e clì mi / The pin has gone - that I upset me
  Dh’fhalbh am prìon’ a bann mo chòta? / The pin has gone from the hem of my coat!
  Dh’fhalbh am prìona, ‘s chuir e clì mi / The pin has gone - that I upset me
  Ciamar a nì mi an ruidhe bòidheach? / How can I do the reel prettily?

Bagpipe solo






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