Poll Ha’penny

Hornpipe, A Mixolydian
Also known as: Garraí Na Bhfeileog; The Garden of Butterflies; Molly Halfpenny; Paul Halfpenny

TrailJams Tune of the Week. Poll Ha'penny. Traditional Irish Hornpipe. Play it together May 22, 2022. Image of Ha'penny Bridge. trailjams.org

This savory hornpipe is full of sly fun. It is a “modal” tune that invites pitch sliding and out-of-scale notes to add to its playful intrigue. The tune is in A Mixolydian mode (in this setting), but part of its charm is that it does not stick to that scale: the C note in the scale is sometimes C-sharp and sometimes C-natural.

The illustration above is of the Ha’penny Bridge, officially known as the Liffey Bridge, built in 1816 over the river Liffey in Dublin, Ireland. A ha’penny is, of course, a coin with a value of a half-penny, which was the toll charged to walk across the bridge. All of which may have little or nothing to do with this tune, which is content to go by many other names including “The Garden Of Butterflies.” It is a traditional Irish tune, and was among those collected in O’Neill’s The Dance Music of Ireland, published in 1907, where O’Neill categorized the tune as a set dance.


Dots (Sheet Music)

As always for traditional tunes, the musical notation and chords do not indicate the “right” way to play the tune, but are a useful reference. Watch out for that C note in the tune — it is sometimes C-sharp and sometimes C-natural.

About the chords: playing A5 chords in place of the A chords makes the harmony less dense and gives more latitude for melodic variation. (To play A5 chords, or “A omit 3,” leave the C or C# out of the Am or A chord.) The D5 and G5 chords are also “omit the third” chords that leave more harmonic ambiguity and more latitude for melodic variation.

About the C-sharp and C-natural notes: The A Mixolydian scale has a C-sharp, not a C-natural. In this tune though, there is a tradition of playing some of the C notes as C-natural. Various players play no C-natural notes, others play a quite a few, and fiddlers have the ability to play notes “a little sharp.” That’s why it is important to omit the third on A chords in parts of this tune — so that the melody players have room to play with the melody. (Read this article for a friendly explanation of Mixolydian and other modes.)

Sheet music with chords for Poll Ha'penny. Traditional Irish hornpipe. A Mixolydian. Chords for Poll Ha'penny. Arranged by Jonathan Lay 5/15/2022. Revised 6/3/2022. trailjams.org
Play from the Dots
Slow tempo 55bpm
Moderate tempo 75bpm


Examples of sets that include this tune.

References and Resources

For those who want to dig deeper, here are some other resources.