The Sailor’s Bonnet

Reel, D, Traditional Irish

TrailJams Tune of the Week. The Sailor's Bonnet. Traditional Irish Reel. Play it together Jun 4, 2023. Illustration copyright Jonathan Lay 2023.

The Sailor’s Bonnet is the final tune in the famous Tarbolton Set played by fiddler Michael Coleman on a recording released in 1934.

Michael Coleman’s recording of this tune was released in what has become known as “The Tarbolton Set.” That set: The Tarbolton / The Longford Collector / The Sailor’s Bonnet. From that recording, the set became and has remained a popular favorite among Irish tune players. Michael Coleman was born in County Sligo, Ireland, and emigrated to the USA, where he recorded his music in New York City.


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. The version of the tune here is simplified, based on The Bothy Band’s recording of the tune on their 1975 album.

Sheet music and chords for The Sailor's Bonnet, traditional Irish reel in D major. Arrangement by Jonathan Lay.

Play from the Dots
Very slow tempo 45bpm
Slow tempo 65bpm
Moderate tempo 85bpm


Examples of sets that include this tune.

References and Resources

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