Bonnie Lass of Headlake, The


I first heard this tune played as a hornpipe by Paddy O'Brien with The Lough Gowna Céilí Band in the early 1960s. In fact, the tune was originally composed as a four-part march by Gordon MacQuarrie of Cape Breton. MacQuarrie, a noted fiddle player and composer, published the tune in 1940 in his book The Cape Breton Collection of Scottish Melodies.

It is fascinating to imagine the musical meetings that occurred when musicians from Ireland immigrated to America and encountered not only American-born players of Irish traditional music, but also players of Scottish music from Cape Breton. This tune is a great example of such musical cross-pollination. Perhaps Paddy O'Brien picked the tune up in America from a fiddle player, or from MacQuarrie's book, converted it to a hornpipe, and took it back to Ireland with him when he returned in the early 1960s. And now, 'The Bonnie Lass of Headlake' has travelled back and forth across the Atlantic many times; this time in fine style indeed, played by John Daly on the fiddle with Kevin Brehony at the piano.


Séamus Connolly
Boston College Libraries
Some transcriptions are based on historical source recordings. More info.

Song & Tune Type

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Daly, John (fiddle), Brehony, Kevin (piano), and MacQuarrie, Gordon (composer), “The Bonnie Lass of Headlake,” The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music, accessed July 14, 2024,