The "Yellow Haired Goat" or "An
Gabharín Buí" is an Irish traditional crossed-stick dance. It used to be known
throughout County Clare. It is referenced in Breandán Breathnach's definitive book 'Folk
Music and Dances of Ireland.' In the 1990s Dan Furey was the last one who knew it, and he
taught it to his neighbours Emer and Ciara McCarthy of Lakyle, Co. Clare.
This is a clip from a short film (on Google) of Irish
traditional step dancing in the old style as taught by James Keane and Dan Furey at
the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay in 1991.
This style largely unknown outside of rural Ireland has
now all but disappeared. It bears little resemblance to modern competitive Irish step
dance as performed by ubiquitous little girls in highly embroidered dresses and curly wigs
and boys in flimsy 'kilts,' and even less to the likes of the purely theatrical River
Dance or Lord of the Dance. The old style was effortless, elegant, low to the ground, and
relied on heel and toe beats to make gentle clicking sounds in time to and across the
rythm of the music to demonstrate the expertise of the dancer.
Both James (Keane) and Dan (Furey) who lived beside the Shannon in West
Clare - and who have now both sadly passed away - were adept at this style. Both James's
father and grandfather were traditional step dancers. They taught both boys. There was
also a travelling dancing master by the name of Barron who also held classes in the area.
Once widespread throughout Ireland (and also incidently throughout Scotland), but largely
unknown outside of today's Ireland, this old elegant style has now largely died out.
It is however being kept alive by some past students of James and Dan,
including Michael and Celine Tubridy who have published many of James' and Dan's dances in
a book (with CD): A
Selection of Irish Step Dances / A
Selection of Irish Step Dances and DVD: Irish
Traditional Step Dances
But unpublished is the crossed-stick dance, the "Yellow Haired
Goat" or "An Gabharín Buí". This dance is unique in Irish traditional
step dancing. It is a little like a crossed-brush (broom) dance or the English
bacca-pipes. It was well known in County Clare 100 years ago. Dan was the last known
traditional performer and teacher of this dance. Indeed he carried the sticks around in
the boot of his old Morris Minor for many years so that he could perform it at a moment's
notice. In the late 1980s he taught the dance to Emer and Ciara McCarthy, then two local
school girls - actually identical twins - who lived in Lakyle, near Dan's cottage. With
their kind permission they allowed this film to be made - it is the ony record known of
this once popular dance. In the film Dan plays for the girls to dance.
The notation for the "Yellow Haired Goat" may be found below.
Note that the chorus step of the old jig "Single Time" is also used for the
'rest' step in the "Yellow Haired Goat."
Click to download or play in Windows Media Player
Yellow Haired Goat
(WMV # 2.57 mins # 7.49 Mb)