Originally Posted by FredProgGH
The song can be traced back to the book Ancient Music of Ireland
published in 1855. The publisher of the book credited Jane Ross of County Londonderry with providing the tune (along with another of others that she collected from her region).
Miss Ross did not know the name of the tune but stated that it was "very old".
A later enthusiast (early 1900's) proferred the possibility that Miss Ross obtained the tune from a local fiddler known as "Blind" Jimmy McCurry who would have been alive (albeit relatively young) and playing in the area at the time. In fact McCurry may have commonly played within a stone's throw of Miss Ross's house at the time. Of course if the two were in such close proximity you would think that Jane Ross would have been able to identify the fiddler by name, which she never did.
The McMurry family of course has latched onto the possibility of Blind Jimmy being the source as stone cold fact, regardless of a lack of supporting evidence. lol
The odd thing about the tune is that it does't match the structure of any Irish melody and wouldn't fit with common Irish lyrical schemes. In addition unlike most traditional songs that have been passed down for generations there is no evidence of other alternate versions of the tune being played.
There was some speculation that Miss Ross actually penned the song herself and passed it along as being a "genuine" Irish folk tune from antiquity (to what purpose who knows). There is also a theory that she heard Jimmy play the tune, performed her own "improvements" on the song & then passed it on...which would explain why she was hesitant to name the source.
Furthermore at least one book has made claim that harper Rory Dall O'Cahan was in fact responsible for penning the tune...again without any corroborating evidence.
Finally to really
muck things up there's the little matter of Blind Jimmy being of Protestant leanings which throws a wrench into the common theory that Irish folk music is strictly a Catholic endeavour....