a book about Set Dances…


Co-written by Dr Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain and Mick McCabe, Jigs to Jacobites, explores 4000 years of Irish history through the lens of 40 traditional set dances. Set dances form a small but unique repertoire within Irish traditional music and dance. The tunes are unusually structured, making them challenging to play and to dance to. Many set dances also have associated songs and poems, making them a unique bridge between the traditional musician, dancer and singer, and between past and present.

Buy the book

After a great year publishing and selling our beautiful book, we are taking a little break over the holiday period. Online sales of the book will resume in early January, along with some exciting developments… Set dance T-shirts are coming!
Each individual Jigs to Jacobites set dance illustration will be available as a its own T-shirt design, available in a variety of sizes. Check back in January for an update on progress.
From Orfhlaith and Mick, we wish you all a merry holiday, and a happy new year!


From the Tuatha Dé Danann to Bonnie Prince Charlie, to the Italia ‘90 World Cup, themes from Irish and world history provide a backdrop story to each set dance. These are further enhanced by illustration and staff notation, creating an engaging presentation of music and dance history.

The Downfall of Paris commemorates the French Revolution

We tell a story for each tune title

“Jockey to the Fair is a love song from the Anglo-Scottish broadside ballads of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It tells the story of Jockey, a young shepherd, who meets his love, Jenny…”

We illustrate an aspect of that story…


We delve into the history of the tune…

The music notation appears on its own within music collections, starting with Thompson’s Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, 1770-1785. The tune was still popular in England into the mid 1800s, as it makes a cameo appearance in Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd…”

We look at the dances and dancers associated with the tune…

“Jockey to the Fair features in three separate dance traditions; English country dancing, Morris dancing, and Irish step dancing. Jockey to the Fair was published in Skillern’s Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1780, with dance instructions…”

We provide the staff notation for the tune

Staff notation for Jockey to the Fair

Where a song is linked to the set dance, we include its lyrics too

“Twas on the morn of sweet May-day,
When Nature painted all things gay;
Taught birds to sing and lambs to play,
And deck’d the meadows fair:
Young Jockey, early in the morn,
 Arose and tripp’d it o’er the lawn; 
His Sunday coat the youth put on, 
For Jenny had vow’d away to run
With Jockey, to the Fair…”

Jigs to Jacobites receives financial assistance from the Arts Council.