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Reeling Ray

Reeling Ray



History of Jig Dolls


Dancing dolls have been around for centuries. They have been made and played throughout Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa. 
It is said that in the late eighteenth century the dancing doll design was modified by having a wooden rod fixed into the it's back. There are records of dolls being made in the trenches of World War One.

In Ireland and other places traveling musicians and buskers used jig dolls as an added attraction. Some "one-man-bands" developed a device that attached to one leg so the doll could dance in time to the tapping of the foot.



Tom with Reeling Ray


How Jig Dolls are made

Dolls are typically carved from wood and assembled, loose-limbed, using wire, nails, screws, cotter pins - in fact anything that fits! Some designs are very elaborate, some very simple. Some dolls have clothes and faces painted on, while others have carved features and real cloth for their clothes. The stick in the back of the doll is usually a piece of dowelling, and the dancing board is plywood.


"Reeling Ray", the jig doll designed and made by me, is made from a variety of woods for torso, arms and legs. His clothes are mostly painted, but he wears a tie and braces made from paper. His face is both carved and painted, and his hair is made from cotton or similar material. He dances on a piece of plywood, his stick is usually made from the bow of a fiddle, and he comes in a fiddle case if needed.

"Reeling Ray" is based on my late beloved dad, Ray, and on John Conneely, a fantastic Irish Dancer from Mayo. Click on the video to watch John dancing on the Late Late Show in the 70's.



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