Article MT272

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Ceol rince na mBreathnach

While researching articles on the English traditional fiddlers Stephen Baldwin and Tom and Henry Cave, I found a number of good tunes in the repertoires of all three which seemed to defy identification.  Nothing strange in that, of course, but as luck would have it I have since stumbled upon other settings of several of those tunes, either transcribed into manuscript tune-books compiled in the 19th century or collected/recorded in Britain and Ireland - and North America or Australia - in the 20th century, which suggest that the 'ceol rince na mBreathnach' ('dance music of the British' - a translation which some might consider stretches a point, but that is the stuff of puns) shared more with the 'ceol rince na hÉireann' as recorded by Breandán Breathnach and others than is generally admitted on either side of the Irish Sea.  Viewed as a whole those tunes seem to have represented a significant, popular and durable element in the traditional music of these islands and their emigrant communities - one which has hitherto been rendered more or less invisible by the lack in each case of a consistent name.1

It having been pointed out to me that not everyone can read music, I have provided sound files of all of the tunes cited.  In four cases (Phillips's Hornpipe, Ellis Knowles' untitled hornpipe, Henry Cave's 'Country Dance', Tom Cave's 'Country Dance') no recordings were available, and I have - at the editor's suggestion - taken the liberty of providing recordings myself.  These are not intended as re-enactments of the playing of early Victorian yeoman fiddlers, let alone an Edwardian Gypsy fiddler, but merely as illustrations of the tunes concerned.

Name that tune again: Tite Smith's Hornpipe and The Coleford Jig

When I was compiling the notes for the Musical Traditions CD devoted to the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire) fiddler Stephen Baldwin, (1873 - 1955)2 I found that he had recorded a number of tunes which - in contrast to the bulk of his repertoire - seemed at first sight to be unique to him.  Two of them Stephen Baldwin conventionally identified using what might be termed 'referential descriptors' rather than actual titles, both being indicative of local associations: the 'Coleford Jig', with its reference to the town of Coleford in the Forest of Dean, and 'Tite Smith's Hornpipe', with its reference to the local Gypsy fiddler Elijah 'Tite' Smith, who met his death in tragic circumstances at the age of 56 in 1897.3

As it turned out, my inability to identify either the Coleford Jig (in both its parts) or Tite Smith's Hornpipe was largely due to my limited perspective: I was primarily on the look-out for analogues in the recorded repertoires of other 20th century traditional musicians in England4.  It was thus entirely due to what I can only describe as extraordinary serendipity that the analogues I was seeking eventually disclosed themselves to me elsewhere.  In so doing they revealed themselves to be representative of an element in a repertoire which was already well-established in England in the first half of the 19th century and had spread wherever English was spoken5.  In fact the two Stephen Baldwin tunes in question turned out to be as typical of the hornpipe repertoire of fiddlers of his own, later and earlier generations as the more familiar (to modern ears) tunes he played such as the Liverpool Hornpipe, the Morpeth Rant and Fisher's Hornpipe.

Tite Smith's Hornpipe

Tite Smith's Hornpipe, as played by Stephen Baldwin, is an unusual piece, its already quirky phrasing spiced by the presence of an 'extra' beat in the first strain.

The A music of Tite Smith's Hornpipe is similar to the first strain of Enrico, as it appears in - and is nowadays most familiar from - the Thomas Hardy MSS6, and although the two tunes are not related, it was their similarity which eventually enabled me to identify Tite Smith's Hornpipe.  The first real analogue I was able to identify - but only having initially been struck by its similarity to Enrico - was a tune called Sydney Flash, which appeared on a CD of archival Australian recordings made by John Meredith and issued by the National Library of Australia under the name of Sharing the Harvest, where it is played by the fiddler Joe Cashmere, of New South Wales, who was first recorded in 1955 at the age of 85 (sounding on this occasion like English fiddlers are usually said to sound, but seldom do).7.  Both Joe Cashmere and Harry Cox - whom we shall come to later - employ much droning in some of their tunes, and the ear which is not accustomed to this style will sometimes hear only that droning and the chording it generates: closer listening, however, will reveal that all the notes are in fact there!

I actually chanced upon an English analogue to Joe Cashmere's Sydney Flash before I made the association between either tune and Tite Smith's Hornpipe.  That analogue was a tune which is to be found in the manuscript tune book compiled by John Moore of Wellington in Shropshire (b.1819) and dated 1837, where it is called Phillips's Hornpipe.8

Phillips's Hornpipe, John Moore's manuscript (reproduced by courtesy of the English Folk Dance and Song Society)

Moore's version is slightly more complicated than either of the recorded versions I have cited inasmuch as bars 5 and 6 of the second strain (the 'B music') are variants rather than straightforward repetitions of bars 1 and 2.

A quick search of the Internet revealed that Jackie Small of the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin had - as if by some form of divination - identified a tune which O'Neill recorded from the playing of Patsy Touhey (1865 - 1923), the celebrated Co Galway-born exponent of the Union pipes (as O'Neill generally referred to the instrument), with Moore's Phillips's Hornpipe.  Touhey called his tune Taylor's Hornpipe, possibly after William (Billy) Taylor (c.1830 - 1901), piper and (with his step-brother Charles) pipemaker from Drogheda, who had settled in New York and then Philadelphia in the 1870s10.  Touhey's performance of that tune (in a style - usually described as closed or staccato, which is now more reminiscent of the small-pipes than it is of the 'tinker' style of uilleann piping, known as open or legato) was recorded by O'Neill on a wax cylinder.

A transcription preserved in the Dunn Collection is shown below.12

As Jackie Small says in the notes to the CD, which may be viewed on the same website: 'This tune does not appear in the O'Neill collections.  It appears as "Phillips's Hornpipe" in a nineteenth-century English manuscript collection'.

But while O'Neill did not publish Touhey's setting of the tune, he did publish another Irish setting which came his way - noted from the playing of 'Mr. Cronin' - under the name of McDermott's Hornpipe (not the tune of that name recorded by Michael Coleman).13  This is probably the setting of the tune which is closest to Tite Smith's Hornpipe.  'Mr Cronin' was presumably the fiddler Edward Cronin, originally of Limerick Junction, Co Tipperary.  Born in 1838, he was described by O'Neill as being 'of more ancient vintage than any of the prominent traditional fiddlers of Chicago at the beginning of the twentieth century'.14

Subsequently - and again completely by chance - I discovered a setting of the same tune on the FARNE (Folk Archive North East) website among the tunes in the manuscript tunebook (there dated 1849-1860) of fiddler William Lister of East Boldon in County Durham, where it is called simply Monckey15.  This in turn led me to another setting in a Welsh collection from Glamorgan, where it is called the Monkey Hornpipe;16 my attention has since been drawn to a very similar, but untitled, setting of the same tune, which is to be found in the manuscript of John Readshaw of Alston [on Tyne] in Cumberland.17

I found the same thing happening as I sought analogues to the Coleford Jig, as well as to some of the tunes which Cecil Sharp had collected from Henry and Tom Cave in Somerset, which I was researching for an article for the Folk Music Journal:18 there were settings everywhere I looked, under a different name or untitled.  In fact I came to realise it was more likely than not that I should find settings of some at least of the tunes which interested me in any 19th century fiddler's tunebook.  Most recently I stumbled upon the manuscript tunebook of a smallpiper by the name of Lionel Winship, of Wark in Northumberland, also on the FARNE website, where the simple, but general title of Hornpipe, concealed more than one of the tunes I was looking for (see below), including the 'Monkey' tune.19

Lionel Winship manuscript: Hornpipe: (c.p John Moore's Phillips's Hornpipe) Courtesy Dr Graham Wells.

Lionel Winship manuscript: Hornpipe: played by Dr Graham Wells on a set of 7-keyed small-pipes by Robert Reid,
which probably date from between 1820 and 1825, and so are nearly contemporary with Winship's manuscript book.

The only printed setting of the tune I have so far been able to locate was published in Köhlers' Violin Repository as the South Shore, which varies bars 1 and 2 and 5 and 6 of the second strain in the repeat, as John Moore's Phillips's Hornpipe does internally each time through.20

So Tite Smith's Hornpipe, far from being a rare, let alone unique item preserved only in the repertoire of Stephen Baldwin, is but one setting of a tune which is well-evidenced in 19th century tune-books in England and Wales, and survived to be recorded in the 20th century not only by Stephen Baldwin in England, but also in the United States by the Irish-born piper Patsy Touhey and in New South Wales by Joe Cashmere.  Its inclusion in Köhlers' Violin Repository is interesting, and may derive from actual performance, inasmuch as its editor - 'A Professional Player' (actually W B Laybourn, who had lived on Tyneside in the 1840s and 1850s) - seems to have been familiar at first hand with older tunes when they were in circulation.  In this respect it is possible that Laybourn's use of the South Shore name for the Monkey Hornpipe tune is the result of confusion with the tune of the same name attributed to the celebrated James Hill of Gateshead.

Tite Smith's Hornpipe is more idiosyncratic than any of the other settings (which in fact exhibit a surprising degree of conformity), inasmuch as the very first note of the first strain, a crotchet, which appears in John Moore's notation of Phillips's Hornpipe - and all the other settings I have cited (with the exception of the one in O'Neill - McDermott's Hornpipe - which deviates from all the other versions at this point) - absorbs the quaver which follows it to produce a dotted crotchet.  This presumably developed from the characteristic stress on the initial beat of the hornpipe being drawn out in transmission until it acquired the full value of a dotted crotchet.  It may also explain why the initial bar of McDermott's Hornpipe (which alone is notated in 2/4 - a time signature which O'Neill gave to just over half the hornpipes he published)21 is decorated in the way it is; intriguingly, apart from the values of the individual notes the first bar of McDermott's Hornpipe is configured in more or less the same way as Tite Smith's Hornpipe.

Tite Smith's Hornpipe does something else strange in its A-music in that it seems to lengthen bars A2 and A6 to a time signature of 5/4.  Comparison with other versions - in particular McDermott's Hornpipe - suggests that in Tite Smith's Hornpipe the stress on the first pair of notes in bar A3 and A7 has been shifted to the second pair, and the former first pair of notes thereafter construed as final to the previous bar.

The name the Monkey Hornpipe was also used of a dance involving one or two dancers going down on their hocks in a crouching position and kicking each of their legs out forwards in turn - much like popular conceptions of 'Cossack' dancing - but there is no suggestion that the tune was ever used for this dance whether under the name of the Monkey Hornpipe or any other.22  O'Neill describes the same dance as performed in Ireland, calling it the Cobblers' Dance: 'Then there was the Cobblers' Dance, in which the performers squatted on their haunches in a position even more cramped than when half-soling a shoe.  In this awkward attitude the dancer kicked out with each foot alternately in imitation of the rising step of the double jig.  So ludicrous was the performance in its entirety that it never failed to arouse much merriment among the audience'.23

The Coleford Jig

As I have pointed out elsewhere, the first half of the second strain of Stephen Baldwin's Coleford Jig is clearly the same as that of the hornpipe which O'Neill published as the Honeysuckle (see below), attributing it to 'Mr Carey', an ascription which usually refers to the fiddler John Carey, originally of Co Limerick.24  This Honeysuckle tune is now most familiar from the recording which the Ballinakill Traditional Dance Players, from Co Galway, made of it in London in 1931.25

There is perhaps enough of a passing similarity between the two tunes early on in their second strains to indicate why the first strain of the Honeysuckle might have attracted the second strain of the other tune (see below for an identification of the first strain of The Honeysuckle).

Paul de Grae has kindly drawn my attention to two other tunes which bear comparison with the Honeysuckle.  These are O'Neill's Stack's Hornpipe, whose first strain may be compared with that of the Honeysuckle), and an unnamed hornpipe to be found in Volume IV of Ceol Rince na hEireann, where it is described as a 'a splendid hornpipe', whose second strain may similarly be compared with that of the Honeysuckle - and that of the Coleford Jig26.  The first strain of the 'Splendid' Hornpipe, moreover, is also ultimately the same as that of the Coleford Jig.

Another - rather fine - setting of this tune is to be found - untitled - in a manuscript tunebook (internally dated variously 1845 - 1848) compiled by Ellis Knowles of Bolton in Lancashire.27

Untitled hornpipe, Ellis Knowles MSS

The Knowles setting is very close to two other settings which are to be found under the name of the Ferry Bridge Hornpipe in both the manuscript tunebook of Lawrence Leadley (1827-1897) of Helperby in Yorkshire28 and in Ryan's Mammoth Collection, published in Boston, Massachusetts, in about 1883.29  Those settings are a little more conventional than the Knowles setting, the first bar of which exhibits the same rhythmic evolution as Sheahan's 'splendid hornpipe', which also seems to prefigure the same bar of Stephen Baldwin's Coleford Jig.

The name may refer to Ferrybridge in Yorkshire, whose toll-bridge was once a prominent and celebrated landmark on the Great North Road, and subsequently the A1 (long since by-passed of course).

Ferry Bridge - Hornpipe, Ryan's Mammoth Collection (note 'dotting').

The brothers John and James Hand - their surname probably suggesting an Irish origin - were well-known fiddlers in Massachusetts in the mid-19th century.30

A similar, again untitled, hornpipe was played by Peter Turbit of Ballygawley in Co Tyrone.31  Yet another similar tune appears in the Llewelyn manuscript (Glamorgan) as the Glamorganshire Hornpipe.32  Harry Cox of Catfield in Norfolk (1885-1971), more famous as a singer than a fiddler, played a stripped-down Untitled Hornpipe - probably learned from his father, Bob 'Battler' Cox - which bears enough similarity in its outline to this family of tunes, and in particular to the Ferry Bridge Hornpipe and the Glamorganshire Hornpipe, to suggest ultimate identity.33

So once again we have a hornpipe which seems to have been popular on both sides of the Irish Sea (and the Atlantic), and appears both in 19th century fiddler's tune-books in England, and in the recorded repertoires of at least one traditional musician on either side of the Irish Sea in the 20th century.

A rose by any other name: the 'Honeysuckle' and the Railway Hornpipe

The Honeysuckle

The first strain of the Honeysuckle, left high and dry by our identification of its second strain as a borrowing from the Ferry Bridge Hornpipe, is, as Paul de Grae has pointed out, the same as that of Stack's Hornpipe as published by O'Neill.34

Stack's Hornpipe: played by Graham Guerin

The Stack in question was the fiddler Patrick Stack, an engineer by profession, originally from Ballyconry, in the north of Co Kerry, who provided O'Neill with manuscript collections from the area as well as items from his own repertoire.35  At this point it should be pointed out that, as is abundantly clear from all his published writings, O'Neill was under the impression that the tunes he was garnering belonged to previous generations, and had seldom been heard - even, or - perhaps - especially, in Ireland - since his grandparents' day.  He also suggests more than once that pipers in particular, but fiddlers too, were a dying breed, if not already extinct, in Ireland.  Another thing he makes plain is that many of the tunes he published came his way without names, or without unambiguous names (a situation which also prevailed in England, as we have seen), and as a consequence he would frequently bestow a name of his own devising on them.

Another - splendid - setting from Co Kerry, which both resembles Stack's Hornpipe and underscores the identity of its first strain with that of O'Neill's Honeysuckle, was recorded by Terry Teahan (b. Castleisland, Co Kerry, 1905 - d. Chicago, 1989) as Tadgh's Ailment. 36

A similar setting from Ireland with a distinctive ending to the second strain, was published by Francis Roche as the Thieving Magpie.37

Roche Collection (vol. III, no. 172): the Thieving Magpie

No record of Roche's collecting activity has survived, and we cannot identify any of his sources.38  This setting, however, seems to have enough in common with the ones published by O'Neill and recorded by Terry Teahan to at least suggest an origin in Kerry, where Roche is known to have spent time.

The Railway Hornpipe

In 1907 Cecil Sharp noted down a similar tune in Somerset from the playing of both Henry Cave and his father Tom (1827-1913 and 1854-1907 respectively), who apparently had no name for it (the appellation Country Dance may well be Sharp's); they played it rather differently from each other:

Henry Cave: 'Country Dance'39

Tom Cave: 'Country Dance' 40

Both Henry and Tom Cave have assimilated bars A1 and A5 as they appear in the Stack version (where they are distinct) but contrariwards, Sharp's notation suggesting that Henry Cave played both A1/2 and A9/10 (and B9/10) as Stack played A5, while his father Tom played A1/2 and A9/10 (and B9/10) as Stack played A1 (the apparent anomaly in bar numbers is due to the fact that O'Neill gives Stack's Hornpipe one bar where Sharp gives the Caves' settings two)

In more modern times the tune has been recorded by Harry Cox in Norfolk, who adds a third strain which seems to be based on the first - Untitled Hornpipe: Harry Cox. 41

As was the case with the Monkey and Ferry Bridge Hornpipes (to use the names most often associated with printed settings), settings of this tune turned up in almost every 19th century English fiddler's tunebook which came my way.

In England the manuscript tunebooks of John Moore of Wellington in Shropshire, which we have already plundered and date from the mid-19th century, contain two hornpipes which seem to be distinct versions of the same tune.

John Moore manuscript: Railway Hornpipe42 (reproduced by courtesy of the English Folk Dance and Song Society)

John Moore manuscript: Castle Rag Hornpipe43 (reproduced by courtesy of the English Folk Dance and Song Society)

John Moore's Railway Hornpipe seems to have a little more in common with Stack's Hornpipe and the other Irish versions than his Castle Rag Hornpipe (a name which perhaps derives from Castlereagh Hornpipe) does, in particular in the first two bars of the second strain.  The first half of the second strain of his Castle Rag Hornpipe, on the other hand, more resembles the same part of the Cliff Hornpipe and the Harvest Home (amongst other tunes) much as Henry and Tom Cave's settings do.

A similar contrast can be seen in the manuscript of the small-piper Lionel Winship, of Wark in Northumberland, dated 14 February 1833, which likewise contains settings of Moore's Castle Rag tune and his Railway Hornpipe, both being referred to simply as 'Hornpipe':

Lionel Winship manuscript: Hornpipe (c.p John Moore's Railway Hornpipe) (reproduced by courtesy of Dr Graham Wells)

Lionel Winship, Hornpipe: played by Dr Graham Wells, as noted for the other Winship piece, above.

Lionel Winship manuscript: Hornpipe (c.p John Moore's Castle Rag Hornpipe) (reproduced by courtesy of Dr Graham Wells)

Lionel Winship, Hornpipe: played by Dr Graham Wells - as above.

The two Winship settings differ in exactly the same way as those of John Moore, that which is reproduced first above, having similar descending triplet runs in bars A1, A5 and B5, B1 and 'inversion' (by comparison with the second setting in each case) of the descending passage in bar B3 as John Moore's Railway Hornpipe.  Again it also resembles the Irish settings more.

Other settings which resemble Moore's Castle Rag Hornpipe (i.e. no triplets in A1, Cliff-type start to the 2nd strain) can be found in the Nuttall manuscript (Rossendale, Lancashire, c.1830) as the Railway Hornpipe44 and in the Lister manuscript (Co Durham), which calls it simply Hornpipe (it appears at the bottom of the same page in the manuscript as Monckey - which is how it came to my attention).45

Settings which have the triplet runs in bars A1 and A5, the Cliff-type phrases at the start of the second strain and the inversion of the descending progression in bar B3, can also be found as the Railway Hornpipe in the Llewelyn manuscript (Glamorgan), where another setting is known as the Reeth Hornpipe, and simply as Hornpipe in the Rook manuscript (1840, Cheshire), as shown below46:

Although this seems to suggest the existence of two discrete versions, a number of other manuscript settings complicate the picture by combining in a single setting the distinctive descending triplets of John Moore's Railway Hornpipe (for example) on the one hand with the bars which resemble Cliff Hornpipe/Harvest Home at the start of the second strain of his Castle Rag Hornpipe (again for example) on the other.  Versions which do this include Laurence Leadley's Steampacket Hornpipe (Yorkshire),47 Tumbler's Hornpipe (a name more often associated with the tune known elsewhere - in Kerr's Merry Melodies, for example - as the Washington Hornpipe) in the Emmerson manuscript (Northumberland) and Miss Ann's Hornpipe in the Burnett manuscript (Yorkshire).48  And here it should be noted that although, as we have seen, the name Railway Hornpipe seems generally to have been applied to settings similar to John Moore's Railway Hornpipe, James Nuttall used it for a setting similar to Moore's Castle Rag Hornpipe (using Steam Packet Hornpipe for the tune more usually known as the Steamboat).

In 1882 the collector the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould noted two versions - both untitled - from the playing of fiddler William Andrews of Sheepstor on Dartmoor (Devon).49  One is in D, and its very first bar exhibits (as well two sets of triplets) a similar innovative rhythm to that which Sharp noted from Tom Cave.  The other is in F.  Both invert the descending passage in the 3rd bar of the second strain.

John Moore's Railway Hornpipe and Lionel Winship's similar Hornpipe are as yet the only English settings I know of either version of this tune which - like the three Irish settings I have cited (Patrick Stack, Terry Teahan and Francis Roche) - do not commence their second strain with the sequence of bars which resembles the Cliff Hornpipe and is otherwise common in one form or another to all English and Welsh settings.  However Moore's and the three settings from Ireland do share a different sequence, the first and third bars of which resemble the start of the second strain of the Coleford Jig/Ferrybridge Hornpipe tune sufficiently to suggest why that strain supplanted the second strain of a similar Irish setting of the Railway Hornpipe tune to generate the Honeysuckle as published by O'Neill.

So the two versions of this tune, exemplified on the one hand by Moore's Castle Rag Hornpipe and on the other by his Railway Hornpipe, seem once to have been almost universal (in the British Isles) in their distribution, surviving to be noted down from Henry and Tom Cave at the beginning of the 20th century (as well as by Roche in Ireland), and recorded by Harry Cox and Terry Teahan in the second half of the 20th century.  The fact that some English manuscript tunebooks contain both versions is intriguing.  One possible inference is that they were generally played in such a different fashion as to warrant separate inclusion, though the picture of two distinct versions of the tune is muddied by settings which seem to contain elements of both versions in a quite random way.  The fact that father and son Tom and Henry Cave also played quite distinct settings, the distinctive features of which can also be found in settings collected far from either Somerset or the first decade of the 20th century only makes the situation more peculiar.  But modern perspectives on the history of any tune will inevitably be imperfect inasmuch as we can never hope to be privy to their full distribution at this remove.


The Monkey/Tite Smith's Hornpipe, the Ferry Bridge Hornpipe/Coleford Jig, and the Railway Hornpipe (to use the name which occurs most frequently) seem by and large, despite their obvious and lasting popularity among traditional fiddlers and pipers, to have escaped the attention of those with an interest in the genre, whether scholars or musicians, to the extent that even though they survived in the traditional repertoire until modern or early modern times their existence and their significance has been completely overlooked.  In England and Wales there are enough other tunes in the same boat to indicate that an important element in that genre has remained unacknowledged and uncelebrated to this day.  Its invisibility has not only obscured the true nature of traditional music in England and Wales (the Irish literature habitually acknowledges the English origin of both the hornpipe as a metre and many individual hornpipes in the traditional Irish repertoire), but also the existence of a common body of (to all intents and purposes apparently unpublished) hornpipes in 19th century England, Wales and Ireland which survived in tradition, unrecognised as such, in all three countries, as well as in Australia, until well into the 20th century.

It may be significant that whereas the examples of such tunes which I have cited from Ireland come from sound recordings of pipers and melodeon players (or from manuscript notations of or by fiddle players), all of the sound recordings (and most of the manuscript collections) I have cited from English or Australian sources involve fiddlers.

Given the great migrations across the Irish Sea in the 19th century, it might be thought superfluous to look for likely mechanisms for the transmission of this music across the same body of water, which after all is not a barrier but a means of communication.  However, in his potted biography of Patsy Touhey O'Neill throws some interesting light on one potential means of transmission which allows us to be a bit more specific about the ways in which these tunes may have been disseminated.  O'Neill relates that two elder brothers of Patsy Touhey, John (b.1831) and Pat (1836), `... rambled through England as professional pipers ...'50  O'Neill also refers - understandably - to the fact that the Mayo-born pipemaker Michael Egan set up business in Liverpool as evidence that `... Irish pipers existed in considerable numbers in England around the middle of the nineteenth century'.51  But as he also points out, Irish musicians were already much in evidence, and indeed to the fore, in the very crucible of music of this kind - the London stage (in its broadest sense) in the latter part of the 18th century, as is shown by the example of the piper O'Farrell, all of whose works were published in London, and who is otherwise only known from his association with the London stage.

In the other direction O'Neill describes how his chief collaborator and namesake, the Co Down-born Sgt James O'Neill, '... studied under 'Bill' Ellis, an Englishman of great versatility on the violin' (O'Neill uses this term neutrally, rather than in contradistinction to 'fiddle') in Belfast.  So we need not resort to population movements to explain the shared repertoire: it is possible that it did not travel in the baggage of migrants but was acquired or passed on in a specifically musical context by travelling musicians.

There are, of course a number of hornpipes - the Liverpool Hornpipe and the Navvy on the Line, for example - which seem always to have had a high profile in the traditional repertoire in both England and Ireland.  Others, such as the Wonder Hornpipe (O'Neill's Coey's Hornpipe/Southern Shore) and the Swansea Hornpipe (the Man from Newry) - while probably not as familiar to the wider public - had a firm place in the English traditional repertoire, but were also collected, if to a lesser extent (and with new 'referential' names), in Ireland.52  Other tunes which were once the staple of English traditional music, and were also published by O'Neill include the Worcester Hornpipe (Paddy Mack/Lakeside Road), Nelson's Hornpipe (Murray's Hornpipe), Mrs Baker's Hornpipe (O'Connor's Fancy), and the Bristol Hornpipe (the Clover Blossom).53  As I have described elsewhere in MT (though at the time I was not aware of the version in O'Neill), this last tune was probably the most popular hornpipe amongst traditional musicians in England until the end of the 20th century, but invisible to posterity because it seldom if ever retained its original name.54  Most tunes of both kinds also appeared in 19th century Scottish publications such as Kerr's Merry Melodies.

The tunes I have looked at more closely in this article, on the other hand, seem never or rarely to have been published (though other settings may yet be discovered in print, of course), were seldom associated with their earlier names (and even less so as time went on), and were - to judge from manuscript tunebooks and collections - universal in their context in 19th-century England/Wales and Ireland.  Most interestingly of all they survived to be recorded somewhere by traditional musicians in relatively modern times (by which I mean since the Second World War).

Perhaps as valuable as evidence of the importance of the insular (a term embracing both Ireland and Britain which I have purloined from early mediaeval art because of its neutrality) hornpipe canon I have identified as the shared popularity - equal or not - of some items on either side of the Irish Sea, is the presence of rarer items in both England/Wales and Ireland.  Some examples: another of Henry Cave's tunes which Sharp referred to simply as Country Dance55 is also found, untitled, in the Llewelyn manuscript (Glamorgan)56 and was published by O'Neill as the Bath Road.57  Other tunes in O'Neill which Sharp collected settings of in Somerset in 1907 include the Friendly Visit and Poll Ha'penny.58  The Friendly Visit is the name which O'Neill gave to a tune which Sharp also noted from Henry Cave (as the 'Sailor's Hornpipe'), and which is widely known in Northumberland under the local name of Whittle Dene; it was also published in vol.4 of Kerr's Merry Melodies as 'English Clog Hornpipe'.59  Here again the absence of a consistent name has concealed the tune's once universal appeal.  As for Poll Ha'penny, the setting which Sharp noted at Shepton Mallett from the playing of James Higgins as Radstock tune (a simple description which has evolved over the years into the Radstock Jig) is actually closer to the setting - since popularised (as Poll Ha'penny) by Bobby Casey - which O'Neill published as Hawk's Hornpipe.60  Further afield, the tune transcribed by Yorkshire fiddler Laurence Leadley as Poll of Wapping Hornpipe,61 and by Cumberland fiddler William Irwin without a title, can be found in O'Neill as Tomorrow Morning, and in Ryan's Mammoth Collection as Morning Fair62

Perhaps most intriguingly Joseph Kershaw's Sportsman's Hornpipe,63 which enjoys some popularity in sessions in England but otherwise survives (other than in a few early allusions) only in his manuscript tunebook (Lancashire), was published by O'Neill, though in a major key, as Kit O'Mahoney's Hornpipe, a name he bestowed in honour of his source, his own mother, Catherine O'Mahoney of Co Cork.64  O'Neill also refers to another Irish setting of this tune: as Miss Redmond's Hornpipe it had been sent by Grattan Flood to Dr P W Joyce, who included it in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs.65

In most cases these are the only instances of the tunes in question which have come to my attention, and in some cases at least there was presumably a chain of transmission between their few sightings.

The identification of kindred tunes, as I have shown, is a hit-and-miss affair to say the least - dependent in large part on both the accessibility of sources and luck.  To illustrate this I shall end with some music - which is what it's all about, after all: two settings of a tune which I only know of from a previous article in Musical Traditions on the one hand and thanks to the enthusiasm of the McNamara family for the extra-canonical music of their native Co Leitrim on the other.  The latter first - here is the Low Level hornpipe (not the only time this name has been coined with reference to James Hill's High-level Hornpipe) as played by the McNamara Family.

The tune was learned from the playing of the Reilly family of Drumreilly, and is also found in the manuscript collection of Alex Sutherland, their neighbour in the first half of the 20th century.  This tune has also been rechristened the Leitrim Clog, reflecting its origin and nature.66

And here is Walter Newstead, melodeon player of Cockthorpe in North Norfolk, with a variant of the Sheringham Breakdown he referred to as the Norfolk Step Dance.

Walter Newstead was recorded by Des Miller and Chris Holderness in December 2004 at the age of 91(!), having successfully eluded the revival in all its manifestations for most of the 20th century.67  I initially imagined his Norfolk Stepdance to be his own idiosyncratic version of the Sheringham Breakdown tune, but the Leitrim Low-level hornpipe show this was not the case: both tunes seem to be singular isolated survivals of a variant which otherwise seems to have vanished unrecorded.


The research I have detailed originated with and was largely devoted to the hornpipes in question because they were the items in the repertoires of Stephen Baldwin and Henry and Thomas Cave which initially defied identification.  As it turned out that research led to me to identify other hornpipes of the same kind - unpublished, often untitled (or unique) but durable - which supported my suspicion that there had been a body of hornpipes in common and general circulation in England, Wales and Ireland which was handed down from the middle of the 19th century until the second half of the 20th century and has escaped the attention of those who might be interested, a situation which has skewed posterity's historical perspective on traditional music and its practitioners in these islands.


I should like to thank (in chronological order) Paul de Grae of the North Kerry Traditional Music Archive, Malcolm Taylor and Laura Smyth of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in London, and Rebecca Hughes, formerly of that Library, Chris Holderness of Rig-a-Jig-Jig (Norfolk Music History Project), Dr Tony Doyle, Margaret Watchorn, Dr Colette Moloney of Waterford Institute of Technology, Dr Graham Wells of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society and Graham Guerin.  I am chiefly indebted to these and others I have shamelessly forgotten to mention for their forbearance.  None of them should in any way be held responsible for any inaccuracies, inconsistencies, errors or misconceptions which may appear in the article.

I stand in a common debt, of course, to Russell Wortley, Francis O'Neill, Francis Roche, Cecil Sharp, Sabine Baring-Gould (in order of appearance) and the many others who helped preserve these and other tunes for posterity, as well as to the brains behind the Village Music Project and their indefatigable scribes who are ultimately to blame for the fact if not the content of my ramblings.  My task would also have been much harder without Andrew Kuntz's Fiddler's Companion website (currently in the course of transition to the Traditional Tune Archive), and my thesis far less plausible without the FARNE website.

And lastly, but first and foremost, I am beholden to the musicians concerned themselves for, unwittingly or otherwise, bequeathing their music to posterity.

Philip Heath-Coleman - 30.4.12


Article MT272

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