Article MT251

Name that tune

Waifs and Strays of English melody

A bluffer's guide to rhythmic and melodic variation in traditional English dance music
and its implications for an understanding of the genre.


There are a number of tunes in the 'English tradition' (an inadequate name, I admit, for a nebulous concept, but a useful shorthand for present purposes) which - whatever their origin - were collected either without a name of any kind, or with only some sort of localising or personalising designation ("Coleford Jig" or "Nellie's Tune", for example).  Many of these do not admit of ready identification.  They range from idiosyncratic and sometimes scarcely recognisable versions of familiar tunes, to more-or-less standard versions of obscure tunes, and take in most points in between.

Their identification is not an altogether idle activity.  Even the identification of standard versions of once familiar tunes which have become associated with other names can help throw light on the diffusion and distribution of repertoire, and a comprehensive knowledge of repertoire is a prerequisite to an understanding of that repertoire (and, lest my thrust appear overly academic, to the ability to celebrate that tradition in performance) .

However, it is the identification of idiosyncratic versions and variants of familiar tunes which is perhaps most interesting, inasmuch as it affords us a fleeting insight into how traditional players actually heard what we regard as the standard versions.

Some of the identifications below will be obvious to many readers, or may already be general knowledge, and I and others have referred to some in print elsewhere.  But a good number of them have at some time drawn disbelief from respected (and occasionally respectable) musicians.  I can only assume the ability to make such connections is acquired genetically!

The list is based on my own knowledge of the traditional music collected and recorded in England at any time, which I smugly like to think of as extensive, comprehensive even, though I could never claim it was complete.  However, I suspect that a more systematic trawl of all the potential sources would not paint a significantly different picture.  The period covered starts, to all intents and purposes, at the beginning of the 20th century, because that was when collecting activity started in earnest.  I have, however, included a couple of items noted in isolation during the 19th century.  The geographical distribution similarly and inevitably reflects the scope of collecting and recording activity, with foci in East Anglia and the Welsh Marches and an overall spread which does not (with the exception of just a few outliers which owe their inclusion to somewhat different circumstances) extend much further north than those regions.  Although there was a considerable interest in social dancing further to the north on the part of early collectors, this does not seem to have thrown up a welter of unnamed or otherwise unknown tunes in the same way.

There may be some obvious omissions - for example I wasn't sure whether anyone who might be interested wouldn't already know that William Kimber's Over the hills to Glory was a version (tune and name) of the Scottish Lass o' Gowrie, as is the Irish Lakes of Sligo, so I've used it as an example of what I've left out just in case!  Nor, I imagine, does anyone need to be told that in Suffolk Pigeon on the Gate is the name given to one of the many tunes known in Norfolk as the Yarmouth Hornpipe (and in print as Aldridge's, Rickett's or the Manchester Hornpipe), but they might be interested to learn that the Yarmouth Hornpipe name is not peculiar to East Anglia, having also been sighted in Northumbria and Somerset.


I have set out the tunes and identifications in two columns: the left-hand column is arranged alphabetically by the surname of the source.  The first occurrence of a source's name is followed by an abbreviation of the name of the county in which his or her tune(s) was/were collected or recorded, The popular name of the tune in circulation is given in italics (inverted commas indicate that the source used the [nick]name of a dance or dance-type to identify the tune.  To help avoid confusion I hope I have also included a reference to a recording, or failing that a notation, of the tune in question which is in the public domain,.

References to recordings and notations in the right-hand column are intended as cross-references to accessible standard versions or similar non-standard versions.  I have kept the substance of the references to a minimum, and for further details readers should search MT or, if that proves fruitless, the Internet.  I have included a key giving a brief identification of the abbreviations used at the end.  I hope it is apparent that the selection has been made with a view to being comprehensive, rather than merely to support the conjectures I make elsewhere. 

There are two groups of cut-time tunes (i.e. tunes in 2/2 time: some prefer to write these in common time, i.e. in 4/4) whose ramifications require a lengthier treatment, and paragraphs devoted to the (Boscastle/Sheringham/Yarmouth) Breakdown group of tunes and to the Bristol Hornpipe follow the main list of identifications.  I have similarly devoted a separate paragraph to the ramifications of one tune in 6/8: St Patricks' Day.

Needless to say I can take no credit for those of the identifications which leap from the page, and I have tried to acknowledge identifications made by others which I failed to spot myself.  I apologise unreservedly to anyone whose flash of inspiration I have failed to fête.  I should be happy to accommodate any similar identifications in a revised version of the list.  I have traced the tunes back as far as was necessary for my present purpose, but that is not necessarily their 'ultimate' source.

  Musician: Collected / familiar name

(+ recorded / printed version)

1 Charles (Charlie) Baldwin (Gloucs.), fiddle:

Gloucester Hornpipe

(CJS MSS FT 2505)

A version of the once widespread Nelson's Hornpipe: Charles Baldwin and his son Stephen (q.v.) seem to have used the name Gloucester (amongst others) rather freely, and not always for the same tunes.
2 Charles (Charlie) Baldwin:

Morris call

(CJS MSS FT 2503)

A version of the tune Playford published as Cuckold's all a row (1st edn. 1651), which Sharp (attaching it to a different dance) published as Hey boys up go we.  Sharp also collected a version from another Forest of Dean musician, Henry Allen, as 'Calling on' (CJS MSS FT 2324); the 'Fieldtown' (Leafield, Oxon) tune for the Morris dance nicknamed 'Signposts' (aka Shepherds Hey - but not the tune usually known by that name) is another version.
3 Stephen (Stevie) Baldwin (Gloucs.):

Coleford Jig

(MTCD334/Track 25)

Ultimately a close relation of the Honeysuckle Hornpipe (e.g.  TSCD 604/Track 11.1): the first halves of the 2nd strains are almost identical, and the similarity of bars 2 and 3 of the 1st strains also point to its ultimate identity.  (This part of the comparison is greatly facilitated if you think the Honeysuckle Hornpipe at the tempo of Coleford Jig).
4 Stephen (Stevie) Baldwin:

Flanagan's Ball

(MTCD334/Tracks 7&8)

A version of St Patrick's Day (aka Barbary Bell: see separate treatment below).
5 Stephen (Stevie) Baldwin:

Gloucester Hornpipe

(MTCD334/Tracks 1&2)

A version of the Swansea Hornpipe (the name used on MTCD334).  The local name of Gloucester Hornpipe seems to have been something of a 'floater' for Stephen Baldwin and his father.
6 Stephen (Stevie) Baldwin:

Swansea Hornpipe/ Liverpool Hornpipe

(MTCD334/Tracks 14&15)

A version of the Wonder Hornpipe (the name used on MTCD334).
7 Charles Benfield (Gloucs.), fiddle:

Idbury Hill

(Bacon, p.  77/80)

A version, like London Pride, Stourton Wakes, Jimmy Garson's March et al, of the tune elsewhere known most familiarly as the Boyne Water.
8 Lemmy Brazil (Gloucs.), melodeon:

God killed the devil O!

(MTCD335-7/CD 1 Track1-5

A version of the Scottish strathspey Moneymusk like, and similar to, Stephen Baldwin's Highland Fling (1).  The name may be a variation on Some say the devil's dead, a ditty associated with a variety of other 'Highland Flings' in England and Ireland (MTCD334/Track 52).
9 Lemmy Brazil:

"No.1 Hornpipe"/"Stepdance No.2"

(MTCD335-7/CD1 Track 1-23)

A variant of the standard vernacular version of the Bristol Hornpipe: see separate treatment below.
10 Dorset Trio:


(TSC659/Track 25.1)

(now commonly known as Grandfather's "Polka")

A simplified ('disarpeggiated') and rather zippy version of the Cliff(e) Hornpipe.  One member of the trio described it as his "grandfather's tune", whence the popular title of the version now in circulation.
11 Mary Ellis (Cambs.), piano:

Cross-hand polka

(EDS 36(1) Spring 1974, p.30)

Familiar because of its adoption for 'molly dancing', this tune comprises the first two parts of the once commonplace Tempest (see CDM 3/1). 
12 George Green (Cambs.), melodeon:

"College Hornpipe"

(VT150CD/Track 6)

As Bernie Cherry pointed out to me long ago, this is version of the widespread tune recorded as the Kerry Mills Barndance (but not the only tune known by that name) by Terry Teahan (CD ORBD 092/Track 11), and otherwise known simply as the Barndance..
13 George Green:

"Straw Bear" tune

(original included on Ashley Hutchings' Rattlebone and Ploughjack: BGOCD 353)

Sounds for all the world like Heart of my hearts to me, a hit in the UK for Max Bygraves in 1954.
14 James Higgins (Somerset), fiddle:

"Radstock Jig"

(CJS MSS FT 1537, where it is called " Radstock Tune")

A version of the hornpipe known in Ireland as Poll Ha'penny, and notably recorded by Bobby Casey (Bow Hand 003/ Track 1.1 and on vinyl LUN018 Side 2 Track 1).
15 James Higgins:

"Hornpipe" (now usually known as the "Shepton Mallet Hornpipe")

(CJS MSS FT 1497: noted at Shepton Mallet Workhouse).

This is a (song?) tune called Careless Sally which is included in the (published) 19th century ms collection of Laurence Leadley (Yorks.); another version can be found in the Rook mss (accessible on the FARNE website).  Peter Kennedy released a recording of Jim Small (Somerset, harmonica) playing it (and other tunes collected by Sharp) as the Shepton Mallet Hornpipe on FTX 138

Other versions (most apparent in the second strain) include the Goathland Square Eight tune (CDM 6/5) and Henry Sturch's Cuckoo's Nest (sic - CJS MSS FT 2303).

16 Beatrice Hill (Gloucs.), melodeon::

Herefordshire Breakdown

(FTX 115/Track 34)

Another simplified version of the Cliff(e) Hornpipe, similar to versions found in Devon (Les Rice: VT144CD/Track 16.3) and Suffolk (Reg Pyett: VTDC8CD Disc 2 / Track 22)
17 Beatrice Hill:

Nellie's tune

(FTX 115/Track 33)

A version of the once nigh-ubiquitous Hunt the squirrel, earliest evidenced in the collections published by Walsh and Playford in the early 18th century.  Nowadays more familiar in the versions which Sharp also collected from the brothers John and James Lock(e) as Sheepskins and Three Jolly Sheepskins respectively (CJS MSS FT 2416 and DMT 2790).  Beatrice Hill's tune has a third part, which seems to echo the first strain of James Locke's 2-part version. 
18 Beatrice Hill:

"Three hand reel"

(Recording by Russell Wortley in the NSA; widely published)

Note: not the tune of this name in Lionel Bacon's Handbook of Morris Dancing, which is a version of the "Manchester Hornpipe".

Brass Monkey have recently recorded the (obvious) 'original', the Moldavian Schottische, which Paul Burgess tells me was written by Charles D'Albert.  Other traditional versions include Charlie Batchelor's (NSW) George Parkin's Schottische (CS AFM 002) and Dennis Crowther's 'No.3' as collected by John Kirkpatrick.  Known in the Orkneys as the 'Old Polka' and in Norfolk referred to as a "very old schottische" by Walter Geary, who nonetheless diddled it as a quick march (while stepping). 
19 William Kimber (Oxon.), concertina:

"Double setback"

As Simon Ritchie pointed out to me, this is a version of the Morning Star ('hornpipe' - see below), nowadays most familiar in the versions noted from James Locke (CJS MSS FT2791) and Charles Benfield (Bacon p.  78).  Versions in Kennedy's Fiddler's Tunebook (vol.1) and Tro Llaw (see ref.  at end) have 'notier' B-musics which seem to reflect a precursor of the Locke, Benfield and Kimber versions. 
20 William Kimber:

1st of May

(CJS MSS FT2101 & 2204)

A version of Fisher's Hornpipe; the first three bars of the 2nd strain (B music) are idiosyncratic (if 'organic'), but Neal Lanham collected a diddled version of the same simplified variant from Billy French at Sudbury, Suffolk (NLCD 5 /Track 6) in which the same bars reflect the 'original' (of Fisher's) more closely.
21 John Lock(e) (Herefs.), fiddle:

Mad Moll of the Cheshire Hunts

(CJS MSS FT 2413)

A version of the once universally popular Rink-a-Tink.  John's brother James referred to his version of Flowers of Edinburgh as Mad Moll of the Cheshire Hounds.  I'd like to fly a rather fragile kite here, and wonder if the brothers knew the titles (at least) of the two tunes Mad Moll and the Cheshire Rounds (heard as "Cheshire 'ounds"), and offered this to Sharp for want of any other name, but I can offer no suggestion as to how they came to know the names of two such archaic tunes, or why they might have invented the compound name - or should that "of" (" o' "?) be an "or"?
22 John Mason (Gloucs.), fiddle:

"Bourton Six"

(CJS MSS FT 1381)

This is the tune which attaches to the ditty I have a bonnet (trimmed in blue), which is well-known in Scotland and the north of Ireland (see, for example Bernard O'Sullivan on CD ORBD 092/Track 3.1), where it is often played in a 4-parter with both parts of the tune known as Captain Maguire/Babes in the Wood/Liberton Pipe Band.  For that reason the 'bonnet' name has also become attached to this other tune.  Other versions refer to Krakow in some way, and it has been described as a quadrille tune. 
23 Cecil Pearl (Suff.), melodeon:

Dick Iris's Hornpipe

(VT130CD/Track 1)

The first tune is of course a version of Petronella; the second tune is slightly less obviously a version of the Bristol Hornpipe: see separate treatment below.
24 Fred Pigeon (Devon), fiddle:

"Ladies Breast Knot"

(FTX 087/Track 3 & 086/Track 17)

Basically the same as the tune contained in the first two parts of the 5-part Irish reel the Jolly Tinker (DMoI 751).
25 Billy Pennock (Yorks.), fiddle:

"Rigged Ship"

(FTX 211/Track 30)

This tune, which has been published as the Rigged Ship, is a standard version of the Hills of Glenorchy (which is also the vehicle for the words of the Northumbrian song the Wild Hills of Wannie's).  Billy Pennock (who called it the Killicrankie Jig himself) played it as the second tune in a set for a dance known as the New Rigged Ship, preceded by the real New Rigged Ship, which name has been foreshortened and applied to the Hills of Glenorchy.
26 Christopher Reine (Yorks.), fiddle:

T'owd wife of Coverdale (also referred to as "T'Auld …" and "The old …", and "…  of Coverdill").  For details of collection go to:


This seems to owe something to the 1st and 3rd parts of Sir Roger de of Coverley - as indeed the name seems to hint.
27 William (or Henry) Robinson (Staffs.), fiddle:

tune now often referred to as (Wheelwright) Robinson's tune.

For details of collection see the entry "Robinson's tune" on Andrew Kuntz's Fiddler's Companion website.

Sounds to me like a version of Playford's Old Noll's Jig (1701 onwards). 
28 Herbert Smith (Norf.), fiddle:

Blakeney Hornpipe

(FTX-328 /Track 16)

Herbert Smith's tune has the same A music as the largely Irish Lass on the Strand, or Strand Hornpipe, as recorded by Willie Atkinson (Northumberland: TSCD 669/Track 6.3).  But Smith's version (1st and 2nd parts) also turns up elsewhere - if also 'namelessly' - as a discrete entity in its own right, having been recorded by Ted 'Carr' (i.e. Carter, Walthamstow: VTVS07/Side 1 Tracks 1 & 6 - see below) and published by Kerr ('Hornpipe' KMM1, 'no.14', p.  44).  Essex Gypsy Harry Lee (recorded while hopping in Kent) had his own original and inventive 2nd part which could represent a derivative of either of the other 2nd parts ('Breakdown': TSCD 661/Track 14.1).
29 Henry Sturch (Gloucs.), fiddle:

"Double Figure Eight"

(CJS MSS FT 2466)

A simplified version of the Morpeth Rant
30 Scan Tester (Sussex), concertina:

"The Reel"

(TSCD 581D)/Track 1-4)

The first part is the first part of the ubiquitous Four Hand Reel tune (see paragraph on the Breakdown below); the second part is the first part of the Bristol Hornpipe (see separate treatment below).
31 Scan Tester:

"NO. 1 Stepdance"

(TSCD 581D/Track 1-27: not to be confused with "No.1 Stepdance" (!) - Track 2–-23, which is a version of the Manchester/Yarmouth Hornpipe)

A variant of the Wonder Hornpipe.  Dolly Curtis played a similar version (Stepdance - VTDC11CD Track1-5) and Clive Carey collected another from Harry Smith at Thaxted in Essex (CC Ex.526).

Jack Button was recorded playing a hybrid of Jack's the Boy (the College Hornpipe) and this version of the Wonder Hornpipe at the Eel's Foot at Eastbridge (Suffolk) in the late 1930s (VT140CD).

It's probably worth mentioning that in common parlance 'hornpipe', like 'jig' before it, once referred to a solo dance rather than to a time signature.  Two formerly popular phrases confirm this: "Tyburn Jig" (18th century) and "Newgate Hornpipe" (19th century) both refer to dancing (at the end of a rope), of course, rather than to a tune type.  They also neatly illustrate popular impressions of solo dancing during successive centuries.



It is apparent that the great majority of most such unidentified tunes are in common or cut time (2/2 or 4/4) and most come under the broad heading of 'hornpipe' or 'step-dance'.  This is presumably because that category of tunes has - owing to the universal popularity of step-dancing (which Cecil Sharp was already aware of at the beginning of the 20th century) - been the most vital, and therefore the most fluid element in the English tradition since at least the 19th century.  The recurrence in the list of such tunes as the Cliff(e) Hornpipe, Wonder Hornpipe, Bristol Hornpipe and Fisher's Hornpipe seems to confirm the susceptibility of even, or perhaps particularly, the most popular stepping tunes to both change and anonymity.

Unlike the inherited 'marches', whether quick (in 6/8 or 2/4 time) or slow (in 4/4), associated with social ('set'/'country') dances which seem by and large to have retained their original melodic outlines and names, hornpipes and similar tunes associated with step-dancing have been subject to considerable variation in both.  The reason may be obvious: a step-dancer might ask for "a hornpipe" whereupon a solo musician would play "a hornpipe": the purpose was paramount, the name immaterial.  It is easy to see how such unnamed tunes might drift melodically (perhaps because of the subordination of melody to rhythm and stress), rendering any original name irretrievable.  In the case of marches, on the other hand, all the members of the marching band would have to know which tune to strike up, and sets of dancers would have to 'call the tune', so the names persisted.  It is also significant that unlike hornpipes many other cut and common time tunes attracted sets of words, which inevitably contributed to the retention of their 'real' names.

Some tunes often identified as hornpipes seem to have avoided this susceptibility to variation, but their form and history associate them with a different class of tune, which derives ultimately from the form known as the 'Scotch measure'.  The significance of the 'Scotch measure' - and its scope - may be gauged from the veritable hit parade of examples which are variously cited: Bottom of the Punch Bowl, Cairdin' of it, Corn Rigs, Duke of Perth, East Neuk of Fife, Flowers of Edinburgh, Highland Laddie (Donkey Riding), Jacky Tar/Cuckoo's Nest, Mairi's Wedding, Miss McLeod, Petronella, Soldier's Joy, White Cockade.  It would take a braver man than I to attempt to define the 'Scotch measure' on the basis of this list, and that task is fortunately beyond my purpose: suffice it to say that attention is usually drawn to the stress given to the first three beats in the bar.  On that basis it is easy to add tunes like the Lea Rigs ('Lolly Pop Man'), Princess Royal and the Rose Tree to the list.  What is important is the fact that the fates of a number of these and other Scotch measures indicate that antecedents of the hornpipe, the rant and the reel (as well as the Irish polka) are all to be found in the Scotch measure.  For an idea of the impact and subsequent influence of this music, think of jazz in the 20th century - and then some!

Ninteenth century manuscript collections indicate that most if not all of these tunes were popular among musicians in England, at least those who could read and write music.  And while in Scotland the Scotch measure had a propensity to become a reel, the continued popularity of tunes like Miss McLeod and the Duke of Perth in a largely reel-free (and Scotch measure-friendly) zone like England suggest that they did so in their original form: i.e. English musicians would have continued to play them as Scotch measures, rather than as isolated reels.  The same is true of tunes like Flowers of Edinburgh and Soldier's Joy, which belong to a sub-set of the Scotch measure sometimes referred to as the double hornpipe.  As well as inheriting the potential of the Scotch measure to develop into reels, this group of tunes also generated the modern hornpipe, which didn't.  As its subsequent history shows the modern hornpipe also had an inherent potential to be slowed down and played like a schottische, something which was not really true of the earlier hornpipe-cum-reel of the Flowers of Edinburgh type.

A good indicator of whether a borderline cut-time tune was originally a hornpipe or a Scotch measure is its popularity with traditional Morris dancers, 'Cotswold' or 'North-western', who - except in the case of specific dances involving special footwork - seem to have shunned the hornpipe proper.  Thus although older 'double hornpipes' like Flowers of Edinburgh and the Cuckoo's Nest were well-represented in Cotswold morris repertoires, the later 'true' hornpipe of the type originating on the London stage during the later 18th century and exemplified by tunes such as Nelson's, the Manchester, Bristol, Swansea and Wonder Hornpipes were largely ignored by Cotswold morris dancers.

Mercifully the analysis of tune types in this way is not an exact science, as the example of the (English) Morning Star, which is usually classed as a hornpipe, shows.  While exhibiting the three distinguishing characteristics I have posited for the Scotch measure: its retention of a fixed name, its use by Morris dancers, and its ready transmutation into an (Irish) reel , all of which seem to put it in the same category as Flowers of Edinburgh, William Kimber's treatment of the tune may suggest (at least according to my thesis) an affinity with the hornpipe proper.  The ambivalence surrounding the perceived nature of this particular tune is heightened by Allen's Irish Fiddler, in which the standard Irish reel of the name is published, unchanged, as a hornpipe in 2/2).  The Morning Star, it would seem, falls between two stools.

A quick trawl of the Internet reveals that the absence of a universal definition of the cut-time and common time tune types hornpipe, rant, and reel, and even polka is a cause of great distress among compulsive typonomists in the revival.  This seems to be due to the fact that neither they nor, more significantly, earlier collectors and publishers - some of the latter very early - are or were aware of the Scottish measure or its role in the shaping of traditional repertoires in the British Isles.  The type of tune to which the term is applied is much more common than might be apparent from the limited attention it has received.  The Duke of Perth for example, now generally regarded as a reel, is so similar in its outline to such tunes as Young Collins, Old Tom of Oxford and the Shepton Mallett "Hornpipe" (see entry in list above) that they must all be considered as belonging to the same tune type.  And surely Petronella and Galopede cannot be separated.

Sound recordings of traditional English musicians playing hornpipes suggest they were universally played in the 'old' way, i.e. not quite dotted, but syncopated (where the inevitable slight dwelling on stressed notes may give the impress of dotting), and fast, rather than as 'Lancashire' hornpipes or 'clogs', in the manner and at the tempo of a schottische (as is often held - rather inaccurately - to be the modern Irish practice).  There is also some evidence that English traditional musicians - or at least melodeon players in Norfolk - might have heard both schottisches and slow and dotted hornpipes in 6/8 (or perhaps 12/8): Joan Roe noted Herbert Mallett's version of the tune now known as Harry Cox's Schottische in 6/8 (H&H, p.20), and Sonny Barber (brother of Cyril) played the second part of the Galway Hornpipe in 6/8, in a medley after the jig Larry O'Gaff(e) (VTDC11CD/Disc 2 Track 10).


As I have already indicated, the identification of tunes collected without a name or with an associative description has revealed that the majority of them belong to a specific class of tune with a specific use, to wit 'hornpipes' and similar tunes used for step-dancing, and that such tunes are susceptible to greater variation than tunes used for social dancing.  Without the constraint of the need of a group of dancers or band of musicians for fairly stable melodies these tunes became susceptible to the interpretation of solo musicians playing (in the main) for solo (step-)dancers.  And it is surely significant that it was not necessarily just the lesser traditional musicians who played adapted or simplified versions of sometimes standard tunes, but the best and most interesting of them, such as Scan Tester, William Kimber, Dolly Curtis, Stephen Baldwin and James Higgins.  What these versions reveal is how such musicians heard the core items of this element of the English repertoire, and an awareness of how they heard them is crucial to any understanding of what they actually heard, that is to say how English traditional music was being played, and specifically stressed when they came to it.  This is true not only of common time tunes, but also of a small number of tunes in 6/8, whether subject to widespread reworking as in the case of St Patrick's Day (see below), or as evidenced in isolated recorded versions, such as Dennis Hathaway's version of the Irish Washerwoman (CJS MSS FT 2051, where Sharp refers to the tune as Dargason), which may be the product of an English preference for the single jig, and for the 6/8 rhythmic phrase in the first bar which I shall characterise as 'rat-a-tat-tat'.  Here it is perhaps worth making just a passing reference to the 'Scotch jig', the 6/8 manifestation of the Scotch measure.  Examples include 100 Pipers and The Campbells are coming, the latter a 6/8 version of Miss McLeod, of course.

Breakdowns and broken chords: the Londonderry Hornpipe

There are two tunes, or rather a strain and a tune, attracting a variety of associative names (local or dance-related) which were widely used for step-dancing and bear some sort of relationship to the Londonderry Hornpipe.

The strain is the first part of the tune recorded (with different B-musics) by Billy Bennington (VT152CD/Track 9.2), Bob Cann (VT138CD/Track 4.2 - Cokey Hornpipe) and Joe Smith (Phoebe's husband: FTX-100/Track 19), and is the same as the sixth part of the Londonderry Hornpipe as published by O'Neill (DMoI 925).  O'Neill describes how the Londonderry Hornpipe was put together (see Fiddler's Companion entry), and it seems likely that this strain had existed in isolation, rather than becoming detached from O'Neill's composite tune.  Incidentally, Joe Smith's B-music is very similar to the B-music of Scan Tester's celebrated and idiosyncratic Stepdance (TSCD 581D/CD2 Track 3).

The tune coincides with the first two parts of O'Neill's Londonderry Hornpipe, which also survived as an independent 2-part tune in Ireland - see, for example, the Ladies Hornpipe in the Roche Collection (vol.  2 no.  20) - , being also recorded by James Morrison as the Provincial (Viva Voce 001/Side 1 Track 5).  English and Cornish versions which are closest to this 'original' often have the word 'breakdown' in their titles, for example the Boscastle Breakdown (TSCD 600/Track19; TSCD 659/Track5); (Ted Carr's) Breakdown (VTVS07/Side 1 Tracks 1 & 6); (Sheringham) Breakdown (various musicians: FTX328/Tracks 28 and 30; VT152CD/Track15.2) and Billy Cooper's English Breakdown (see following paragraph).

William 'Nick' Carter, the policeman father of Ted Carr (Carr is a 'stage-name'), told Dave Kettlewell that the 'breakdowns' he and his son played (on the dulcimer) were a "succession of broken-up chords, you do it a lot on the banjo: they're not like proper tunes".  The 'breakdown' recorded by Ted Carr consists of the "1st part of the Londonderry Hornpipe", followed by both parts of that version of the Lass on the Strand which is usual among traditional musicians in England and Scotland (though not under that name - see the entry for Herbert Smith's Blakeney Hornpipe in list above), and finishes up with the "2nd part of the Londonderry Hornpipe".  Both tunes were popular in the Eastern counties, and although this combination is unique, it echoes the way in which Billy Cooper combines the Bristol Hornpipe and the first two parts of the Londonderry Hornpipe (TSCD 607/Track 16, where they are called the Yarmouth Hornpipe and the Four-Hand Reel respectively; according to Dave Kettlewell, however, Billy Cooper referred to the latter as the English Breakdown).

The tune now generally referred to as the Four-Hand reel, seems to be a simplified version of the tune which coincides with the first two parts of the Londonderry Hornpipe: a good example is that of Herbert Smith (FTX-328 /Track 16).  It is, of course the tune which Jimmy Shand recorded as Lancashire Clogs (BL2356) in 1938.  Shand's designation of the tune suggests that it was already familiar as an English stepping tune, but is not impossible that the Scotsman's immense popularity, and the widespread availability and popularity of his recordings on 78, gave the tune a new lease of life in East Anglia.  There are too many recordings of musicians playing either the 'Breakdown' tune or the 'Four-Hand Reel' tune (and they are not always as easy to distinguish as I might have implied) to cite them all, but any CD devoted to East Anglian music would be a good place to start looking (many of them referenced elsewhere in this article).  A rare example of an English traditional musician playing a longer version of the Londonderry Hornpipe is Bob Davies (to my mind the greatest of the many great melodeon players from north Norfolk) with his Gates of Edinburgh (VTDC11CD/Disc 2 Track 38).  His version has a third part and is quite distinct, though his unusual - in Norfolk - 2nd part is similar to that of the Londonderry Hornpipe as recorded by Jimmy Shand in 1933 (MR1387 - also a three-part version), and the whole may derive from a 78 rpm commercial recording.  In some ways the influence which recordings on 78 by Shand and other, mainly Scottish, musicians had on the repertoire of traditional musicians in England, as well as in Scotland, may be compared with the influence which contemporaneous recordings by Michael Coleman and other émigré Sligo musicians had on musicians throughout Ireland.  In other respects, their influence was at opposite poles: recordings by Shand and his ilk played a major part in the expansion of local repertoires throughout Great Britain, consolidating there in the process a common 'British Isles' repertoire, an influence which is felt to this day.  Those of Coleman, on the other hand, while admittedly scintillating, served to marginalise older, more catholic repertoires in Ireland, creating a myopic, xenophobic repertoire (understandable, perhaps, in a repertoire which - like Coleman's - was originally aimed at homesick expatriates) whose ascendancy has only relatively recently been challenged by the resurgent local repertoires of the south-west (Cork/Kerry) and the north (Donegal, Antrim), both of which seem to hark back to a more eclectic past.  Here I must add that it should not be thought that the influence of Scottish recordings in East Anglia, for example, means that the tradition there was in decline or moribund.  On the contrary, only a vital tradition would have the vigour, and be subject to the imperative to expand its repertoire in that way.

'Rat-a-tat-tat': St Patrick's Day (in the morning)

The tune which Stephen Baldwin called Flanagan's Ball (possibly a corruption of Lannigan's Ball) is ultimately a version of St Patrick's Day, one of a number of old tunes which may have survived in the public consciousness as a result of its use by military bands.  Baldwin's first strain is much simplified, and the second reshaped by taking the first three quavers of its original first bar and turning them into an anacrusis (the three 'pick-up notes'), and rebarring (mentally) the remainder of the tune accordingly.  (In Suffolk Fred Whiting played a fascinating version in which the stress suggests the first three quavers of the B music are still struggling to break away and become an anacrucis [MT CD forthcoming]).  This seems to have been a widespread variation on the tune: Billy Bennington sings a version with a similar first strain but which goes one step further and dispenses with Baldwin's anacrusis at the start of the second part (VT125CD Track21 - where he says it was used for the 'set dance' Sir Roger de Coverley, and it does actually sound a bit like Sir Roger, despite being in 6/8 as opposed to 9/8).  William Rew of Sidbury, Devon, played a version on the concertina whose first strain seems to combine elements of Stephen Baldwin's with those of the more idiosyncratic conventional versions (like Percy Brown's), its second strain, while retaining the form of the original first bar, being otherwise even more 'crooked' (published as Double change sides in Dances for a party, EFDSS 1957).  A version of the tune which often turns up in 19th century manuscripts under the name of the (Bard's) Legacy (from the words by Thomas Moore) seems to represent an independent, if in some ways parallel, simplification of the tune.  Interestingly, both Scan Tester and Billy Pennock called their fairly standard versions of the tune Barbary Bell.

It should not be assumed that where different versions of a tune evolved they would have been mutually exclusive: far from it.  The numerous variants of the version of St Patrick's Day known as William and Nancy, which was collected on a number of occasions in the first half of the 20th century from dancers and musicians associated with Morris dancing at Bledington and nearby Idbury and Bould in Gloucestershire include 'single jig' and 'double jig' A-musics, and a range of simplified 'B-musics' either similar to Stephen Baldwin's, or even further removed from the original (all reproduced on p.  82 of Bacon's Handbook of Morris Dancing).  The latter seem to represents a further stage in the development represented by the simplified B-music of the version which Kenworthy Schofield collected as The Old Woman Tossed Up from Alec Franklin of Leafield in Oxfordshire in the 1920s (see Journal EFDS, 2nd series, [vol.1], 1928, no.2, 25, also in Bacon of course). A similar version was recorded in Suffolk by George Woolnough, its second strain if anything even more simplified (VTDC11CD/Disc 1 Track 9).  In Norfolk Percy Brown, played the tune as both a double jig and a single jig, the A-music in particular also being subject to considerable melodic variation (VTDC11CD/Track 45 and FY/Track 20).  Further afield, in New South Wales, Albert 'Dooley' Chapman played a version on the concertina (CS - AFM 001) which seems to retain most of the original notes (i.e. six quavers per bar), but has a pattern of stress which seems to point in the direction of - and occasionally exhibits - some of the simplifications found in Billy Bennington's and the 'Bledington' versions.  Billy Cooper's B music seems to go half-way in the direction of Billy Bennington's, and then undergo its own simplification (TSCD607/Track 26.4)

I have already referred to the partiality of traditional musicians in England to the rhythm/stress pattern 'rat-a-tat-tat' in 6/8 tunes.  That partiality is particularly evident in the most popular tunes in 6/8 (a class of tune where popularity must surely have meant popularity with the dancing public rather than with musicians).  Listen, for instance, to Stephen Baldwin's version of Haste to the Wedding (MTDC334/Tracks 5&6) and the forceful 'rat-a-tat-tat-&' of its very first bar.  The pitch of the notes in the 'standard' version with the original full complement of six quavers in the first bar reveals that the /rat-a-tat-tat-&-a/ pattern of stress was already present, and the cause rather than the result of the loss of a quaver which is apparent in versions like Stephen Baldwin's.  A wax cylinder recording in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of an unknown fiddler playing St Patrick's Day (C37/1612) similarly reveals that the 'rat-a-tat-tat(-&-a)' stress was also already present in performances of the 'standard' version of that tune, too.

A good example of a 6/8 tune with the rat-a-tat-tat rhythm is the Perfect Cure, which was once one of the most popular 6/8 tunes in Norfolk, versions having been recorded by, amongst others, Billy Cooper (VYVS 07/08 / Side 3 Track 23), George Craske (VTDC11CD/Disc 2 Track 22, B-music only) and Herbert Mallett (CDM 2/4).  Paul Burgess has identified the original Perfect Cure as a 'novelty schottische' with words, so the tune has apparently been re-jigged completely in 6/8, with an unequivocal rat-a-tat-tat rhythm.  As such it is also found in Ireland (Gene Kelly: She hadn't the thing she thought she had: TSCD 606/Track 15.1) and Australia (Lindsay Carr, The First Set (Lead-Up Tune): NLA CD/CD 2 Track 32).  The rat-a tat-tat rhythm is obviously not restricted to England.

The Bristol Hornpipe: outing John Lock(e)'s 'polka'

The tune preserved on a wax cylinder in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (C37/1590) and attributed to the Herefordshire Gypsy fiddler John Lock(e) (b.1872, d.  n/k) has received a great deal of attention in recent years, but as far as I know no attempt has been made, at least in print, to identify it.

The tune in question is a version of the Bristol Hornpipe, one of the tunes most frequently collected from traditional musicians in England during the 20th century, though seldom by that, or indeed any other name.  Some collected versions of the tune are close to published versions (e.g.  Henry Cave, CJS MSS FT 1486), but most differ quite substantially from printed versions (like Kerr's MM vol.  1 no.  18, p.  44, for example).  The frequency of the tune's recorded occurrence in the repertoire of traditional musicians is, not unnaturally, in proportion to the intensity of collecting activity in any given area.  Thus East Anglia in particular can boast a large number of versions, some of them again close to the printed version (e.g.  Billy Cooper, 'Yarmouth Hornpipe', TSCD 607/Track 16.1).  There also seems to be a more or less 'standard' Norfolk variant, as played by Harry Cox (1st strain only), George Craske (1st strain only), Bob Davies and Percy Brown (all on VTDC11CD/Disc 2 Tracks 18, 27, and - as part of a medley - 34 and 47/61 respectively); Scan Tester played a similar version - A music only - which appears as the second strain in his Reel (TSCD 581D/ CD 1 Track 4).  Harry Cox was also recorded playing a - somewhat more wayward - version of the complete tune on the fiddle and on the whistle, but it is the more idiosyncratic Suffolk versions, like those of Oscar Woods (VTDC11CD/Disc 1 Track 48 and MTCD339-0/Disc 2, Track 23) and Cecil Pearl ('Dick Iris's Hornpipe' - VT130CD/Track 1.1), which point in the direction of John Lock(e)'s hornpipe.  Closer to home, the version played by the Gloucestershire-based traveller Lemmy Brazil (pronounced 'Brazzle': MTCD 345-7/CD 1, Track 23) is another link between printed versions and the cylinder recording.  The 1st part of the Bristol Hornpipe is rather similar to that of the Lass on the Strand in its melodic structure and outline, and versions of the latter tune, such as Herbert Smith's Blakeney Hornpipe (FTX-328 /Track 16) have occasionally been confused with it.  But the melody of the Lass on the Strand is fairly constant (whichever B music is played - except in the case of Harry Lee's alarming 2nd strain, which could, as I have already stated, be a stab at either), and in the 20th century its popularity (in England) seems to have been confined to the Eastern Counties and the North East.

Most vernacular versions of the Bristol Hornpipe retain, more or less, the opening bars of the first strain, and the first two bars of the repetitive second strain of the printed version (typically rejecting the remainder of the original progression of arpeggios/broken chords of the type common among printed hornpipes).  John Lock(e), if (as seems likely) he is the fiddler, does just this, but he moves even further from standard traditional versions in that he turns the 1st half of the 1st rhythmic phrase (bars 1 and 2 of the 1st strain) into a new 1-bar rhythmic phrase which he then repeats as a new 2nd bar.  In so doing he changes the 'original' rhythm from the /123456&a/12345x2&a/123123&a/12345x2&a/ (where bold notes are stressed and superscript x2 _ is intended to indicate that the note it follows has the value of two - slurred - quavers, or a crotchet) which is evident from printed versions and familiar from other collected and recorded versions, to the alternative 'default' rhythm for hornpipes of: /123456&a/123456&a/123123&a/123456&a/, which is also implicit in so many printed, manuscript and recorded collections (a good example being the Manchester or Yarmouth Hornpipe in its multitudinous collected versions).  And although there is little of the slurred cross-bowing which characterises fiddlers like Stephen Baldwin, Herbert Smith and Walter Bulwer, it is this 'swung' (syncopated) rhythm which gives the impression that the tune is 'dotted'.  John Lock(e) makes almost exquisitely restrained use of chording and (upper) mordents, but like Stephen Baldwin, and unlike East Anglian fiddlers, seems to eschew the triplet completely.  There is very little scope for comparison with other Gypsy fiddlers, but his playing, like that of the fiddler Harry Lee, a traveller settled in Essex who was recorded much later (TSCD 661/Track 14), is more relaxed and legato than that of the gorgio fiddlers I have cited. 

Intriguingly the three recordings of the tune which can be heard at the present time - the NSA version at; the VWML version at and the Hutchings version on Rattlebone and Ploughjack - play back at three different tempi: The NSA and the Hutchings recordings approximate to the key of F (suggesting a fiddle tuned down a note from concert pitch, to FCDG), and may thus be closest to the original tempo.

The tune, even in its 'original' form, is seldom, if ever, called the Bristol Hornpipe by traditional musicians (like Billy Cooper, Oscar Wood's actually referred to his version as the Yarmouth Hornpipe, but told Carole Pegg that other people called it the Bristol Hornpipe).  In his Fiddler's Tunebook, Peter Kennedy calls the (standard) tune the Bristol Hornpipe (Blacksmith's Hornpipe) and it is also found as the Smith's Hornpipe in the 19th century manuscript collection of the Welsh harper Thomas Llewellyn of Aberdare in the National Library of Wales (334E.f.9; reproduced in Tro Llaw).  O'Neill does not seem to include it in DMoI or MoI, but his Waifs and Strays of Gaelic melody (1922), which includes a number of hornpipes with an English origin, includes a tune (no.305) called Stage Hornpipe whose B music - albeit a sequence of broken chords - is the same as that of published versions of the Bristol Hornpipe.

The tune on the wax cylinder has become known as John Lock(e)'s 'Polka', despite the identification offered by Ashley Hutchings when he first presented it to the world at large on his Rattlebone and Ploughjack album of 1976 as 'A cylinder recording of the Herefordshire Gypsy fiddler John Locke, playing an unnamed hornpipe.  Made by Cecil Sharp at the turn of the century' (BGOCD 353).  This attribution derives from the box in which the cylinder was preserved, which is labelled 'Dance tunes / played by Locke', with 'Gipsy / Locke / Sheepskins / Hornpipes' inscribed on the bottom.  Admittedly this is not unequivocal, inasmuch it could equally refer to the tunes played by John Lock(e) which - unlike the Bristol Hornpipe - are known to have been recorded on wax cylinders (now lost) by Ella Leather, especially since they included a tune called Sheepskins and Sharp is known to have decided that it was not in fact called Sheepskins, John Lock(e) and his brother James both having given him another tune by that name (both tunes actually being versions of Hunting the Squirrel).  It is thus possible that the box may originally have held cylinders of the tunes which are known to have been recorded from John Lock(e).

If the tune was recorded from John Lock(e), the recording per se, and the tune it reproduces, should be referred to as John Lock(e)'s Hornpipe, or perhaps, in a more academic context, John Lock(e)'s (?) Hornpipe. You can play it as you like of course, but playing it as a polka does not make it 'John Lock(e)'s Polka', it makes it your own polka!  Any reference to the original recording or the tune it preserves as 'John Lock(e)s' Polka 'should be avoided as it misrepresents not only the nature of the tune itself, but also the nature of the repertoire of traditional musicians - and in particular fiddlers - of John Lock(e)'s generation and background as it is apparent from range of tunes collected by Sharp and his contemporaries.


The identification of unnamed tunes and tunes with localised or personalised names does not merely throw light on repertoire.  Simplified versions of popular tunes - which seem to exist in particular within the hornpipe/stepdance repertoire - can tell us about the way in which traditional musicians heard items in that repertoire.  The examples of the Londonderry Hornpipe, the Cliff(e) Hornpipe and the Bristol Hornpipe, for example, point to a rejection of arpeggiated figures by some musicians, in favour of more concise rhythmic phrases.  And the distribution of vernacular versions of the Wonder Hornpipe, Fisher's Hornpipe and St Patrick's Day show that a simplified version could appeal to, or arise among musicians over a large geographical area.  The stress which is inherent in the simplified versions of both common-time/stepping tunes and 6/8 set dance tunes must surely be a pointer towards the practices of the dancers for whom they were played.  This is perhaps self-evident in the case of stepping tunes, but in the case of 6/8 tunes played as 'single jigs' or with the 'rat-a-tat-tat' rhythm I have described the stress also seems to demand or encourage a particular response on the part of the dancer.

Key to abbreviations

CJS MSS FT: Cecil Sharp manuscripts, Dance Tunes (+ p.  no.)
FARNE: Folk Archive Resource North East;
CC Ex : Clive Carey manuscripts, Essex; in VW Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House, London

Bacon: Handbook of Morris Dancing.  The Morris Ring, 2nd ed.  (1986)
CDM: Community Dance Manual (published by the EFDSS in 7 volumes)
DMoI : O'Neill : Dance Music of Ireland, 1907
EDS: English Dance and Song (EFDSS periodical)
H&H: Alan Helmsdon.  Hawk and harnser (2004)
KMM: Kerr's Merry Melodies
Tro Llaw: a collection of 200 Welsh Hornpipes from the National Library of Wales, ed.  Robin Huw Bowen, National Library of Wales, 1987)

CS AFM: Chris Sullivan Australian Folk Masters
FTX: Folktrax (previously Folktracks); no longer trading, recordings now in hands of Topic, but informative website still up and running.
MTCD: Musical Traditions CD
NLA CD: Helions Bumpstead Gramophone Company recording;
NSA : National Sound Archive, at the British Library, London (see MT Link)
TSCD: Topic CD (see MT Link)
VT: Veteran recording
VTV : Veteran recording
VYVS : Veteran recording

Philip Heath-Coleman - 13.7.10

Article MT251

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