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Village Music Project codes prefix :- HA.

Digital images of the Manuscript can be viewed on the Farne Project website

The Henry Atkinson manuscript is part of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries Collection, and is presently kept in Gosforth Records Office.

It has been transcribed  into  ABC Music Notation by Chris Partington and Neil Brookes for the Village Music Project, from digital images kindly provided by The Farne Project.

This general introduction is by Chris Partington, and the notes on the tunes “Highland Pibroch -The Irish Gilekrankey” and “The Flower of Yarrow” are by Paul Roberts.

If the Ms is what it claims to be (and I believe, on the evidence presented below, that it is), then it is an extraordinarily important survival of a manuscript collection of a large number of  both known and previously unknown, melodies popular in northern England and southern Scotland in the late 17th C. Its great importance lies in it’s being a musician’s working manuscript and not a printed book.

A much abbreviated version, of just over 20 tunes as transcribed by Stokoe in 1883, has been available before, and that was the basis of a previous VMP ABC file. That is still available for comparison, but has been effectively superseded (preceded!) by this.

1.    THE BOOK


The Ms consists of two neatly stitched books, bound together, one numbered from one end with 154 pages, the other numbered from the other end and the other way up, with 63 pages. There are no differences in the manufacture of the two books, which appear to be contemporary with each other and from the same source. Together they make one unified volume, and the different hands at work, are at work in both of them. It is approximately 20cm wide by 12cm tall. The outer cover, if it ever had one, appears to be missing. There are 4 staves per page, which by the evidence of certain minor inaccuracies in the spacing, have been ruled without the benefit of a 5-nibbed stave-ruling pen. Nevertheless the inaccuracies are few, and otherwise the ruling is expertly done.

It contains 207 popular secular song airs and dance tunes of the end of the 17thC and earlier, probably intended, on the evidence of some bowing indications and two tunes requiring scordatura, at least partly for the violin. The recorder (“flute”) was a popular instrument from c1680 for about 40 years, and at least some of the tunes in this Ms also appear in Playford’s Division Flute (i.e. recorder) tutors, but in higher registers than here. Many others appear in Playford’s Division Violin and Playford’s Dancing Master series. Others are either untitled or have not yet been identified as occurring elsewhere.


The detached fly-leaf  bears, in large copperplate, the legend :-

“HENRY ATKINSON his book 1694”

Below this in the bottom left corner is the inscription, in a different hand :-

“ Wm.A. Chatto, 1834”.

On the first page, upside down, are written the names of the notes of the Gamut.

Here is an extract regarding the Gamut from a violin tutor of a slightly later period (from the J.Barnes Ms).

“ The second string hath also 4 notes . Alamire, Bfabimi, C solfaut, D lasol:  which is stopt the same as the 3rd.  The first or treble string hath 5 Notes usually appropriated thereto which are these (viz)  Elami, Ffaut, Gsolreut, Alamire and Bfabimi .  Strike Elami open, Stop Ffaut with you for finger [sic] very near the nut Gsolreut with your 2nd finger about ¾ of a Inch [sic] from the first, Alamire with your 3rd finger [at] the same distance from your Second lastly you must Stop Bfabemi with your Little finger ½ an inch from the third.”

This incidentally PROVES that you can’t learn to play the fiddle out of a book!

In the body of the 63 paged book, at the top left-hand corner of some of the tunes, are the initials “J.A.”  The “A”  could well stand for “Atkinson”.

There are no further original inscriptions other than tunes and their titles.

There are some later pencilled comments here and there, no older than mid 19th C., which in my copy are partly illegible.


There are a minimum of three separate hands at work in various parts of the book.

1..“Henry” (presumably), up to tune #HA.046 and elsewhere, who has a distinctively curly archaic script in the titles and a treble clef (“gf”) peculiar to the end of the 17th C, very similar to that used by Henry Purcell (d.1695). (see Groves 2nd ed).  Later in the book the same hand seems to sometimes use the modern (“G”) clef, but then reverts to the more familiar “gf”. see #HA.121.

2..“J.A.” from #HA.174 onwards and elsewhere, who has a more copperplatey hand in the titles, and uses both the modern treble clef and the Purcell style.

3..“Others” here and there throughout, sometimes in good sized blocks. see #HA.052 and elsewhere.

Other than noting that there is more than one hand at work, I have not been too bothered about separating the various hands from each other, as they are so intermingled with each other, for instance following on directly on the stave from A to B on occasion, and from B to A on other occasions, as to be exact contemporaries.


From Groves 2nd Ed.:-

“It’s (a sharp or flat in the signature) dominion, however, was restricted to a horizontal significance, and it is common to find in Mss down to the end of the 16thC, either what we should now call a superfluous flat (or sharp) in the signature (i.e. Gmaj indicated by sharps in both the bottom space and the top line, etc.) or a flat (or sharp) implied in the signature appearing as an accidental.”

Also: “The principle that an accidental only affected the note which it preceded was still observed”

In other words, as opposed to modern usage, where one flat/sharp indicated in the signature flattens/sharpens all occurrences of that note horizontally and vertically.

Also: “ in the 17thC, composers, besides frequently duplicating sharps and flats, frequently omitted the last sharp or flat of the signature”.

So in the Atkinson Ms, Gmaj and Dmaj are consistently indicated in the signature with two and three sharps respectively, the note f appearing twice. Whereas Amaj also is indicated by three sharps, being F,f,and c, arranged vertically, and omitting the sharp for g !

There was no discrete sign at this period to indicate the naturalising of a previously flattened or sharpened note, which would instead be indicated by “#” or “b” as appropriate.

The sign for a sharpened note is sometimes archaically much more in the shape of a doubled St. Andrew’s Cross.

To confound matters even further I append two quotes from Jeremy Barlow in his “The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master” (pub. Faber & Faber, 1985).p.10.

“Accidentals were marked with increasing care as the editions progressed (particularly from the 12th ed onwards), reflecting the gradual disappearance of the use of Musica Ficta, a Renaissance practice which gave the performer licence to introduce accidentals in certain places where none had been written, depending on the melodic and harmonic context; melodically Musica Ficta was used mainly to sharpen leading notes at cadences and to avoid the interval of the augmented fourth, but it’s application was also partly a matter of individual taste and expression.”


“The way in which tunes were changed from the minor to major mode and vice-versa is intriguing. Some of the changes may merely have been corrections, others the result of editorial taste. When one takes into account sources of the tunes outside the Dancing Master there can be no doubt that a flexible attitude existed towards the modality of popular tunes in the 17th C.” .(ed..see #HA.110 and #HA.111).

Furthermore, Matt Seattle, in his notes on the Farne website about the collection, suggests that sharps and flats as applied to the note “e”, for example, may indicate whether that note should be played “#” i.e.= on the open “e” string, or “b” i.e. = with the pinkie on the “a” string. (see #HA.016, but also #HA.046 where it cannot apply to the “sharpened” c’s)

All this has made it interesting, to say the least, deciding how best to interpret and thus represent in modern notation (i.e., abc code) some of the tunes in the Ms, and where best to put sharp and flat signs.

As before mentioned , the treble clef is indicated in the Ms  both in the “modern” and “Purcell” styles, both appropriate to the last years of the 17th C.

Repeat markings were somewhat optional at this period, and are here sometimes indicated by dots within the double bar lines rather than outside. see #HA.079, and more often by a small figure 2 above the double bar lines.

Time signatures per se are largely absent from the Ms, apart from an occasional example, the first being 6/8 for “A Jigg. HA.163”.

It was fairly normal practice in the 17th C. for tunes in 9/4 meter to be barred as 6/4. This was not regarded at the time as a mistake, but as an aid to reading. However, notwithstanding that observation, bar lines are often missing or wrongly placed in the Ms, and have been modernised for VMP.

Some ornamentation is indicated in the Ms. A pair of short, parallel, upward slanting lines usually above the note indicates a mordent played on the beat. A “u” above the note is an upward resolving appoggiatura played on the beat, according to contemporary recorder tutors.

“English composers of the late 17thC liked their music ornamented, but seemed not to mind (unlike the French) exactly how and at what point the ornamentation was applied.” (P.Holman)


The titles paint an evocative picture of 17th C events.

Of the 207 tunes, only 110 have titles. Of these, 23 refer to people by name, or by implication. My information, unless otherwise stated, comes from either Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nded, 1928, or The Dictionary Of National Biography, or Encyclopaedia Britannica.

1.Mr. Banister (2 mentions) is either John the elder (1630-79), or more probably John the younger (d1735), his son, who contributed to Playford’s “The Division Violin” of 1685.

2. Mr. Purcell #HA.054,#HA.196(2 mentions) is probably Henry Purcell (1658-95), seeing that the name is not further qualified. However, there was also his brother Daniel Purcell (1660-1717), also a prolific composer, mainly of plays/operas, including a version of “The Northern Lass”.

3. Mr. Thomas Tollate #HA.041 is probably Thomas Tollet (no dates), one of the Dublin City Musicians (in 1668-88) who “went to London in 1689…author of  ‘Directions to play on the French Flageolet’…..a composer of Act tunes for the theatre..etc..” So stick all three pages of Mr. Thomas Tollate’s Grounds #HA.041 in your pipe and blow it! According to Grove, there is  in Hawkins’ ‘History’ a “Tollet’s Ground”, which he attributes to one George Tollet,(nd)

4. Shore’s Trumpet Tune #HA.174. Shore was the name of a prominent musical family of the latter half of the 17th C, mostly trumpeters, and ours is possibly either John Shore (c1662-1752), the most celebrated trumpeter of his time, and inventor of the tuning fork ( says here!), or more probably William (d1700) brother to John. “The song ‘Prince Eugene’s March into Italy’ (c1700) bears the attribution “The Tune by Mr W.Shore” and “Shore’s Trumpet by Jeremiah Clarke” may be based on another trumpet tune by him” Anyhow, they were all trumpeters to Charles II, James II, and William III.

Incidentally, Jeremiah Clarke (1659-1707) is sometimes credited with having written the Trumpet Voluntary called “The Temple” see #HA.127. It is certain that musicians at the time in question constituted a social circle, collaborated with each other in major ways, and had a relaxed attitude to borrowing/lending each other’s themes for reworking.

“Clarke, having the misfortune to become enamoured of a lady whose position in life rendered his union with her hopeless, fell into a state of despondency, under the influence of which he shot himself at his house in St. Paul’s Churchyard”

5. The Boyne #HA.051. The famous Battle of the Boyne July 1790, at the River Boyne, Ireland, in which the deposed King James II lost in his attempt to regain the throne from William III (of Orange).

6. Shonburg’s March #HA.102. Friedrich Hermann Von Schonburg,1615-1690 German soldier of fortune, a marshal of France, and an English peer, who fought in the service of various countries in the major European wars between 1634 and 1690.Schomberg was the son of the Protestant court marshal of Frederick V, elector Palatine, and of Anne, daughter of an English peer, the 5th Lord Dudley. He volunteered under Frederick Henry of Orange in 1633 and, from 1634 to 1637 during the Thirty Years' War, served in the army of Bernard of Saxe-Weimar for campaigns on the upper Rhine. In 1639 he again went to Holland for some years of service. In 1650 Cardinal Mazarin, in the crisis of the Fronde, secured him and his German infantry for the French royal army that defeated the rebel Marshal de Turenne at the Battle of Rethel (Dec. 15, 1650). Schomberg was appointed maréchal de camp on Oct. 28, 1652, after Turenne had changed sides, and was one of Turenne's best officers in the campaigns against the Spaniards and the Prince de Condé. In 1660 he went to Lisbon to organize a Portuguese army against Spain. After placing Dom Pedro (later Pedro II) in power in a palace revolution in 1668, he returned to his position in the French army, having become naturalized as a Frenchman. During the Dutch War (1672-78) he went to England in 1673 on the invitation of Charles II to form an army for the proposed invasion of Holland, but soon returned to the French Army and was on Louis XIV's staff at the siege and capture of Maastricht (June 1673); in 1675 he was one of eight marshals of France appointed on Turenne's death. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) drove Schomberg, a Protestant, from France, but he was welcomed by Frederick William of Brandenburg, "the Great Elector." In 1688 the Elector lent him and a Prussian force to William of Orange (later William III of Great Britain), whom he accompanied to England. He was naturalized as English in April 1689 and in May was created duke of Schomberg (as well as baron of Teyes, earl of Brentford, and marquess of Harwich). He went to Ireland as commander in chief against James II in August 1689 and was killed by some Irish cavalry at the Battle of the Boyne. (Enc.Brit.)

7. Mackay’s March #HA.047. General Hugh Mackay “of the Dutch Service” (1640-92) was the commander of the Scots and the English Divisions at William Of Orange’s  landing in Torbay in 1688, the beginning of “the Glorious Revolution” that ousted Catholic James II from the throne and replaced him with Protestant Mary II and her husband Prince William of Orange, aka. William III. (i.e. William & Mary).

8. My Lord Cutts’ Delight #HA.120. Lord Cutts, John (1661-1707) was in 1688, after serving on Holland under William of Orange, Lieutenant Colonel in the Regiment of English Foot at Torbay, and later at the Battle of the Boyne and the Battle of Limerick. By 1694 he was Colonel of the Coldstream Guards. He was in charge of them at the Palace of Whitehall, the then Royal Residence, in 1698 when fire broke out. He unsuccessfully led the attempts to extinguish it, and it was almost totally destroyed. See White Hall #HA.036. He was fond of poetry and the arts and lampooned on account of it, but he was popular and dashing, and a favourite at Court. He was present at the funeral in 1694 of Queen Mary II. General Hugh Mackay said of him “Pretty tall, lusty and well shaped, an agreeable companion, with abundance of wit, but too much seized with vanity and self conceit”.

9. England’s Lamentation For The Late Queen Mary. #HA.107. Queen Mary II, daughter of Charles I, wife of William lll, with whom she ruled jointly until her death in 1694. She was instrumental in spreading the fashion for china-ware displays, and chintz soft furnishings.

10. The Flower of Yarrow #HA.030. See also Paul Roberts’ separate notes on this tune. Later also known as “Sir John Fenwick The Flower Amongst Them All”. Sir John Fenwick (1645-97) was a fervent Jacobite partisan of James II. He had a personal and mutual dislike of William, under whom he had served on Holland, and who had had occasion to reprimand him. He continually and not very discretely plotted against William, and was beheaded in 1697 after allegedly conspiring to assassinate him.

11. Prince Eugene’s March #HA.125. Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), was regarded by Bonapart as one of the seven greatest soldiers ever, and in his own day widely regarded as the most eminent soldier of his age. Rumoured at the time to be Louis XIV’s bastard son, he was disliked by Louis and left France to join the Austrian army and fight the Turks. He proved a brilliant soldier and quickly rose to be a Field Marshal at the age of 29, spending a good part of the rest of his career fighting against the French, particularly, as concerns our Ms, the War of the Grand Alliance 1689-97, which he fought to curb France’s imperialist ambitions, and to further Austria’s. He was a great friend and ally of the Duke of Marlborough in the later continental wars.

12. Leshley’s March #HA.145. Other sources have this as Leslie’s March. From an earlier period of warfare, the Civil War of the 1640’s, come the two contenders for this march. The eldest was General Alexander Leslie (1580-1661) a Scottish soldier of fortune, who fought with distinction for the Swedish monarchy, and returned in time to fight variously and effectively both for and against Parliament at the head of the Scottish forces. The younger was General David Leslie, no relation, (d1682), likewise a Scottish soldier of fortune for the King of Sweden, and who likewise returned to fight for the Scots in the English Civil War (!) and who likewise was effective both for and against Parliament. His part was critical at the Battle of Marston Moor, and in 1645 he marched to Scotland at the head of 4,000 horse to counter Montrose and save Parliament. Infamously this was followed by the massacre of the camp followers, mainly Irish women. He changed sides again and was utterly defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, with 3,000 dead to Cromwell’s 20 (twenty).

13. Highland Pibroch, Irish Gilicrankey #HA.101 aka Killiecrankie. See also Paul Roberts’ separate notes on this tune.

Presumably refers to the Battle of the Pass of Killiecrankey, 1689, as follows:

John Graham, Dundee, of Claverhouse (1649-89), Pass of Killiecrankie, Perth, Scot. Scottish soldier, known as "Bonnie Dundee," who in 1689 led an uprising in support of the deposed Roman Catholic monarch James II of England. Graham's death at the outset of the revolt, in the very battle of Killiecrankie in which his forces were victorious, deprived the Scottish Jacobites, as James's adherents were called, of any hope of success in their resistance to King William III and Queen Mary II. Coming from a noble family, Graham began his military career as a soldier of fortune in France and the Netherlands. He returned to Scotland by 1678 and was made captain of the dragoons sent to the southwest to suppress Presbyterian insurgents who opposed the Anglican regime of King Charles II. He spent most of the next two years in England, where he won the favour of Charles's brother James, Duke of York. After the Duke of York assumed the throne as James II in 1685, Graham at first took little part in military or governmental affairs. But William of Orange invaded England in 1688; Graham became second-in-command of the Scottish army sent to aid King James. He was created Viscount Dundee by James on November 12. James fled from England in December, and Dundee then returned to Scotland to champion the cause of the exiled monarch. Rallying forces in the central Highlands, he ambushed General Hugh Mackay at the Pass of Killiecrankie on July 17, 1689. Dundee's forces were completely victorious, but he was shot and fell from his horse, mortally wounded. In August the Jacobite Scottish resistance was crushed by General Hugh Mackay at the Battle of Dunkeld.

14. Three Crowdeys In A Day. HA.133

Added in a later hand:

“Crowdey once, crowdey twice, three crowdeys in a day,

If ye crowdey any more, ye’ll crowdey all the meal away”

And here’s a (modern) recipe:


4x15ml tablespoons medium oatmeal

4x15ml tablespoons rolled porrage oats

300ml yoghurt

1x15ml tablespoon warmed clear heather honey

225g Scottish raspberries

Toast the oatmeal and the oats separately under moderate heat for about 4 mins, stirring frequently, until evenly brown. Leave to cool.

Stir the honey into the yoghurt, most of the raspberries and the cooled oatmeal. Divide the mixture between four individual serving dishes, sprinkle the toasted oats on top, and decorate with the reserved raspberries.

15..Farinell’s Ground.#HA.046. see La Folia or Faronell’s Division on a Ground, in Playford Division Violin Vol 1(1685)..

Grove ed2: “Michel Farinel (1649-?) Born in Grenoble, travelled to Spain and Portugal, was intendant of music to the Queen of Spain, and eventually retired to become singing master to the nuns of Montfleury, near Grenoble. For them he issued a volume of sacred music in 1696…..In a register of 1690 he is described as “a gentleman pensioner of the King of England” and signs “Michel Farinelly” an Italianisation of his French name. His personal reputation as a violinist stood high, but his name survives in history as the composer or arranger of “Les Folies d’Espagne”, known as Farinel’s Ground”

The same theme has been used by Correlli, Vivaldi, Lully, Pergolesi and others both before and after Farinel.

Folia – “Originally a noisy dance accompanied by tambourines, and performed by men dressed as women, who behaved so wildly that they appeared to be out of their senses, whence the name Folia.”

He visited London in about 1675.

16.. Mr Frank’s Minuet. #HA.052.

Grove ed2 “Johann Wolfgang Franck (b 1641-?)Court Kappellmeister at Anspach from 1673-8. Having in Jan 1679 killed a musician of the chapel, and wounded his wife in a fit of jealousy, he fled to Hamburg where he produced 14 operas between 1679-86. From 1690-95 he was in London where in conjunction with Robert King, he gave concerts between 1690-93..”

17..The Milkmaid’s Dance. #HA.140  This tune is very similar to “Bellamira” PLFD DM ed.7C.(1689), (apart from being a completely different version in a different key! ) It turns up anonymously in PLFD DF 1706, and attributed to Solomon Eccles in DV 1695, all very different versions. Solomon Eccles (1618-83) was an important musician who (Grove Ed.2) “..embracing the tenets of Quakerism in about 1660, abandoned his profession, broke all his instruments, and burned them….His vagaries during the early part of Charles II ‘s reign, and particularly during the great plague of 1666, when he ran naked through the town with a brazier of burning brimstone on his head, point to a deranged intellect”. Grove states that he resumed his profession and contributed several ground basses with the divisions thereon to the Division Violin. However, Peter Holman asserts in his useful notes to “The Division Recorder”(1979), referring to John Jeffries’ “The Eccles Family”(1951) (snappy title), that it was not in fact Solomon’s tune, but his supposed son’s, “who was a popular theatre composer of the 1690s”. Back to Grove again and, unless Jeffries is referring  to another Solomon of which I can find no record, then he must mean John Eccles (1650-1735). The list given of his work is very theatrical, and may account for our title, but the flat key versions (Bellamira) and the attribution by Playford may point to Solomon after all. Another member of the family, Solomon’s youngest son Thomas (no date) “studied the violin under his brother Henry,(Sol’s middle son?) and became an excellent performer. Being idle and dissipated, he gained a scanty and precarious subsistance by wandering from tavern to tavern in the city and playing to such of the company as desired to hear him.”

18..Ranting Roaring Willie. #HA.134    From “The Scots Fiddle Vol 2” by J.Murray Neil : “..was a wandering minstrel who was famous both as a fiddler and ‘brawler’ in the countryside around Jeddart (Jedburgh)…..tells the story that after an altercation with a fellow fiddler, Robin Rool, ..regarding their respective musical abilities, a fight ensued in which Robin was slain. Willie subsequently met the same fate at the hands of two of the Elliots out for revenge.”


32 tunes are provided with guidance from HA as to where to use them, and the rest are not. For them it goes almost without saying that 6/4 does not automatically mean “jigg” any more than 3/4 means “minuet” : and there are many rhythms and tempii contained within the description “common time”. Removed in time by 300 years or more we need to approach this collection with keen interest and an open mind.

There are in descending number:

80 tunes in common time, of which 4 claim to be marches, 3 bourrees, 1 Gavot, and 1 pibroch.

56 tunes in 6/4 of which 6 claim to be jiggs, 2 trotts, 1 minuet, and 1 march.

51 tunes in 3/4 of which 7 claim to be minuets, and 1 saraband.

11 tunes in 3/2 of which 1 claims to be a hornpipe , and 1 round.

10 tunes in 9/4 of which 1 claims to be a jigg, and 1 country dance.

1 tune in 6/8 which claims to be a jig.

The discrepancy in the total is partly Mr Thomas Tollate’s fault, as he has 3/2,3/4,6/4,and 9/4 all in one tune.

Sarabands, Gavots and Bourrees, despite their continental origins and names, had been popular in Britain since at least the mid 16th C.

The fashion in England for the minuet as a dance, rather than as an instrumental piece did not come until after 1730, according to Grove 3rd Ed., However, here we have a few, even ignoring the untitled tunes, and Playford had lots of them in Apollo’s Banquet, of 1687, so they cannot in this Ms be regarded as either exotic or premature.

Searching the EASMES website, over half of the titled tunes can be found in Playford’s and other contemporary printed collections, as detailed in the notes to the individual tunes in the ABC file. However, when compared, they are almost never identical to any of the printed versions. I could not find any concordances for the rest of these titled tunes, even at a later date. (That is, on the EASMES site)

A number of tunes change their meter, very many are not in four- or eight- bar phrases, and most are in an unfamiliar idiom. No matter.


The object is to present the tunes in modern notation, to enable modern musicians to get some idea of  H.A.’s musical intentions. This is sometimes difficult, as those intentions, presented in 17th C notation, are not always clear to us.

He usually fails to dot notes where we would dot them, and many bars do not add up to our view of what makes a bar add up. Sometimes the intention looks plain enough and I have  acted accordingly, whilst being scrupulous in showing what my interventions have been. You may disagree with my interpretation, and easily recover the unedited version - I really don’t mind. See if I care. This is made doubly easy in the case of this important manuscript, by it being available to view in facsimile on the Farne website. Other tunes I have left as they are, where speculation may be too much required: you may be able to make something appear out of them for you, if you furrow your brow for long enough.


As so many of the tunes also appear in Playford publications of the period, it would probably be safe to assume that “HA , JA, & co” would constitute part of the normal market for those things, and might be expected to play them in ensemble in a recognisable form for the times.

Peter Holman in “The Division Recorder Bk.1” (1979) p3, gives us an idea of possible ensembles: These pieces are designed for recorder/two recorders (..or substitute fiddle/other melody instrument..Ed) with a continuo that can consist either of a melody bass instrument (bass viol, cello, bass recorder or bassoon) or a chordal instrument (harpsichord, chamber organ, guitar, theorbo, bandora or cittern), or both. There seems to be very little evidence to prefer one combination to another, though rustic country dance divisions seem often to have been accompanied by wire strung instruments such as  the bandora or cittern.

That will do for Playford’s Dancing Master series and Division Violin, where many of the tunes also appear. This line-up is well evidenced by many illustrations from the period.

David Johnson in “Scottish Music In The 18thC” (1984) suggests four possible levels of instrumentation for dance music, in connection with mid 18thC minuets:

1..Chamber orchestra – fiddles in 2 parts,cellos,wind,horns.

2..Accomplished fiddle band – fiddles in 2 parts,cello.

3..Run-of-the-mill fiddle band – unison fiddles,cello.

4..Single fiddler – 1 fiddle.

The several hands involved in the Ms may imply any of these levels of complexity.

The selection of titles, although it suggests “rustic” northern sources, nevertheless may be typical of the period both north and south. Many of the “Northern” tunes were nationally available in print through the agency of Playford and others. Some were apparently written by London composers in the admired “Scotch” style and have become accepted as part of Scottish heritage. (see “Within A Furlong Of Edinburgh Town” HA.166, by H.Purcell).

Nevertheless, as previously noted, the settings are usually different from those found in Playford, and there are plenty of tunes here that maintained a long history indeed, even without the benefit of the printing press. (see Jenny Come Down To Jocko #HA.040) .

This points to a complex interchange, or even a common fund, of  musical ideas between England and Scotland, and also between oral tradition and print, which of course continues to the present day.

Holman’s use of the terms “Rustic Country Dance” and “Rustic Violin Divisions”  in the context of the content of some of Playford’s publications may seem a little patronising to the many bagpipers and fiddlers who today still play those same tunes, whilst the “composed” (by known composers) pieces are often the ones from those same publications which have not survived in popular circulation. It does, however, serve to indicate in the breach, as it were, just how close the ends of the musical spectrum were to each other in those days.

The music is within the capability of a competent amateur musician, literate or not, perhaps of “The Middling Sort”, and is of the genre of part composed and part “Rustic” and “Rustic style” pieces consistent with being ultimately at least partly derived from printed sources. Where the printed sources were ultimately sourced and the nature of the relationship between this and the music played by the non-literate “Lower Sort”, not just in this period but right up to the present day, is a topic that should be studied and debated more fully than it has been, but is too large a subject to tackle in a relatively short introduction such as this.


All the evidence in the titles, of persons and events, point to the late 17th C, and there is nothing that would force a date later than c1700. All the handwriting and notation is consistent with this date. All the tune types mentioned in the titles and implied by the tunes themselves are also consistent with this date.

Therefore despite the initial shock of a manuscript so old having such a business-like and modern appearance, upon investigation there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the manuscript is what Henry Atkinson claims it to be, namely his book, 1694.

He let other people put music in it, and increasingly towards the end shared it with “J.A.”, who may have been his brother, or “J.A.” may have had rights over the smaller of the two books, in which are all the occurrences of his initials. Why there were two books sewn together we do not know, but they were filled jointly by a small group of friends in a short space of time, as indeed fiddlers tune books usually are. I say “fiddler” since there are half-hearted bowing directions here and there, which may of course be misleading. There is not enough use made of the upper registers to imply the recorder/flute.

(Chris Partington, Jan., 2004.)



A Highland Pibroch – The Irish Gilekrankey  (HA101)

I think this may be the first written appearance of one of the great Scots melodies. The battle it commemorates took place in 1689, a mere 5 years before the date on Atkinson’s book. It is certainly earlier than the version cited in Johnson’s Scottish Fiddle Music of the 18th Century, taken from the James Thomson MS (1702-c.1720), and earlier than the somewhat fragmentary setting in Playford’s Scotch Tunes (1700).

The background to the tune is the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and the battle of the pass of Killiekrankie was a rare Jacobite victory in a war they ultimately lost. It saw a largely Highland Scots army under Graham of Claverhouse (“Bonnie Dundee”) defeat a largely Lowland Scots army under General Hugh Mackay, though Claverhouse himself was killed in the engagement.

It is not immediately clear which is the main title and which the subtitle. A Highland Pibroch appears at the head of the tune and Irish Gillekrankey at the end of the tune, but a lot of Atkinson’s titles are given after the tune, and A Highland Pibroch seems to be in a different hand to most of the book. My feeling is that the Highland Pibroch title was added later (I suspect around 100 years later). But I say this after only a very cursory look at the facsimile on the FARNE website. Either way, both titles at first might seem a bit of a mystery.

Pibroch or Piobaireachd literally means “pipe music” and has long been the common name for Ceol Mor, the “great music” of the Highland bagpipe, a form of ground with variations peculiar to that instrument. But not only do all known versions of this tune well exceed the nine note range of the Highland bagpipe, the tune cannot be successfully adapted to the instrument – one might say the essence of the tune lies in its extended range. But there is an explanation.

It is now generally acknowledged that Pibroch is probably a bagpipe adaptation of an older harp form. Not everyone agrees but I think it is fair to say this is the current orthodoxy and supported by scholars like Francis Collinson, Alan Bruford and David Johnson. The greatest living authority on Pibroch (Roderick Cannon) is more cautious but only because of the lack of definitive evidence either way, and he accepts that certain specific Pibrochs are almost certainly of Harp origin.

The Highland harp tradition was still alive in Atkinson’s period. Bruford and others also believe that it was this period, the later 17th century, that saw Ceol Mor adapted to the pipes – become “pibroch” or “pipe music”. If we see Killiekrankie as a late example of Harp Ceol Mor in an era when the harp was in decline and the genre was rapidly becoming associated with the pipes then Atkinson’s title suddenly makes perfect sense. It is not literally Pibroch/pipe music, it is a harper’s piece, but in a genre increasingly thought of, and described as, “pibroch”

Indeed, Killiekrankie is among the handful of tunes cited by Johnson as probable “harp pibrochs” on internal structural grounds, and it has long been popular with revivalist Clarsach players who have immediately sensed its affinity to their instrument.

Johnson comments on the tune’s urlar-like (ground-like) qualities and it is a shame that neither Atkinson, Thomson, or Playford include any variations. Presumably Highland harp variations were a rather alien form to Lowland and English fiddlers of their generation. In fact most non-pipers (and indeed many pipers) still find themselves somewhat phased by bagpipe Ceol Mor. The only version of Killiekrankie with variations I know of is in O’Farrell’s Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes Vols. 1-2 (c.1805-6) but these are typically Lowland/English/Anglo-Irish style bagpipe variations of that era and nothing like Pibroch. However - in the 1960s Ken Stubbs recorded the Kent fiddler Harry Lee playing a weird and wonderful piece he called Killiecrankie which doesn’t appear to be our tune as such, but could easily be the fragments of Pibroch variations on it (several generations, several hundred miles, and a big culture shift away).

Atkinson’s alternative title may also strike modern readers as rather odd. First the tune is “Highland” and then it is “Irish”. However, both Highlanders and their language were often described as “Irish” by Lowland and English observers well into the 18th century. In much the same way Highlanders usually described the Lowland Scots as sasannaich  (literally “Saxons”, conventionally “Englishmen”).

To some extent the 17th century Highlands was seen as an outpost of Irish culture rather than as an integral Scottish region. That its language and much of its culture was shared with Gaelic Ireland is of course well known, but into the late middle ages the MacDonald Lordship of the Isles had directly and politically united the western Highlands and northern Ireland, so there was more than just a high degree of shared culture behind descriptions of Highlanders as “Irish”.

There may be an element of ethnic name calling here as well. Nowadays Lowland Scots are somewhat sensitive about their “English” historical origins, but 17th and 18th century Highlanders may have been equally sensitive about their “Irish” origins. I am reminded here of an incident some 500 years earlier - at the Battle of the Standard in 1138 the Galloway men attacked the English ranks with the Gaelic cry of “Albannaich, Albannaich” (“Scotsmen, Scotsmen”).  The English taunted them with retaliatory cries of “Irish, Irish”: i.e. they knew exactly where to twist the knife in matters of ethnic self identification, and I doubt if it was much different in the late 17th century.

Interestingly, in the manuscript someone has added the following later footnote to the tune: “Erse formerly used instead of Gaelic. J.M.W." This may be the same hand as the “pibroch” title.

Of course, there remains the very real possibility that this tune was literally Irish in origin. Before the Ulster plantation the Highland gentry routinely hired their professional class – bards, doctors, harpers etc – from Ireland, and the practice was not quite dead in 1689. Indeed, there are several references to itinerant Irish harpers in Scotland right up to the ’45. So there is a reasonable chance that any “Highland” harper who wrote this tune could have been Irish born.

As it happens the tune is known in Ireland (nowadays as Planxty Davis) and has actually been attributed to two different Irish harpers, Thomas O’Connellan and Turlough O’Carolan. This would seem to lend support to the idea that this was literally an “Irish” Killiekrankie, but at this stage I think we need to adopt caution, if not scepticism.

The O’Carolan attribution I certainly think unlikely. For a start, he is one of a select group of great musicians (Oswald, Gow, Hill etc) who seem to be magnets for dodgy attributions. And whilst the time scale makes it possible it is one of his earliest compositions, it doesn’t make it likely. He only began to learn the harp at the age of 18 in 1688 (the year before the battle) and his tuition didn’t cease and professional career begin until three years later, in 1691.

The O’Connellan attribution seems initially more credible, and several sources I have looked at cite it as fact. But on closer examination it also starts to look extremely wobbly. We can’t even establish the most basic facts about his life, let alone about his work: the sources are not merely sketchy, they are consistently contradictory. But having trawled several books and countless websites I have managed to establish the following:

Thomas O’Connellan was born around 1620, 1625, and 1640 and died in 1685, 1689, 1698 and 1700, in different parts of Sligo and Limerick and also in Edinburgh where he was still alive in 1717 under a different name. He went to Scotland for 20 years but he never left Ireland. After his death his brother Lawrence who was called William went to Scotland and popularized the tunes Thomas had already popularized there. You get the picture!

As for the tune: it appears in numerous English and Scots sources with a Scots title for over a 100 years before its first appearance in an Irish collection (still with a Scots title). All early sources call it Killiekrankie and according to Keith Sanger the Planxty Davis title seems to be a mistake, having been accidentally transferred from a totally different tune, possibly in the late 19th century. All this proves nothing, but it is certainly a strong indicator of a Scots origin, or at least of creation within Scotland for a local audience, irrespective of the composer’s nationality.

Ultimately the O’Connellan attribution comes from 19th century Irish antiquarians like Hardiman, Moffat and O’Neill who were working to a Nationalist agenda trying to claim good tunes of widespread distribution for their particular tribe. The fullest account comes in O’Neill and his dates are incompatible with the tune’s appearance in Atkinson (death in 1698, tune taken to Scotland by Lawrence after 1700). Keith Sanger, who researched the O’Connellan connection a while back, tells me he considers it “dubious” though he wasn’t able to recollect the case in detail. (see Sanger & Kinnaird The Tree of Strings: at time of writing I have not seen a copy). My own feeling is that O’Connellan’s authorship is perfectly feasible but totally unverifiable.

A final point: why add an ethnic prefix to the title at all? Well, there was actually another popular melody called Killiecrankie, one usually bearing words that reflect the Williamite/Covenanter point of view. So Atkinson was presumably aware that there was both a Gaelic/Jacobite Killiecrankie and a Lowland/ Williamite Killiecrankie. This latter tune appears in Gow (no.593 in Carlin’s edition) and also in Bewick’s Northumbrian pipe mss. (no.1 in the Dragonfly edition: Bewick calls it after it’s opening lines  “if ye had been where I had been”). Given Atkinson’s “pibroch” title, and the present day association of bagpipes with the Gaelic side of the ethnic border, it is perhaps ironic that it is this sasannach Killiekrankie that is undoubtedly the bagpipe tune (and a fine one at that).

The Flower of Yarraw  (HA 030)

Mary’s black and Mary’s white

And Mary she’s the King’s delight

The Kings delight and the prince’s marrow

Mary Scott the flower of Yarrow

“The flower of Yarrow” was Mary Scott, daughter of John Scott of Dryhope, wife of the noted border reiver Sir Walter Scott of Harden, and ancestor of the Sir Walter Scott. She was probably born around 1550 and died about 1596. Her name and that of her husband “auld Wattie” are prominent in the legends and literature of the border reivers. (But see also the account in “The Scots Fiddle Vol 2” by J.Murray Neil, which differs in small details only..CGP)

The first written appearance of the melody is probably in Playford’s Apollo’s Banquet c.1687 where it is called Long Cold Nights after a song to the tune by Tom D’Urfey. By the 1690 edition (of Apollo’s Banquet) Playford was using the original Mary Scott title. It’s next appearance seems to be right here, in Atkinson, as the Flower of Yarrow, followed by the Thomson Ms. (1702-c.1720) with the D’Urfey title (When ye cold Winter Nights were Frozen) and the Agnes Hume Ms. of c.1704 (as Mary Scott). Over the next 300 years it appears in numerous Scots and English sources, usually as Mary Scott the Flower of Yarrow, or as simply Mary Scott or the Flower of Yarrow.

In Northumberland the tune is now usually known as Sir John Fenwick’s the Flower Among them All after a local song to the same tune. This is a lament for a Northumbrian Jacobite leader executed in 1697 for his part in a plot to assassinate William of Orange. The Fenwick title seems to have become popular because of its appearance in Bruce and Stokoe’s Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882) but most older sources use the Mary Scott title. Among these sources Bewick’s small-pipe collection is particularly interesting in having three excellent versions of the tune, all with different variations, and all titled differently, viz: Sir John Fenwick, Mary Scott-or- Sir John Fenwick, and Mary Scott the Flower of Yarrow.

It also appears in O Neills’ Music of Ireland as Planxty Scott, where somewhat inevitably it is attributed to O’Carolan.

The O’Neill version is in 6/8, a reminder that the tune has been thoroughly and successfully adapted into many different rhythms over the last 300 years.

The dedicated tune spotter will find it appearing as an air, waltz, minuet, jig, reel, strathspey and hornpipe, often hidden behind alternative titles like Berwick Lasses, Carrick’s Rant, and The Smiths a Gallant Fireman (though with some of these versions we enter the realm of the old chestnut “at what stage of change does one tune become another”).

The song is said to have been composed in Mary Scott’s lifetime i.e. the period 1550-1600. One story has it that the composer was as a young Englishman captured by the Scott family in a border raid and smitten by Mary’s beauty and kindness. According to Leyden’s Scenes of Infancy (1803) the Englishman was actually carried off by accident as a baby and raised as Mary’s foster child. Interestingly, he says this foster son grew up to be a great poet and wrote “many” of the great border songs. Whether he composed the actual tune is another matter – the odds are high that he simply adapted an existing melody to new words, which was common practice. In fact, Bruce and Stokoe state the melody is one of the old “gathering” tunes, used to raise the tenants and followers of a border chieftain to war. They cite no evidence for this assertion, but I think they may well be right and that Atkinson’s setting of the tune supports the idea.

As far as we know the “gathering” music was essentially a bagpipe form. Leyden compared it to the Highlanders’ Pibroch and his account seems to hint at a descriptive or evocative variation form, quite distinct from the “division” variation form found in Dixon, Marsden, Peacock etc. Writing in 1801 he considered it “lost”. Although most extant settings of Mary Scott are for fiddle or small pipes and extend beyond the basic 9-note range of the Border bagpipe, stripped to its essence the tune both fits the Border pipe scale and looks very like a pibroch “ground”. Moreover, it has always been a magnet for variation writing, changes of rhythm and time etc., which may be significant. Atkinson’s setting illustrates all this particularly clearly. Alter one small passage in the middle and we do appear to have here a “9-note” bagpipe tune cast in the form of a simple ground with rudimentary (and rather “pibrochy”) variations.

Indeed, a skilled Border piper able to overblow one note and cross-finger accidentals in the “pre-note” key could play Atkinson’s setting exactly as is, but the internal structure suggests to me this is a bagpipe set played in the “prime note” key without overblowing, with the short high passage a fiddler’s addition. Of course, in Atkinson’s day the main local bagpipe would probably still have been the old “raising” or “gathering” pipes, a mouth blown, conically bored type of pipes similar to the Highland bagpipe, and it is doubtful if these could overblow or finger accidentals anyway. The short high passage is contained in bars 3/4 of Strain 2 and is a simple elaboration of bars 3/4 of Strain 1. Play it as in Strain 1 and we have a classic 9-note bagpipe piece.

Perhaps we can add this to the small but growing body of material hinting at the former existence in several areas of northern England and Lowland Scotland of a martial bagpipe genre comparable to Pibroch. This is not really the place to examine the issue in any detail, but I would certainly suggest interested readers compare Atkinson’s Flower of Yarraw to Washington’s March in the 1657 edition of Playford’s Dancing Master. The latter is a bagpipe march, and given the title it is perhaps not too fanciful to see it as the “gathering” tune of an important landed family. I have argued elsewhere that it probably comes from Lancashire, though Co.Durham, main seat of the Washingtons, is another possibility. Both tunes seem to be constructed to similar conventions and rules, and both the grounds and variations are in many ways more reminiscent of Pibroch than of the more familiar “Division” form. There are even hints of the use of stylised finger movements: both utilize a strange repeated snap effect – strain 2 bar 5 here, in Washington’s this movement is much more prominent and striking. (Note for pipers: the comparison to Pibroch may predispose you to approach this tune as a slow “lament” type piece. I would suggest approaching it as a stately battle march.)

There is an excellent study of the song and its tune by James Porter in The Ballad Image (Los Angeles, 1983) and a useful précis of his essay in Common Stock: the Journal of the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society Vol.8 No.2 (Dec 1993).

(Paul Roberts Jan 2004)

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