Back to Bits & Bobs

Back to Homepage

G. H. WATSON MS, c1880


Transcribed into ABC Music Notation for The Village Music Project by Taz Tarry

Go to ABC file

Go to PDF of transcription

Oddly, I have two introductions for this.

1. George Frampton's Introduction. Here

2. Introduction containing further biographical notes by Sue Carlton. Here

Introduction by George Frampton 1999

(Revised 2008)

The Book

This book comprises an undated manuscript book measuring 25 x 15.5 cm. whose corners and spine are leather bound.

The book was the gift of Mr. Victor Bowden of Kemsing, near Sevenoaks in Kent to myself, following an advertisement appealing for fiddler's tune books and the like in the JOURNAL OF KENT HISTORY, in response to the Village Music Project, orchestrated by John Adams and Chris Partington and funded by the University of Salford.

Mr. Bowden is unsure of how he came by the book, except to say that it wasn't from his own family, preferring to add that he probably bought it at a jumble sale!

Photocopies of the original have now been lodged with the Norfolk County Records Office, the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, the Village Music Project, and with the parish of Swanton Abbott.

The work is ascribed on the inside cover pages to G.H. Watson, Swanton Abbott.

The Contents

There are 192 pages, but the author has sectioned the book into polkas, galop, waltzes, schottisches and hornpipes (with the occassional interloping mis-matched tune in each!), separated by as many as 35 blank pages in between each part.
Curiously, there are only two tunes in either 6/4 or 9/8 time. There are none in either 6/4 or 3/2 time.Circumstantially the work must have been written in the period 1850-80 judging by the predominance of polkas and the inclusion of the original three-part Jenny Lind polka - the 'Swedish Nightingale' who took London by storm in 1847. Also by the lack of the 'long S' (sdhaped like an 'f') in the middle of words, which would otherwise date it earlier.
(Dating has been revised to at least 1880 due to the reference to Edmund Forman as composer of the tune Hollyhock Schottishe, which he did in 1880. He was a Music Hall artiste, arranger of popular songs, including Two Lovely Black Eyes, and author of  instruction books for banjo, all after 1880. He lived into the 20th Century but I'm not sure when he died. Also the song Little Annie Rooney was not written until 1889-Chris P.).

The original book is without an index nor is it paginated. I have edited each title for grammar and spelling.
The inscription G.H. Watson, Swanton Abbott is totally unqualified. The village is two and a half miles south-west of North Walsham in Norfolk, and twelve miles north-east of Norwich.

The census returns for 1851-91 describe nobody of that name in the village, and my best assumption is that the book was written by George Watson (1827-1885) of the nearby village of Coltishall, who was born at Tunstead and worked as an agricultural labourer. He was the son of Benjamin and Matilda Watson, who are described in the 1851 census as tailor and tailor's assistant respectively. The 1891 census still has him living in Coltishall with his wife Harriet.

(ed. However, the mismatched initial 'H' and the fact that this G. Watson seems to have lived all his life in Coltishall would suggest to me that we possibly have a different man here! -Chris.P)

Clearly the author is literate enough, despite his lowly status, although some of the spelling errors in the titles of some of the tunes are ambitious, or at least badly copied.
It is unknown what instrument was played, although it is assumed to be melody rather than harmony.

Copied and annotated by George Frampton, 1999

Further Notes by Sue Carlton et al.

George Henry Watson was one of 11 children. Born in 1859, the son of a labourer, he was baptised in Skeyton Church in Norfolk on July 3rd.

He appears in the 1861 census, 2 years old. In the 1871 census (name spelt Whatson but clearly the same family) he is 12 and an agricultural worker. In the 1881 census he is aged 22 and still at Skeyton but an”Odd ware maker” . In the1891 census he is 32, married with two sons and is a brickmaker. His marriage to Mary Knights took place in Skeyton in 1883. In 1901 and 1911 he is still a brickmaker and his wife is still alive.

There is a death record for a George Henry Watson at age 84 in 1944 in North Walsham which must be him.

The manuscript book is a leather bound volume, measures 25cms by 15.5cms and is split into sections. It’s undated and ascribed G.H.Watson Swanton Abbott. This is in Norfolk and lies right next to Skeyton where George lived. Why it is marked Swanton Abbott instead of Skeyton is presently not clear.

The tunes include polkas, galops, waltzes, schottisches, dotted and undotted hornpipes and a couple of song tunes. In particular it contains the chorus to Leslie Stuart’s Soldiers of the Queen and this might have been noted down as the original march, celebrating the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, rather than the song which followed on in 1895 as part of the musical comedy An Artist’s Model.

The contents reflect the popular music of the second half of the 19thC but also include a number of significant pieces from the 18thC. George was musically active into the 20thC but there are no details yet found and it’s still not apparent what instrument he played.

Thanks to George Frampton and Sue Carlton for background information.

Back to Bits & Bobs

Back to Homepage