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Welcome to the Traditional Tune Archive
The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish traditional instrumental music with annotation, formerly known as
The Fiddler's Companion.

Featured Tunes

Listen to the featured tunes of the weekSir John Fenwick's 'The Flower Among Them All.

Blacksmiths for the Los Angeles Fire Department, c. 1900.

THE SMITH'S A GALLANT FIREMAN. AKA and see "Carrick's Reel/Carrack's Reel/Carrick's Rant," “More Luck to Us,” “Riley's Favorite. - Bill Hardie (1986) remarks the title refers to the days when the village blacksmith would serve the populace not only by his trade, but would be called upon to extinguish fires in the event of an emergency. An earlier Scottish title is "Carrick's Rant." J. Scottt Skinner (1843-1927), the 19th/20th century "Strathspey King," declares his transcription to be from "J. Scott Skinner's Set" in his The Scottish Violinist (1900), while Bill Hardie (1986) styles it "After Charles Hardie's Set." Skinner subtitled the strathspey (which he called "an old air") "Wha wid eat wi' ither folk fan th[e]y hae meat at hame man" in his manuscript version, and directed it be played "Boldly."

Words to the melody were written by John Harrison of Forglen near Turriff (1814-1889) and presented to journalist and musician William Carnie of Aberdeen in 1862, who subsequently published them. Carnie himself tells of the incident in his Further Aberdeen Reminiscences (1904, p. 91-92):

[The song "Smith's a Gallant Fireman"] the work of John Harrison, born in Forglen, Banffshire, 1814, where he followed the plough till he was about out of his teens. Coming then to Aberdeen he obtained employment with George Maitland, local agent for Messrs. Blackie, publishers, Glasgow, and so acquitted himself in their service that in time he held the important position of General Manager of their agencies throughout the United Kingdom. Calling one day upon Harrison in Edinburgh and getting upon things vocal, he asked me if I knew an auld fiddle spring "The Smith's a Gallant Fireman"? Fine that: had danced to it a hundred times in Highland barn and Lowland laft. Handing me a bit of manuscript he said--Would this thing suit the music? The "thing" was instanter sung and re-sung in a then (alas! "the then") clear telling voice--when the author, pleased with his brain-birth, exclaimed--"Man, Carnie, I never thocht it was so good: tak' it and sing't to our friends in Aberdeen." He presented me with the copyright, and I have fulfilled his wish a thousand times. Mr. Harrison died, a much respected gentleman, in Liverpool, 1889.

Harrison's words begin:
Blacksmiths for the Los Angeles Fire Department, c. 1900.

Wha's the King o' oor toon end
And sets the lads in awe man
Wha has lasses nine or ten
When some hae nane ava men
Wha can mak us daftly dance
Till we be like tae fa' man
Whene'er the music o' his pipe
Is heard in oot or ha' man.
Oh Rab's the man oor village smith
I winner that ye speer man
Whaur hae ye been a' yer days
That that ye didna hear man.
He's King o' War and Lord of love
And Knight o' a oor Shire man
At feast or fray by night or day
The Smith's a gallant fireman.

A Northumbrian version is known under the title “Sir John Fenwick," while an Irish variant is called "More Luck to Us."

THE SMITH'S A GALLANT FIREMAN full annotations and Past Featured Tunes

X:1 T:Smith's a Gallant Fireman M:C L:1/8 R:Strathspey B:Milne – Middleton’s Selection of Strathspeys, Reels &c. for the Violin (1870, p. 9) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D F|OD3F A/A/A (A>B)|A>B(d>A) (GF)E>D|E3F B/B/B (B>c)| d>fe<d B2 (B/c/d)|D3F A/A/A (A>B)|A>B(d>A) (GF)ED| G<BG<B F<AF<A|E>DE>F B/B/B (B>c)||d3f d/d/d d2| (B>A)(d>A) (GF)(ED)|e3f e/e/e (e>f)|g>fed B2 (BA)| d3f d/d/d d2|(B>A)(d>c) (BA)(GF)|G<BG<B F<AF<A|(E>D)(E>F) B/B/B (Bd)O||

Why TTA Who builds the Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.

This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.

Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

Please register as a user to make the most of the many functions of the TTA, and enjoy the many ways that information about traditional tunes can be elicited and combined, from simple to complex situations. Users may make contributions, which, when reviewed by an editor, become part of this community project. Serious user/contributors may become editors through the TTA's autopromotion process, in which quantity and quality of entries allows increased levels of permission to edit and review the entire index.
Above all, the developers wish you joy in the use of the TTA.

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Navigation: Registered users can navigate the Traditional Tune Archive for information in a number of ways.

  • Search. The Search function is located at the bottom of the SideBar on the left, and can be used to search the entire index for any key word.
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  • Query the Archive. The “Query the Archive” function under “The Index” in the sidebar can be used to draw down reports from the TTA in either in single items or in a number of combinations. One might, for example, use a single item query to run a report in the TTA for a particular composer/core source. Clicking on the arrow at the right of the bar draws down a list of composer/core sources, or one may be typed in. For example, clicking on “Bill Pigg” and then the “Run Query” tab at the bottom left will result in a list of all compositions listed in the TTA that the Northumbrian piper either composed or is the core source for. Reports may also be run in combinations, as, for example, by selecting “William Marshall” as a composer/core source, “Three Flats” for the number of accidentals, and “Major” for the Key/Mode. This will result in a report of all Eb Major compositions of Scottish fiddler/composer William Marshall that are indexed in the TTA.
  • Drill Down. Cumulative information about TTA entries can be found in the “Drill Down” under “The Index” in the SideBar on the left.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Issues” in the left side bar. These are reproductions of publications for which access has been granted to the TTA by the copyright holder, under the Creative Commons license.