Girl I Left Behind Me (1) (The)

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GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME [1], THE (or "An Spailpin Fanach"). AKA and see "As Slow Our Ship," "Brighton Camp," "Gal I Left Behind Me (The)," "Pretty Little Girl (2)," "Pretty Little Girl I Left Behind Me (2)," "Spailpin Fanach (1) (An)," "Rambling Laborer (The)," "Wandering Harvest Labourer (The)," "Waxies Dargle (The)." Old-Time, American, Irish, Scottish, English; Air, Hornpipe, March, Two-Step, Polka, Set, Sword, Country and Morris Dance Tune (2/4 time). G Major (almost all versions): A Flat Major (O'Sullivan/Bunting): C Major (Ashman). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Linscott, Raven): AB (Bayard, O'Sullivan/Bunting, Shaw): AABB (Ashman, Brody, Ford, Kennedy, Perlman, Phillips, Sweet, Tubridy): AABBCC (Hall & Stafford).

There are conflicting assertions about the both the provenance and antiquity of "The Girl I Left Behind Me," a popular traditional melody claimed vociferously by both the English and Irish. It does appear to date to the 18th century, but that general date is almost all that can be said for certainty at this time. Irish claims revolve around the melodies appearance under the title "The S(p)ailpin Fanach" (or "The Rambling Laborer), words and music printed in Dublin in 1791, although Bunting (1840) asserts it was known much earlier. Bunting himself collected the tune from an elderly Irish harper, Arthur O'Neill, in the year 1800. Several authors (Moffat) have noted its resemblance to the Irish melody "Rose Tree in Full Bearing (The)," accompanied by suggestions that "The Girl I Left Behind Me" is a derivative tune. Alfred Moffat, in his Minstrelsy of Ireland (1897, p. 14), was perhaps the first to recognize the connection, although others (such as Samuel Bayard) finds little relationship between the two. Moffat thought it was also true that the British knew the melody as "Brighton Camp," dating from the 1758–1759 encampments of Admirals Rodney and Hawke, but that the original Irish provenance still held, citing its "Irish flavour" as well as the "Rose Tree" resemblance. In Moffat's view, the version of the air that Bunting printed was "a mere parody on the genuine (Irish) air," an opinion that early 20th century English musicologist Frank Kidson (writing in Groves, 1910) agreed with. Bunting instructs the tune be played as an air, "with tender expression," a much different styling than the original British march. Bunting's version, stated Kidson, along with the version of the melody employed by Moore, "quite destroy the strongly marked rhythm of the simple marching form." The latter named person refers to Thomas Moore and his song "As Slow Our Ship," published in Irish Melodies (1818), which used "The Girl I Left Behind Me" as the vehicle for his words. 20th century music writer Sigmund Spaeth simply called it an Irish folk-tune, "first written down in 1800."

Claims of English provenance are just as forceful, although occasionally vague. For example, Linscott (Folk Songs of Old New England, 1939), maintained that was derived from an old British marching song, and that "in Queen Elizabeth's time it was very popular and was played when a man-of-war weighed anchor or when a regiment moved in or out of town." The assertion is perhaps apocryphal, for the same is said of a few other melodies ("Off She Goes (1)," for example). Although "The Girl I Left Behind Me's" employment as a military leave-taking is a persistent and repeated assertion, there is little actual evidence that it was employed for that purpose, at least before the American Civil War. English musicologist William Chappell (1859) dated the song "Brighton Camp" (which employs the "Girl I Left Behind Me" melody) to 1758, associating the title with the encampments at Brighton established there and at other locations on the coast of England to watch for the French fleet, which had been threatening an invasion of the island. When the English navy defeated the French later in 1759, the fears that established the watch camps dissipated and then were ridiculed in pantomime and farce in London. Parenthetically, the once fishing-village of Brighton, in east Sussex, became very popular in the next decade riding on the growing fashion for bathing. While still a prince, George IV visited the spa starting in 1783 and purchased an estate nearby, engaging famous architect John Nash to transform it into the elegant oriental Pavilion that is today a tourist attraction. Brighton was again the location of a military encampment of many thousands of men in the summers of 1793–1795, again in response to fears of a French invasion.

Unfortunately, there are no surviving early printings of the melody under the title "Brighton Camp" that have been found. Chappell alluded to manuscripts in his possession which did establish the connection, but they were not named by him, nor have any surfaced since. It is known, however, that the song air "The Girl I Left Behind Me" seems to have quickly entered military tradition as a marching air around the beginning of the 19th century. Interestingly, Bunting and Chappell communicated about the tune, with the former writing in 1840 to the Englishman that: "It is a pretty tune, and has been played for the last fifty years, to my knowledge, by the fifes and drums, and bands of different regiments, on their leaving the towns for new quarters." It is was said by Chappell that the melody was printed in a manuscript of c. 1770 in the possession of a Dr. Rimbault, and that it appears in march form in manuscript collections of military music from that pre-(American) Revolutionary era, although he specifies none by name, and, indeed, none have been found by subsequent researchers. Its specific use as a military leave-taking march-already referred to and often repeated-is said to have dated to before the American revolution when a British naval vessel set sail or an army unit left for service abroad. Nevertheless, while plausible, there is no solid evidence it was generally employed this way. It may be that the story of the naval leave-taking aspect—apocryphal or not—was the inspiration for Moore's "As slow our ship" song.

Frank Kidson (Groves, 1910) discusses the problem of dating the tune with any certainty, although he does attest that a manuscript in his possession 'dates it with certainty to 1797'. However, the earliest corroborated citation for a printed version of the song is in Issue 72 of Charms of Melody (approximately 1805–1806). There is a reference to the song in a songbook called The New Whim of the Night, or the Town and Country Songster for 1799 wherein there is a song entitled "The Girls we love so dearly" written by R. Rusted to the tune "The Girl I left behind me." Kidson points to a printing of "Brighton Camp" with the "Girl I Left Behind Me" melody in the publication The Gentleman's Amusement c. 1810, an English publication. Fuld (The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular and Folk) finds the melody under the same title in a Irish publication, Hime's Pocket Book for the German Flute or Violin (Dublin, n.d., vol. III, p. 67), and asserts it is the earliest extent publication of the melody. Irish versions can also be found in the collections of flute player John Clinton (1841) and Edward Bunting (1840). The melody, under the title "Waxies Dargle (The)" was used for a theme song for the candlemakers outing [1]; the term “waxies’ is slang for candlemakers, while the ‘Dargle’ referred to their annual excursion to Bray. Kidson also notes that the song "Girl I Left Behind Me" appears in John Bell's (1783–1864) Rhymes of the Northern Bards (1812). Kidson has a version from a musician's manuscript book dating from around 1815, which he reprinted in Songs of the Georgian Period, (Moffat & Kidson). A published version under the title "Brighton Camp or The Girl I Left Behind Me" indicates that both titles were in currency for the melody and can be found in Riley's Flute Melodies (New York, 1816), an American publication. "The Girl I Left Behind Me" appears in the music manuscript of Shropshire musician John Moore of c. 1837–1840.

The aforementioned John Bell, a Northumbrian musician, poet and writer, also included it in his c. 1812 manuscript collection [2] with a complete lyric that begins:

I'm lonesome since I left Blyth Camps,
And o'er the moor that's sedgy;
With heavy thoughts my mind is fill'd
Since I parted with my Betsy,
Whene'er I turn to view the place
The tears fall down and blind me
When I think on the charming grace
Of her I left behind me.—

Bell also included a note with a Northumbrian take on the tune's origins:

This song was written about 1795 when a large encampment of 13 Regiments of horse and foot was formed along the coast of Northumberland in the neighborhood of Blyth, at which place the head quarters was held—they were reviewed on the 28th of August, 1795, by the Duke of York in the presence of upwards of 60,000 spectators.

There are a few literary references to the song or melody. For example, "The Girl I Left Behind Me," clearly a reference to the military use of the song, was the title of a chapter (XXX) in William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair (1848), an indictment of self-centered and foolish people set in the Napoleonic era. The English novelist Thomas Hardy, himself an accordionist and fiddler, mentioned the tune in scene notes to The Dynasts (1904), also set during the wars with Napoleon:

A June sunrise; the beams struggling through the window curtains. A canopied bed in a recess on the left. The quick notes of 'Brighton Camp' or 'The Girl I Left Behind Me,' strike sharply into the room from fifes and drums without.

James Fenimore Cooper mentions the tune in his novel of the sea, The Pilot (1824), as the characters sail near enough to shore to hear the roar of the surf:

Looking affectionately, though still recklessly, at the boy who stood at his side, he said:
"Dull music, Mr. Merry."
"So dull, sir, that I can't dance to it," returned the midshipman. "Nor do I believe there is a man in the ship who would not rather hear 'The girl I left behind me,' than those execrable sounds."

"The Girl I Left Behind Me" has a long and illustrious history in America, although not, as some would like to believe, prior to the beginning of the 19th century. Paul Tyler finds the tunes in music manuscript books of Abel Shattucks (c. 1801) and John Carrol (c. 1804–1812). The latter was a military fifer and fiddler at Fort Niagra who succumbed to influenza in 1812, prior to hostilities with Britain. As mentioned, it appears in Riley's Flute Melodies, published in several volumes in New York beginning in 1814. The tune was entered into the music manuscript copybook of (Philadelphia?) musician M.E. Eames, frontispiece dated Aug. 22nd, 1859 (p. 180). Dolph (1929) prints a standard text popular at the time of the Civil War, which was a great favorite with Gen. George Custer, and is still the official regimental song of the 7th Cavalry (see also "Garryowen"). "My grandfather tells me that he heard it played by bands in both armies at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in 1862" (Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, vol. III, 1980). Cauthen (1990) finds reference to its being played during the Civil War in an account by Georgia fiddler Ben Smith of the 12th Alabama Infantry; she calls it a "show tune" which was popularized during that war and which entered folk tradition through discharged soldiers. The United States army troop [The Old Guard] at Fort Snelling, Minesota, considered it a favorite in the 19th century. The melody appears in Bruce and Emmett's Drummers' and Fifers' Guide, published in 1862 to help codify and train the hordes of new musicians needed for service in the Union Army early in the American Civil War. Therein it is remarked: "This air and (drum) beat is generally played at the departure of the soldiers from one city (or camp) to another" [George Bruce was a drum major in the New York National Guard, 7th Regiment, and had served in the United States Army as principal drum instructor at the installation at Governor's Island in New York harbor. Emmett was none-other than Daniel Decatur Emmett, a principal figure in the mid-19th century minstrel craze and composer of "Dixie" (ironically turned into a Confederate anthem during the war) and "Old Dan Tucker," among other favorites. Emmett had been a fifer for the 6th U.S. Infantry in the mid-1850's]. Today it remains in use by the U.S. Army and is played at the United States Military Academy at West Point as part of the medley for the cadets' final formation at graduation.

Notwithstanding its popularity as a song or martial air, "The Girl" gained renewed currency as a song and a dance tune in the South. The western Virginia brothers group the Bull Mt. Moonshiners recorded a version during Victor's famous 'Bristol sessions' (Bristol, Tenn.) in 1927 called "Johnny Goodwin." Linscott (1939) remarks that in New England it was a great march favorite and that it "has always been popular as a country dance tune." The piece was a 'catagory tune' in an 1899 Gallatin, Tenn., fiddle contest; each fiddler would play his (or her?) rendition, with the best version winning a prize (C. Wolfe, The Devil's Box, vol. 14, No. 4, 12/1/80). It was cited as having commonly been played at Orange County, New York country dances in the 1930's (Lettie Osborn, New York Folklore Quarterly), and was in the repertoire of Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner whose hey-day was in the early 20th century. Also in repertories of Uncle Jimmy Thompson (1848–1931) {Texas, Tenn.) as "The Girl I Left Behind," Mainer Mellie Dunham (Henry Ford's champion fiddler in the late 1920's), and Buffalo Valley, Pa., dance fiddlers Harry Daddario and Ralph Sauers. It was recorded (as "Pretty Little Girl" or "Pretty Little Girl I Left Behind Me") for the Library of Congress by folklorist/musicologist Vance Randolph in the early 1940's from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers.

Morris and sword dance versions in this setting of the tune have been collected from the Abingdon, Handsworth, Bampton, Longborough, and Lichfield, England, areas, {the latter has a 'C' part which is the tune 'Here we go round the Mulberry bush...'}. Barnes (2005) prints a 3-part morris dance version from Lancashire, and Mary Neal included it in her Espérance Morris Book (1910) under the name "Morris On," noting: "this is the tune with which the Berkshire dancers always begin." It was a hit of the late 20th century folk revival in England, its popularity spurred by Bill Leader, Reg Hall and Bob Davenport's influential recording "English Country Music" (1965), a limited release which featured Norfolk fiddler Walter Bulwer and his wife Daisy (piano), and Billy Cooper (hammered dulcimer). The recording became a collector's item until it was re-released on LP by Topic Records in 1976. In Scotland "The Girl I Left Behind Me" was the name of a solo dance with twelve steps and was performed to "The Girl..." melody. This Scottish dance was transported to Cape Breton and entered dance tradition there where it was performed during the 19th century. Elias Howe (c. 1867) printed the tune along with contra-dance directions in 1000 Jigs and Reels.

Sources for notated versions: harper Arthur O'Neill, 1800 (Ireland) [Bunting]; John McDermott (New York State, 1926) [Bronner]; 10 southwestern Pa. fifers and fiddlers [Bayard, 1981]; William Garrett with Hack's String Band [Phillips]; a c. 1837–1840 MS by Shropshire musician John Moore [Ashman]; caller George Van Kleeck (Woodland Valley, Catskill Mtns., New York) [Cazden]; Angus McPhee (b. c. 1924, Mt. Stewert, Queens County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; the Rice-Walsh manuscript, from the playing of Jeremiah Breen, a famous blind fiddler of North Kerry in the late 1800's (Thomas Rice was his pupil), via Chicago Police Sergeant James P. Walsh [O'Neill].

Printed sources: Ashman (Ironbridge Hornpipe), 1991; No. 2b, p. 1. Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes, vol. 2), 2005; p. 49 (3-part Lancashire morris dance version). Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 338A-J, pp. 322–325. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 119. Bronner (Old Time Music Makers of New York State), 1987; No. 4, p. 27. Bruce-Emmett (Drummer's and Fifer's Guide), 1880; p. 52. Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1840; No. 57, p. 43. Cazden (Dances from Woodland), 1945; p. 9. Cazden, 1955; p. 14. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. 2), 1859; pp. 187–188 (appears as "Brighton Camp"). Clinton (Gems of Ireland), 1841; No. 15, p. 8. Ford (Traditional Music of America), 1940; p. 116. Hall & Stafford (Charlton Memorial Tune Book), 1954; p. 12. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs, vol. 2), 1858; No. 182, p. 82. Hazeltine (Instructor in Martial Music), 1810; p. 29. Hopkins (American Veteran Fifer), 1905; No. 64. Howe (Diamond School for the Violin), 1861; pp. 51, 61, 62. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 89. Hulbert (Complete Fifer's Museum), 1811; p. 19. Jarman (Old Time Fiddlin' Tunes); No. or p. 7. S. Johnson (Kitchen Musician No. 4: Fine Tunes), 1983 (revised 1991, 2001); p. 13. Karpeles & Schofield (A Selection of 100 English Folk Dance Airs), 1951; p. 31. Kennedy (Fiddler's Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1951; No. 55, pg. 27. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3), c. 1880's; p. 41. Linscott (Folk Songs of Old New England), 1939; pp. 79–80. Moffat (202 Gems of Irish Melody), p. 8. Moffat (Dances of the Olden Time), 1922; p. 17. Neal (Espérance Morris Book, vol. 1), 1910; p. 19. O'Flannagan (The Hibernia Collection), 1860; p. 15. Old Fort Snelling: Instruction Book for the Fife, 1974; p. 35. O'Malley & Atwood (Seventy Good Old Dances), 1919; pp. 26, 35. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 972. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 972, p. 167 (appears as "The Spalpeen Fanach"). O'Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922; No. 52. O'Sullivan/Bunting (Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland), 1983; No. 57, pp. 87–90. Ostling (Music of '76), 1939; p. 10. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 153. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; pg. 97. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; pg. 94. Riley (Flute Melodies, vol. 1), 1814; No. 349. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), Set 1, 1911; p. 1. Sharp (Sword Dances of Northern England: Songs and Dance Airs, Book 1), 1911; p. 5. Sharp (Sword Dances of Northern England: Songs and Dance Airs, Book 3), 1913; pp. 4–5 & 12. Shaw (Cowboy Dances), 1943; p. 382. Sweet (Fifer's Delight), 1964/1981; p. 45. Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 1), 1999; p. 10. Westrop (120 Country Dances ... for the Violin), c.1923; No. 42. White's Excelsior Collection, 1907; p. 72.

Recorded sources: Augusta Heritage Records 003, Ernie Carpenter, "Elk River Blues: Traditional Tunes From Braxton County, W.Va." (appears as "Pretty Little Girl I Left Behind Me"). BEJOCD-28, The Mellstock Band – "The Dance at the Phoenix: Village Band Music from Hardy's Wessex and Beyond." Brunswick (78 RPM), John McDermot (central N.Y.), 1926 (appears as last tune of "Virginia Reel Medley"). Cassette C-7625, Wilson Douglas – "Back Porch Symphony." Mag, Hubert and Ted Powers – "Powers Town Music." Columbia 33427-F (78 RPM), James Morrison and His Orchestra (1929). Edison 51381 (78 RPM), Jasper Bisbee (Mich.), 1923. Folk Legacy Records FSA-17, Hobart Smith – "America's Greatest Folk Intsrumentalist" (appears as middle tune of "Banjo Group 2"). Gennett 6826 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts (Ky.). OKeh 45150 (78 RPM), Franklin Co., Va., fiddler Howard Maxey {1882-1947} (1927). Paramont 3017 (78 RPM), 1927, John Baltzell (Mt. Vernon, Ohio). RCA Victor LCP 1001, Ned Landry and His New Brunswick Lumberjacks – "Bowing the strings with Ned Landry." Morning Star 45003, Hack's String Band (Muhlenberg County, western Ky.) – "Wink the Other Eye: Old Time Fiddle Band Music from Kentucky, vol. 1" (1980, as "Pretty Little Girl"). Topic TSCD607, Billy Cooper, Walter & Daisy Bulwer – "English Country Music" (2000. Originally recorded 1962). Topic TSCD752, Walter & Daisy Bulwer, Billy Cooper – "Stepping Up" (2004. Compilation CD). Tradition TLP 1007, Richard Chase – "Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians," 1956. Victor 36402A (78 RPM), Woodhull's Old Tyme Masters (N.Y.), 1941. Voyager 340, Jim Herd – "Old Time Ozark Fiddling." CD, Alan Jabbour, James Reed, Bertram Levy – "A Henry Reed Reunion" (2002).

See also listings at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [4]
Hear the tune played by Sligo fiddler James Morrison and His Orchestra, 1929 [5] (last tune in polka medley).




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