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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.

40,438 Tunes by title with Annotations

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October 21 2019   Featured tune:     CRIPPLE CREEK
October 21 2019   Featured tune:     CRIPPLE CREEK

The Irish Washerwoman

Although the tune has popularly been known as an old, and perhaps quintessential Irish jig, it has been proposed by some writers to have been an English country dance tune that was published in the 17th century and probably known in the late 16th century. Samuel Bayard (1981), for example, concludes it probably was English in origin rather than Irish, being derived from the air called "Dargason," or "Sedany" as it is sometimes called. Fuld (1966) disagrees, believing "Dargason" (which he gives under the title "Scotch Bagpipe Melody") and "The Irish Washerwoman" developed independently.
"Dargason" was first printed in Ravenscroft's Pammelia (1609) and appears in the Playford's Dancing Master editions from 1651 to 1690, but subsequently the "folk process" melded the strain to other parts, thus making other tunes (see "Green Garters (3)" for example) including the precursors to the Washerwoman tune.

One of these precursors was the English tune "Country Courtship (The)," which dates from at least 1715 and probably to 1688, in which latter mentioned year it was first entered at Stationers' Hall. "The Irish Washerwoman" appears to have developed from "Country Courtship (The)," which was extremely popular in the 19th century, as the tune under the "Washerwoman" title was to become a little later. The ending of the jig is the same as the endings of "In Bartholemew Fair" and "Free Masons (1).
" Breathnach (1976) finds the second part identical to that of "Star at Liwis or Scheme (The)" printed by London publisher J. Walsh in Caledonian Country Dances (c. 1730, p. 59).

The melody was found by the author of English Folk-Song and Dance (p. 144) in the repertoire of fiddler William Tilbury (who lived at Pitch Place, midway between Churt and Thursley in Surrey), who used, in his younger days, to play at village dances. Tilbury learned his repertoire from an uncle, Fiddler Hammond, who died around 1870 and who was the village fiddler before him. The conclusion was that "Haste to the Wedding" and melodies of similar type survived in English tradition (at least in southwest Surrey) well into the second half of the 19th century. Multi-instrumentalist John Rook (Waverton, Cumbria), for example, entered it into his large 1840 music manuscript collection. The jig is played very fast as an accompaniment for Northumbrian rapper sword dancing.

A variant of the modern version of the tune appears as air 13 in Samuel Arnold's stage piece The Surrender of Calais, report Van Cleef and Keller (1980), which was first performed in London in 1791. It was sung by the character O'Carrol, and Irish soldier, and the song became known as "Corporal Casey:"

When I was at home I was merry and frisky
My Dad kept a pig and my mother sold whiskey.
My Uncle was rich but he would never be easy
'Til i was enlisted by Corporal Casey.
Oh, rub a dub, row de dow Corporal Casey,
My dear little Sheelah I thought would run crazy,
Oh when I trudged away with tough Corporal Casey.

As "Corporal Casey," the tune appears in Instructions for the Fife (London, 1795). The melody also found its way into various broadsides and similar 'low' publications, such as the latter 18th century "Irishman's Epistle to the Officer's and Troups at Boston" (sic). Later the song "Paddy McGinty's Goat" was set to the tune of "Irish Washerwoman." Shropshire musician John Moore penned a version in his notebook of c. 1837-1840 which has a third part in 3/8 time, breaking the pattern of the rhythm—perhaps, thinks editor Gordon Ashman, it was used in an introductory mode for "setting" or "step to your partner." Under the title "The Irish Quadrilles" it was included by Lincolnshire papermaker and musician Joshua Gibbons in his 1823–26 music manuscript book.

... see: IRISH WASHERWOMAN full Score(s) and Annotations

Past Featured Tunes

The Irish Washerwoman
Played by: Angela Moorad

X:1 T:The Washer Woman [1] C:Trad S:Petrie's Collection of Strathspey Reels and Country Dances &c., 1790 Z:Steve Wyrick <sjwyrick'at'astound'dot'net>, 3/5/04 N:Petrie's First Collection, page 7 L:1/8 M:6/8 R:Jig K:F c/B/ | AFF CFF | AFA cBA | BGG G,GG | BGB dcB | AFF CFF | AFA cBA | TBAB GcB | AFF F2 :|| c|fcc Acc | fcf agf | ecc Gcc | ece gfe | fcc Acc | fag fcA |TBAB GcB |AFF F2c | fcc Acc | fcf agf | ecc Gcc | ece gfe | dbb caa | Bgg Aff | TBAB GcB | AFF F2 |]

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Who Builds The Archive
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.
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