Boatman (1)

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X: 1 T:Boatman. (p)1651.PLFD.009 M:6/4 L:1/4 Q:3/4=90 S:Playford, Dancing Master,1st Ed.,1651. O:England H:1651. Z:Chris Partington. K:C G E2 G2 G|G E2 G2 G|c2 c B2 A|d3 D3| G E2 G2 G|G E2 G2 G|c2 d e2 d| c3 C3:| |:c2 d e2 d |c2 B A2 F|F2 F E2 D|d3 D2 D| G E2 G2 G|G E2 G2 G|c2 d e2 d|c3 C3:|



BOATMAN [1] (Boate Man). English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 or 6/4 time). D Major (Fleming-Williams): C Major (Barnes, Chappell, Karpeles, Sharp). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Chappell): ABB (Sharp): AABB (Barnes, Fleming-Williams, Karpeles). The air was first published (with directions for a country dance) by John Playford in the first edition of The English Dancing Master (1651) and again in his Musick's Recreation on the Viol, Lyra-way (1661), and it was retained in the series of editions of the Dancing Master through the 10th edition of 1698, published at the time by John's son, Henry Playford. A song to the tune was published by poet and playwright Allan Ramsay (poet) (1686-1758) and published in his Tea-Table Miscellany (1724) and is titled "The Bonny Scot." Anne Gilchrist[1], however, believes there was an original song, now lost (which may have been adapted by Ramsay). Ramsay's verses begin:

Ye gales that gently wave the sea
And please the canny boatman
Bear me frae hence and bring to me
My brave, my bonny Scot-man:
In haly bands
We join'd our hands
Yet may not this discover
While parents rate
A large estate
Before a faithful lover.

The air to Ramsay's verses was published by London singer and song collector William Thomson in his Orpheus Caledonius (1725), who ascribed it to David Rizzio (1533-1566) in his first edition, although this was removed in the second edition of 1733[2].


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1989. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times, vol. 1), 1859; pp. 308-309. Fleming- Williams & Shaw (English Dance Airs; Popular Selection, Book 1), 1965; p. 7. Karpeles & Schofield (A Selection of 100 English Folk Dance Airs), 1951; p. 18. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 37. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 43.






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  1. Anne G. Gilchrist, "Some Additional Notes on the Traditional History of Certain Ballad-Tunes in the Dancing Master", Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, vol. 3, No. 4, Dec., 1939, p. 275).
  2. Italian-born David Rizzio was Queen Mary's secretary and a musician and songwriter. He was tragically murdered by rivals who felt he had too much influence at court. A great many songs and pieces of music were variously ascribed to him, most without any substantiation whatsoever.