Carle He Came O'er the Craft (The)

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X:1 T:Carle he came o’er the Craft, The M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Country Dance Tune B:Aird – Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 1 (1782, No. 55, p. 19) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Amix A>BAe|cAce|gddc|Bc/d/ BG| A>BAe|cAce|aeed|cd/e/ cA:| aAAB|cdef|gGGA|B/c/d BG| AA/A/ a2|ge a2|aeed|c/d/e cA:|]



CARLE HE CAME O'ER THE CRAFT, THE. Scottish; Air, Reel or Strathspey (whole or cut time). A Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Gow, Lowe, McLachlan): AABB (Aird, Petrie): AABB' (Athole): AABBCCD (John Gow). A carle in Scottish usage is a 'bloke' or common man, and is often associated with peasant farming. A croft is small parcel of arable land, and a crofter is the individual with tenure and use of the land which often includes the crofter's dwelling[1].

"The carle he cam' ower the craft" is a song by poet Allan Ramsay, printed in his Tea-Table Miscellany. Other early versions of the song appear in John Watts' Musical Miscellany, vol 3 (London, 1730, p. 110) and William Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius, vol. 1 (London, 1733). The song, which tells of an old man's courtship, became firmly ensconced in tradition in Britain and Ireland, as well as in North America, with numerous forms and derivations under such titles as "An Old Man Came Over the Moor," "Old Gum Boots and Leggings," and "The Dottered old Carle" to name just a few. Lyrics to Allan Ramsay's song begin:

The carle he came o'er the croft,
And his beard new shav'n,
He look'd at me, as he been daft,
The carle trows that I wad hae him.
Hout awa' I winna hae him!
Na, forsooth, I winna hae him!
For a' his beard new shav'n,
Ne'er a bit will I hae him. (Cunningham, Songs of Scotland, 1825)

Dance settings of the tune appear in Scottish musician and dancing master David Young's MacFarlan Manuscript (c. 1740, No. 11), Neil Stewart's Collection of the Newest and Best Reels or Country Dances (Edinburgh, 1761), James Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish, and Foreign Airs, vol 1 (Glasgow, 1782), and Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room (London, 1816). The country dance version printed by London publisher T. Straight (1783, p. 5) is congruent in the second strain, and, while the first strain has a harmonic resemblance to other versions, it differs melodically. See also the similar "Port a' Bhodaich." John Gow printed a strathspey version in four parts that he credited to 'Lord MacDonald' (Lord Alexander MacDonald, 1744-1795 for whom see "Lord MacDonald (4)). In view that the tune was extant in the 1730's and 40's it is unlikely that MacDonald composed it, but he may have 'improved' it.


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - The music manuscript collection [1] of musician and instrument maker and repairer Michael J. Dunn (1855 - 1935), a native of County Laois who emigrated to the United States in 1880. Dunn soon made his way to Milwuakee and made a career in the Milwaukee Fire Department, attaining the rank of Captain. Dunn was also a fiddler and uilleann piper.

Printed sources : - Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 1), 1782, No. 55, p. 19. Anderson (Anderson's Budget of Strathspeys, Reels & Country Dances), c. 1820; p. 20. John Gow (A Favorite Collection of Slow Airs, Strathspeys and Reels), London, c. 1804; p. 16. Edmund Lee (Mrs. Parker's Selection of Scotch Tunes, Strathspeys and Reels), Dublin, n.d.; p. 7 (early 19th century). Joseph Lowe (Lowe's Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs, book 3), 1844–1845; p. 1. McLachlan (The Piper's Assistant), 1854; No. 5, p. 4. Petrie (Third Collection of Strathspey Reels), 1802; p. 25. Straight (24 Favourite Dances for the Year 1783), 1783; p. 5. Wilson (Companion to the Ball Room), 1816; p. 35.



See also listing at :
See the standard notation transcription of David Young's version in the MacFarlan MS (c. 1740) [2]
See the Ballad Index entry for a list of song variants and sources, as well as more information [3]
See also Mudcat entries on the song [4]



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  1. Croft is derived from a West Germanic word, but nowadays most familiarly refers to the crofts in the Scottish Highlands and Islands area.