Cobbler There Was (A)

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COBBLER THERE WAS, A. AKA – "Cobbler's End (The)," "Cobblers Ends (The)," "Derry Down," "Abbott of Canterbury," "Death and the Cobbler." English, Air. G Minor (Howe): B Minor (Rook). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. An ancient air, dating to the time of James II, and in collections written against the Rump Parliament. The air was set by Richard Leveridge (1670–1758) to the words "A cobbler there was" and published by John Gay (1685–1732) in the third and later editions of The Beggar's Opera (1729), under the title "Ourselves, like the great, to secure a retreat." It also appears in Dr. Rimbault's Musical Illustrations to Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry, taken from a manuscript from the latter part of the seventeenth century, substantilly the same tune as that later printed in Watts' Musical Miscellany (II, 1729). The air was printed in numerous song folios throughout the eighteenth century, and can be heard performed in a great many ballad operas. Under various titles, for example, it is the vehicle for songs in The Village Opera (1729); Penelope (1728); The Fashionable Lady (1730); The Lover's own Rival (1736); The Boarding-School, or The Sham Captain (1733); The Devil to pay (1731); The Oxford Act; The Sturdy Beggars; Love and Revenge; The Jew decoy'd; and others. Frank Kidson (1922) identifies it as a "Derry down" air from the 17th century, which has been used for a number of songs through the ages; in fact, Claude Simpson notes that more than a hundred adaptations of the tune were contrived in the 18th century alone. In the 19th century it appears as "The Queer Little Man," "Dennis Bulgruddery" and others. The version printed by Howe (c. 1867) is a developed version the air printed by Gay. A similar version of the melody was entered into the 1840 music manuscript copybook of multi-instrumentalist John Rook of Waverton, near Wigton, Cumbria, as "The Cobblers Ends."

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 157. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 68 (facsimile of Beggar's Opera).

Recorded sources:




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