Dainty Davie

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X:1 T:Daintie Davie M:C| L:1/8 R:Air B:Oswald – Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book V (1760, p. 22) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:F f2|c3B A2 (GA)|TF2 (ED) F4|F2 c2 (AB) c2|F2c2A2f2|Tc3B A2 (GA)| TF2 (ED) F4|(fe)(fg) (ag)(fe)|d4 f4:||:(fg)(ag) (fg)(ag)|(fg)(ab) a2 (gf)| (ef)(gf) (ef)(gf)|(ef)(ga) g2 (fe)|f3g a2 (ga)|(ba)(gf) Te2 (d^c)|(de)(fg) (ag)(fe)|d4 f4:| |:c2 c4 B2|A2 A4G2|F2 Ac f2 cf|a2 (.b.a .g.f.e.d)|c2 c4 B2| A2 A4 G2|F2f2 {f}e2 (d^c)|d4 f4:||:(fg) a2 F2a2|F2 a4 (gf)| (ef)g2 E2g2|E2g4 (fe)|(fg) a2F2a2|E2g2 ^c2 BA|(ag)(fe) (dc)(Ac)|d4 {e}f4:| |:cB A4 G2|TF2 (ED) F3G|Ac f2 cf a2|Ac f2 cf a2|(.g.f.e.d .c.B.A.G)| TF2 (ED) F2 a2|d2b2 (ag)(fe)|d4 f4:||:fg a4 a2|a2 ga bagf|ef g4 (g2| g2) fg (ag)(fe)|d2 (ef) e2 (fg)|f2 (ga) T^c2 (BA)|(de)(fg) (ag)(fe)|d4 {de}f4:|]



DAINTY DAVIE (WAS A LAD). AKA - "Rantin' Rovin' Robin." Scottish, Shetland, English; Strathspey, Reel: Irish, Highland, March or Air (4/4 time). F Major (Athole, Dixon, Duff, Honeyman, Johnson/Cooper, Lowe, McGibbon, Mulhollan, Skye, Surenne, Thompson): G Major (Colclough, Joyce, Kennedy, Kerr, Miller, O'Farrell, O'Neill, Wilson). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Honeyman, Joyce, Surenne): AAB (Cranford/Holland, Duff, Johnson/Cooper, Kerr, Lowe): AABB (Miller, Thompson, Wilson): AABB' (Athole): AABCCD (Gow, Skye): AABBCCDD (McGibbon): AABBCCDDEE (Kennedy, O'Farrell, O'Neill): AABBCCDDEEFF (Oswald): AABBCCDDEEFFGGHH (Mulhollan): AABBCCDDEEFFGGHHIIJJ (Colclough, Dixon).

Ewan MacColl (Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland) maintains that the name Dainty Davie refers to the Reverend David Williamson, who died in 1706. It seems, says MacColl, that the Reverend was the subject of an unauthenticated incident related by Dean Swift. Williamson found himself pursued by dragoons, the story goes, and while sensibly fleeing he found refuge in the bed of the daughter of the Laird of Cherrytrees. Hiding was apparently not the only act he engaged in while so occupied, but afterward he married the lass. A variant of the story has it that the young miss (from whose voice the song is told) disguised the Reverend in her clothing, tweaking him a bit by calling him 'dainty' Davie.

The melody was immensely popular, given the number of versions in published collections and appearances in fiddlers' manuscripts of the 18th century. Its provenance appears to be English, but it is strongly associated with Scotland, perhaps due to having been popularized by Robert Burns, although a country dance version of the tune long predates Burns, entered into musician and dancing-master David Young's MacFarlane Manuscript (c. 1740). "This spirited tune was developed from a simple Scottish strain about the end of the 18th century, by O'Farrell, a famous Irish piper well known on the London stage," said Captain Francies O'Neill. He was surely in error, for the melody appears first in print in Henry Playford's Dancing Master, 12th edition (London, 1703, and in subsequent editions, through the l8th, in 1728), and in numerous English country dance publications such as London publishers Walsh (Compleat Country Dancing Master, 1731) and Charles and Samuel Thompson's 1765 country dance collection. "I know nothing about this, farther than that the air and a bit of the song remain in a remote corner of my memory from dim old times," remarked Irish collector P.W. Joyce. The title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes, which he published c. 1800, and the tune appears in the 1799 Calvert Collection, an assembly of tunes by Thomas Calvert, a musician from Kelso. A note with his collection states that Calvert supplied "a variety of music and instruments, instruments lent out, tun'd and repaired." John Macpherson Mulhollan attributes the tune to "Mr. Stewart" in his 1804 collection. It also appears in Issac Cooper of Banff's (b. 1755-d. 1810 or 1811, although sometimes the year is given as 1820) Collection of Strathspeys, Reels and Irish Jigs for the Piano-Forte & Violin to which are added Scots, Irish & Welch Airs Composed and Selected by I. Cooper at Banff (London, Edinburgh, c. 1806). Purser (1992) believes Robert Burns wrecked the words of "Dainty Davie" with successive revisions, attempting to clean them up for George Thompson's publications.

Dainty Davy was a lad;
He sold the shirt upon his back,
To buy his wife a looking-glass,
To see how nice her beauty was:
So there was Dainty Davy! (Joyce).

Cooke prints the following words, collected on the island of Whalsay, in Shetland:

Wis du what I'm telling dee
Boanie Davie, daintie Davie
Wis du what I'm telling dee
Boanie daintie Davie. (Cooke)

Dixon (1995) prints the tune with variation sets by Robert Whinham (1814-1893), a musician, teacher, composer, dancing master and fiddler originally from Morpeth, Northumberland. "Dainty Davie" appears in the c. 1785 music manuscript collection (p. 135) of pastoral piper John Sutherland, of Aberdeenshire. Cape Breton fiddler Dan J. Campbell recorded the Skye Collection (1887) four turn setting on 78 RPM disc in 1936.


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - an un-attributed 19th century manuscript in the collection of Tommy Breckon [Dixon].

Printed sources : - Aird (Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 1), 1782; No. 132, p. 46. Anonymous (A Companion to the reticule), 1833; p. 11. Colclough (Tutor for the Irish Union Pipes), c. 1830; p. 16. Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 164, p. 62. Dixon (Remember Me), 1995; p. 58. Archibald Duff (A Choice Selection of Minuets, Favourite Airs, Hornpipes, Waltzs &c., Book First), Edinburgh, c. 1812; p. 7. Gow (Complete Repository, Part 1), 1799; p. 27. Honeyman (Strathspey, Reel and Hornpipe Tutor), 1898; p. 24. Johnson (A Twenty Year Anniversary Collection), 2003; p. 7 (from the I. Cooper collection). Joyce (Old Irish Folk Music and Songs), 1909; No. 91, p. 47. Kennedy (Traditional Dance Music of Britain and Ireland: Reels and Rants), 1997; No. 30, p. 9. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; Set 2, No. 5, p. 4. Joseph Lowe (Lowe's Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs, book 1), 1844–1845; p. 18. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 143. McGibbon (Scots Tunes, book III), c. 1762; p. 72. Miller (Fiddler's Throne), 2004; No. 333, p. 196. Mulhollan (Selection of Irish and Scots Tunes), Edinburgh, 1804; p. 19. O'Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. IV), 1810; p. 83 (appears as "Danty Davy"). O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 116, p. 65. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book V), 1760; p. 22. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 209. Surenne (Dance Music of Scotland), 1852; pp. 102-103. Thompson (Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 2), 1765; No. 185. Wilson (Companion to the Ball Room), 1816; p. 39.



See also listing at :
See a standard notation transcription of David Young's version in the MacFarlane Manuscript (1740) [1]
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [2]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]



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