Don't you tease me pretty little dear (Oh)

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DON'T YOU TEASE ME, PRETTY LITTLE DEAR (OH). English, Irish (?). The tune is mentioned in Henry Mayhew's volume London Labour and the London Poor, vol. 3 (1861, pp. 200-202) in the fascinating account of Whistling Billy, an itinerant musician. “That’s my name, and I’m known all round about in the Borough as ‘Whistling Bill,” though some, to be sure, calls me ‘Whistling Bill,’ but in general I’m ‘Billy’. I’m not looking very respectable now, but you should see me when I’m going to the play; I looks so uncommon respectable nobody knows me again…[my profession is] whistling and dancing in public-houses, where I gives ‘em the hornpipe and the bandy jig, that’s dancing with my toes turned in.” Billy’s travels took him from London to the west and down into Cornwall, before he turned to southern England where he stayed for a time:

I stopped traveling about the south of England, and playing and dancing, for a little better than four years and a half. I didn’t do wo well in winter and in summer. Harvest time was my best time. I’d go to the fields where they was working, and play and dance. Sometimes the master would holler out, ‘Here, you get cut of this!’ but the men would speak up for me and say, ‘Let him stop master.’ Many a chap’s got the sack through me, by leaving off his work and beginning to dance. Sometimes, when the last load of hay was going home (you see, that’s always considered the jolliest part of the work), they’d make me get up to the top of the load, and then whistle to them. They was all merry—as merry as could be, and would follow after dancing about , men women, and boys. I generally played at the harvest suppers and the farmer himself would give me 4s. 6d. or 5s. the night, besides my quart of ale. Then I’d pick up my 6s. or 7s. in ha’pence among the men. I’ve had as many as two harvest suppers a week for three weeks or a month following, for I used to ax the people round what time they was going to have a supper, and where, and set off, walking nine or ten miles to reach the farm, and after that we find another spot.

It was very jolly among farm people. They give you plenty of cider and ale. I’ve drunk the cider hot, whilst they was brewing it--new cider, you know. You never want food neither, for there’s more than you can eat, generally bread and cheese, or maybe a little cold biled pork. At night, the men and women used to sleep in a kind of barn, among the clean straw; and after the beer-shops had closed—they are all little beer-shops, 3d. a quart in your own jugs, and like that—they say to me, ‘Come up to the doss and give us a tune,’ and they’d come outside and dance in the open air, for they wouldn’t let them have no candles or matches. Then they’d make theirselves happy, and I’d play to ‘em, and they’d club up and give me money, sometimes as much as 7s, but I’ve never had no higher than that, but never no less than 3s. One man used to take all the money for me, and I’d give him a pot o’ ale in the morning. It was a penny a dance for each of ‘em as danced, and each stand-up took a quarter of a hour, and there was generally two hours of it; that makes about seven dances, allowing for resting. I’ve had as many as forty dancing at a time, and sometimes there was only nine of ‘em. I’ve seen all the men get up together and dance a hornpipe,and all the women look on. They always did a hornpipe or a country dance. You see, some of ‘’ ‘em would sit down and drink during the dance, but it amounted to almost’’ ‘’three dances each person, and generally there was about fifty present.’’ ‘’Usually the men would pay for the women, but if they was hard up and been’’ ‘’free with their money, the girls would pay for them. They was mostly Irish,’’ ‘’and I had to do jigs for them, instead of a hornpipe. My country dance was’’ ‘’to the tune ‘Oh don’t you tease me, pretty little dear.’ Any fiddler know that’’ ‘’air. Its always played in the country for country dances. First they dances to’’ ‘’each other, and then it’s hands across, and then down the middle, and then’’ ‘’it’s back again and turn. That’s the country dance, sir. I used to be regular’’ ‘’tired after two hours. They’d stick me up on a box, or a tub, or else they’d’’ ‘’make a pile of straw, and stick me a-top of it; or if there was any carts’’ ‘’standing by loaded with hay, and the horses out, I was told to mount that.’’ ‘’There was very little drinking all this time, because the beer-shops was shut’’ ‘’up. Perhaps there might be such a thing as a pint of beer between a man’’ ‘’and his partner, which he’d brought in a can along with him. They only ‘’ ‘’danced when it was moonlight. It never cost me nothing for lodgings all ‘’ ‘’the harvest times, for they would make me stop in the barn along with’’ ‘’them; and they was very good company, and took especial care of me.’’ ‘’You mustn’t think this dancing took place every night, but only three or’’ ‘’four nights a-week. I find ‘em out traveling along the road. Sometimes’’ ‘’they’ve sent a man from one farm-house to bespeak me whilst I was’’ playing at another. There was a man as played on the clarionet as used to be a favourite among haymakers, but they prefer the penny tin whistle, because it makes more noise, and is shriller, and is easier heard; besides, I’m very rapid with my fingers, and makes ‘em keep on dancing till they are tired out. Please God, I’ll be down among them again this summer. I goes down regular. Last year and the year before, and ever since I can recollect.



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