Howlet and the Weazel (The)

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HOWLET AND THE WEAZEL, THE. AKA - "Owlets and Weasels," "Weazle (2) (The)." English, Jig. England, Northumberland. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. A howlet is another name for an owl. One meaning of ‘weasel’ was an implement used in the making of shoes (as in “Pop Goes the Weazle”), however, given that one part of the title refers to a bird, the other refer probably references a "weasel," which in the United Kingdom usually refers to the smallest member of the species, the 'least weasel'. Early publications give the title as "The Weazle" (spelled variously), by which it appears in Johnson's Choice Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 5 (London, 1750) and publisher John Hinton's Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure (London, 1750). It can also be found in David Rutherford's Country Dances vol. 1 (1756, No. 104) and James Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 2 (Glasgow, 1785). The jig appears in a few musicians' manuscripts from the late 18th and early 19th centuries: John Fife (Perthshire, c. 1780), Durham (), and H.S.J. Jackson (Wyresdale, Lancashire, 1823). The title was amended to add "Howlet and..." in Hall & Stafford's Charleton Memorial Tune Book.

The Glasgow-published British Minstrel, and Musical and Literary Miscellany (1843) printed this tune along with "My Lady's Goon Has Gairs Upon It", and opined:

They both attained no very honourable notoriety from their old blackguard names, and the blackguard songs united with them. Dare we hope that the improved taste, and more perfect and pure education which prevails in our age, will be able to banish from all memories the rubbish which has almost incurably contaminated the popular mind, and which blurs the exquisite beauty of our old lyrical remains.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Hamilton (The British Minstrel, and Musical and Literary Miscellany, vol. 2), 1843; p. 108. Callaghan (Hardcore English), 2007; p. 60. Hall & Stafford (Charlton Memorial Tune Book), 1956; p. 33. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 115.

Recorded sources: Saydisc SDL-252, Jack Armstrong (1972. Heard after "Linshield Brif" and before "Brown Rigg"). Topic 12Ts239, George Hepple (1974).

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