I Have a Wife of My Own

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I HAVE A WIFE OF MY OWN (Ta Bean Agam Fem). AKA - "I Hae a Wife o' My Ain," "I Hae a Wife o' My Own." AKA and see "Beauteous Fair Molly," "Bless My Soul Why Shouldn't I?" “Boring with a Gimlet," "Boring with the Gimblet,” "Jack Won't Sell His Fiddle," "My Love's Wedding/Chaidh mi gu banis mo Ghaoil," "Naebody," "Ragged Lady," "Spatter the Mud,” “Wife of My Own (A).” English, Scottish, Irish; Air, Slip Jig or Country Dance Tune. England, Northumberland. Ireland, County Cork. E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Davie): AABB (most versions): AABBCCDD (Young). The melody appears in the Drummond Castle Manuscript (in the possession of the Earl of Ancaster at Drummond Castle), inscribed "A Collection of Country Dances written for the use of his Grace the Duke of Perth by Dav. Young, 1734." Scottish musician and dancing master Young also included it (with variation sets) in his MacFarlane Manuscript (c. 1740), "Written for the use of Walter Mcfarlan of that ilk." Another relatively early Scottish manuscript that contained the tune is the 1768 (James) Gillespie Manuscript of Perth (as "I've Got a Wife of My Own"). “A Wife of My Own” also is to be found just south of the Scottish border in the 1770 music manuscript collection of Northumbrian musician William Vickers, about whom unfortunately nothing is known. A version of the tune appears in the large mid-19th century music manuscript collection of County Cork cleric and uilleann piper Canon James Goodman under the title “Naebody.”

Printed versions of the tune are to be found in London publisher John Walsh's Caledonian Country Dances, book ii, and James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book X (1760). John Glen (1891) declared the earliest appearance of the tune in print of the tune to have been in Robert Bremner's 1757 collection [1], but the Walsh volume predates Bremner.

Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759–1796) wrote words to the melody that appear in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. 4 (1792, p. 364):

I Hae a wife of my ain,
I'll partake wi' naebody;
I'll take Cuckold frae nane,
I'll gie Cuckold to naebody.
I ha’e a penny tae spend,
There, thanks tae naebody,
I ha’e naething tae lend,
I’ll borrow frae naebody.

I am naebody’s lord,
I’ll be slave tae naebody;
I ha’e a guid broad sword,
I’ll tak’ dunts frae naebody,
I’ll be merry and free,
I’ll be sad for naebody,
If naebody cares for me,
I’ll care for naebody.

John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900) disdainfully remarked: "It is either not of early date, or being a dance tune to which some silly words were added, has received no attention" [i.e. from antiquarian researchers]. A tune by the name was popular in the early 18th century in Scotland and transported to the island of Whalsay in Shetland (Cooke). Martin (2002) prints the tune (along with “Brose and Butter” and “Drops of Brandy”) as a vehicle for the dance Strip the Willow.

Irish uilleann piper O’Farrell (c. 1806) gave the tune's provenance as Irish, although his is the only such assertion. See also County Leitrim fiddler Stephen Grier's (c. 1883) distanced version "My Wife's My Own," similar in the first strain.

Sources for notated versions: O'Neill, later in life, obtained this version of the tune from the manuscripts of Timothy Downing, a gentleman farmer of Tralibane, County Cork, who taught O'Neill the rudiments of the flute when the latter was a boy during the 1860's [O'Neill/Irish Folk Music]; William Vickers' music manuscript collection [2] (1770, Northumberland) [Seattle].

Printed sources: Bremner (Scots Reels), c. 1757; p. 45 [3]. Cotter (Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor), 1989; 54. Davie (Davie's Caledonian Repository), Aberdeen, 1829-30; p. 32. Gow (Complete Repository, Part 1), 1799; p. 16. Hall & Stafford (Charlton Memorial Tune Book), 1956; p. 5. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 2), c. 1880's; No. 315, p. 34. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 46. O’Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. II), c. 1806; p. 86. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 450, p. 88. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 10), 1760; p. 4. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 129. Seattle (Great Northern/William Vickers). David Young (Drummond Castle/Duke of Perth Manuscript), 1734; No. 13.

Recorded sources:

See also listing at:
See a standard notation transcription of the melody from David Young's MacFarlane Manuscript (c. 1740) [4]

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