Jack the Jolly Ploughboy

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X:1 T:Jolly Ploughman [3], The M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Air N:”Very ancient, author and date unknown.” B:Bunting – Ancient Music of Ireland (1840, p. 20) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:E E|E2G G2B|A3 F2B|E2G B2B|B3-B2G| A2A F2F|G3 E2E|F2F D2D|E3-E2:| B|B2e e2c|c2B B2G|B2 e e2c|c3-B2B| B2e e2c|c2B B2G|(GF)E F2G|(B2A)G2F| P:"Chorus" ECB, (E2E)|E3-E2G|FEC F2F|F3-(FG)A| (.B.A.G) (.B.A.G)|(.e.e.B) {d}(.c.B.G)|(.E.C.B,) E2E|E3-E2||



JACK THE JOLLY PLOUGHBOY. AKA and see "Brags of Washington (The)," "Drop of Dram (The)," "Farewell--But Whenever You Welcome the Hour," "Jolly Ploughman (3) (The)," "Low-Backed Car (2) (The)/Low-Backed Car (2) (The)," "To Rodney We will go." Irish, Air (6/8 time). E Major (Bunting, Haverty): C Major (Forde). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Forde): AAB (Bunting, Haverty). O'Sullivan (1983) finds the earliest printing of this air in Glasgow publisher James Aird's Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, volume III (1788), p. 160, under the title "To Rodney We will go," however, it was old even in Aird's time, as Frank Kidson[1] finds the "same musical theme was the rage of the town, as 'In January last, on Mononday at morn'...Tom D'Urfey's latest--the new Scotch playhouse tune" dating from the end of the 17th century. It is probably, notes Kidson, that it was not new even then. Kidson found the tune in two anonymous musicians manuscripts (one dating from 1791) as "Brags of Washington (The)," evidently from a broadside song where it was the vehicle for a (probably) disparaging song on the American commander. It was also used in songs for British heroes beside Rodney, as, for example in a similar song about Wellington after Waterloo ("With Wellington we'll go, we'll go"), and the almost forgotten "With Henry Hunt we'll go, we'll go" about a reform demonstration that turned violent in St. Peter's Fields in 1819. Candidates' songs as well employed the tune.

Thomas Moore used the melody for his song "Farewell--But Whenever You Welcome the Hour", including it in his popular Irish Melodies, vol. 5 (1813), insuring the melody would be heard performed in countless parlor rooms by innumerable singers. Donal O'Sullivan believed Moore's source for the tune to have been the melodic variant "Drop of Dram (The)" in O'Farrell's Pocket Companion for the Union or Irish Pipes, Book IV). Alfred Moffat printed the song in his Minstrelsy of Ireland (pp. 12-13), to an identical tune as Bunting's "Jolly Ploughman" (1840). Irish songwriter Samuel Lover's (1797-1868) best-known song, "Low-Backed Car (1) (The)/Low-Backed Car (2) (The)," uses an arrangement of the melody. Further, O'Sullivan finds variants of the melody in Baring-Gould's Folk Songs of the West Country as "A Hunting we will go" (p. 12) and in Moeran's Six Suffolk Folk Songs as "Nutting Song," with melodic similarities to the English folk-song variant "Nutting Girl (The)" AKA "The Nut Girl" or "A-nutting we will go."

Edward Bunting (1840) printed this lyric with the tune which he obtained from a harper in 1792:

‘Twas Jack the jolly ploughboy, was ploughing in his land,
Cried yough unto his horses and boldly bid them stand.
Then Jack sat down upon his plough and thus began to sing,
And Jack he sung his song so sweet he made the valley ring.

Cho:
With his Too-ran-nan-nanty na, sing
Too-ran-nan-nanty na, sing
Too-ran-nan, Too-ran-nan,
Too-ran-nan, Too-ran-nan,
Too-ran-nan nanty na.

Kidson (who had a wonderful ear for tune relationships) also found a "beautiful setting" of the air, "and possibly an older version," in Ireland as "Moll Roone," dating to the early 19th century, contain in George Thomson's Irish Collection vol. II (1816) and R.A. Smith's Irish Minstrel (1825)[2].


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - noted by the Irish collector Edward Bunting from the playing of harper J. Duncan in 1792.

Printed sources : - Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1840; p. 20. William Forde (300 National Melodies of the British Isles), c. 1841; p. 27, No. 89. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs vol. 1), 1858; No. 67, p. 29. O'Sullivan/Bunting, 1983; No. 23, pp. 38-39.






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  1. "New Lights upon Old Tunes", The Musical Times, vol. 36, May 1, 1895, pp. 301-303.
  2. ibid.
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