Jenny's Bawbee

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X:1 T:Jenny’s Babee T:Miss McDonald’s Favourite M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel B:Archibald Duff – Collection of Strathspey Reels &c. (1794, p. 23) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D f|:a2 ag fddf|B/B/B ed cAAf|(ab).a.g fddf|B/B/B ec d3:| (e|f)dge fdde|B/B/B ed cAA(e|f)dge fdde|B/B/B cA d3(e| f)dge fdde|(B2e)d cAAe| fdge fdde|BecA defg|]



JENNY'S BAWBEE. AKA and see "My Lad has a Bonnet," "Polly Put the Kettle On (1)." Scottish, English; Reel, Country Dance or March. England, Northumberland. D Major (most versions): C Major (Wilson). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Cole, Honeyman): AAB (Athole, Duff, Gow, Lowe): AABB (Campbell, Kerr, Wilson): AABB' (Glen, Skye). The tune is sometimes attributed to John Riddel, the Blind Fiddler of Ayr. The title "Jenny's Baby," by which the tune rarely appears, is an erroneous one. A 'bawbee' is an old Scots term for a Scottish half-penny, a debased copper coin valued at six pence Scots, as in the Scots song "Ali bally bee:" "....waiting for a wee bawbee to buy some coulter's candy..." It was issued from the reign of James V of Scotland to the reign of William II of Scotland. Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898) lists 'Jenny's Bawbee' as meaning "her marriage portion." The word bawbee is derived from the laird of Sillebawby, a mint master, mentions in a Treasurer's account of Sept. 7th, 1541: "In argento receipts a Jacobo Atzinsome, et Alexandro Orok de Sillebawby respective" [1]

The antiquarian William Chappell (1859) claimed the melody as English in origin, though he accuses his countryman, Stephen Clarke (c. 1797) of making changes in the tune formerly called "Molly Put the Kettle On (1)"/"Polly Put the Kettle On (1)" and re-titling it to fit the Scottish taste for the Scots Musical Museum (1797). "Polly Put the Kettle On" had three years previously "become very popular with young ladies, by means of Dale's Variations for the Pianoforte." Unfortunately, notes James J. Fuld [The Book of World-Famous Music], none of Dale's publications can be located prior to about 1807, so Chappel's assertion cannot be verified. The collector John Glen (1891), however, in espousing Scottish origins for the tune, finds the first Scottish printing in Joshua Campbell's 1778 collection (p. 79), and subsequently in Scots publications dating 1778 and 1788, which predate the Museum. "Mr. Chappell further had the hardihood to say that 'the words of 'Jenny's Bawbee' were adapted to (Polly Put the Kettle On); although as they begin, 'A' athat e'er my Jenny had, my Jenny had, my Jenny had,' they were evidently intended for the tine of 'Sike a wife as Willy had, as Willy had, as Willy had,'" (Glen, 1891). At any rate, it was published in Archibald Duff's Collection of Strathspey Reels around 1794, so Scottish provenance seems likely. In a work entitled Introduction to the Ballads and Songs of Ayrshire (1846) "Jenny's Bawbee" is attributed to John Riddell of Ayr (1718-1795), who published one of the first collections of Scottish music around 1766, although as Kidson points out there is no corroborating evidence to sustain the claim.

The title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800, and was one of the "missing tunes" of William Vickers' 1770 Northumbrian dance tune manuscript. In the neighboring northern English county, multi-instrumentalist John Rook (Waverton, Cumbria) included it in his large 1840 music manuscript collection. The tune appears in Glasgow pipe-maker and pipe-teacher William Gunn's The Caledonian Repository of Music (mid-19th cent., p. 70) under the title "Firionnach 'us bonaid air/My Lad has a bonnet." The melody was the vehicle for the comic song "Barney leave the girls alone" that could be heard on the London stage as early as 1802.

Note that W.B. Laybourn (Köhlers’ Violin Repository Part 1, 1881, p. 73) prints a version of the tune with "New" in parenthesis, and that this is substantially the version printed Keith Stewart-Robertson in the Athole Collection. These versions seem to fairly closely mirror what are presumably the older versions of the melody, the main difference being the last measure of each strain.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 4), 1796; No. 72, p. 29. Anonymous (A Companion to the reticule), 1833; p. 28. Campbell (9th Book of New and Favorite Country Dances & Strathspey Reels), 1795; p. 17. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 19 (appears as "Jenny's Baby"). Archibald Duff (Collection of Strathspey Reels &c.), 1794; p. 23. Glen (The Glen Collection of Scottish Dance Music, vol. 1), 1891; p. 5. Gow (Complete Repository, Part 1), 1799; p. 36. Honeyman (Strathspey, Reel and Hornpipe Tutor), 1898; p. 34. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; Set 2, No. 4, p. 4. Laybourn (Köhlers’ Violin Repository Part 1), 1881; pp. 7 & 73 (two versions). J. Kenyon Lees (Balmoral Reel Book), Glasgow, 1910; p. 27. Joseph Lowe (Lowe's Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs, book 3), 1844–1845, p. 5. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 72. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 43. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 88. Wilson (A Companion to the Ball Room), 1816; p. 67.



See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [2]
Hear melodeon player Jimmy Taylor's recording on Tobar an Dulchais (played as the last in a "set of three marches") [3]
Hear Annie Shand's (piano) 78 RPM recording at the Internet Archive [4]
See Paul Cooper, "Three Whitehall Balls of 1803" ("Jenny's Babee"), Paper 40, Regency Dances, [5]. Cooper lists numerous period publications of the tune, and details mention of it in period newspaper and periodical entries.</ref>.



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  1. E. Cobham Brewer, Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898.