Annotation:Jenny Nettles (1)

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X:2 T:Jenny Nettles [1] M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel B:Gow - 3rd Collection of Niel Gow's Reels, 3rd ed., p. 16 (orig. 1792) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Amin V:1 clef=treble name="2." [V:1] A/B/|{A/B/}c2 .B2.A2.a2|(e^f)ge dBGB|{A/B/}.c2.B2.A2.a2|ge^fd e2A:||B| Tc>deA Tc>deA|d/c/B/A/ Gd BGdB|c>deA cdea|ge^fd e2 AB| Tc>deA Tc>dec|BAGd BGdB|Tc>deA c>dec|BcdB {B}e2A||B| Tc>de^f g>age|gaTge d/c/B/A/ GB|Tc>de^f gage|aba^g Ta2 AB| cde^f gage|gage {d}cB/A/ GB|cde^f gagf|ea^gb a2A|]

JENNY NETTLES [1]. AKA - "Janny Nettles," "Jenny Nettle," "Johnnie Nittle." AKA and see "Jennie Pippin," "Jenny Pawned her Bonnet," "Jenny Tie Your Bonnet," "Tailor's Daughter." Scottish, English, Shetland; Reel (cut time) and Air. England, Northumberland. A Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Kennedy): AABB (Aird, Kerr, Rutherford, Williamson): AABC (Gow, Honeyman, Manson): AABBC (Athole): AABBCC (Bremner, Skye, Wilson). Jenny Nettles was a comely and fetching maiden of the village of Strathmiglo, who fell deeply in love with a Highland Officer attached to the command of the Rob Roy. The famous outlaw chief had invaded the countryside for a time but was forced to retreat to the mountains for safety, and when the clansmen marched off Jenny was deserted by her lover. In bitterness and pain from her lost love, Jenny hung herself by a roadside tree. As a suicide, Jenny Nettles could not be buried in hallowed ground, nor could a coffin be fashioned for her eternal rest. She was buried in the middle of the night in an unmarked grave. Her final resting place is at a crossroads of two forest paths on the north side of the Lomond Hills in Fife, a few minutes' walk out of Strathmiglo. Local lore has it that Jennie's ghost wanders the muir on bright moonlit nights, looking for her lost Highland love. Jenny Nettles is also a nickname for the harmless and familiar "daddy longlegs" or cellar spider, for a stinging nettle, and, on the Isle of Man, for a jellyfish.

Stenhouse [1] received the following anecdote from an Edinburgh jeweler, a Mr. Fraser of St. Andrew's Street, regarding some reputed relics of Jenny's that came into his possession:

Gold ear-ring and bead of a necklace which belonged to the famed Jenny Nettles of Scottish song, whom tradition mentions committed suicide, and was buried between two lairds' lands near the Lomond hills, a cairn or heap of stones being raised to mark the spot, according to ancient usage. A stranger, happening to visit a farmer in that neighbourhood, was accidentally informed of the above circumstance, and was shown the place where the cairn once stood. Prompted by the love of antiquarian research, he immediately commenced digging, when, at the depth of eighteen inches, he found the skull and other bones of poor Jenny (which must have remained inhumed at least a century), along with two ear-rings and twenty-four beads. One of the ear-rings was given to a gentleman who went to France, and twenty-three of the beads were distributed among various persons. 1830.--(C.K.S.) .... (C.K.S. are the initials of Stenhouse's contemporary, Scottish antiquarian and artist Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, 1781-1851).

The tune appears earliest in the Scottish Skene Manuscript (c. 1615-20, as "I Love My Love for Love again") and later in Robert Bremner's 1757 collection. It was popular in mainland Scotland in the early 18th century. Allan Ramsay, for example, mentioned the song in his 1725 ballad opera The Gentle Shepherd along with other popular Scottish airs of the day, and, as a dance tune, it appears in James Aird's Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II, printed in Glasgow in 1785 (an old handwritten note in script appends the title "Coming thro the Market" by the side of my copy). Ramsay's passage goes (Gentle Shepher, just before "Sang X"):

Jenny sings saft the "Broom o' Cowden-Knowes",
An' Rosie lilts the "Milking of the Ewes";
There's nane like Nancy, "Jenny Nettles" sings;
At turns in "Maggy Lauder", Marion dings:
But when my Peggy sings, wi' sweeter skill,
"The Boatman", or the "Lass o' Patie's Mill",
It is a thousand times mair sweet to me;
Tho' they sing weel, they canna sing like thee.

"Jenny Nettles" was imported to the Shetland Islands {where it is sometimes called "Johnnie Nittle"} (Cooke, 1986) and is known in those islands as a "tricky fiddle reel" today. A Shetland version (an example of which is sung and played by Shetland fiddler Andrew Polson on the CD "The Fiddler and his Art") of the song to the tune goes:

O saw du me Johnnie, Johnnie Nittle, Johnnie Nittle,
Saw you me Jaanie, gain til the market,
A peck o meal upon her back, a peck o meal upon her back
A peck o meal upon her back, a baby in her blanket.
[another verse]
Red socks, red sheen and red camel hair
A bunch o ribbons on her back and all the rest was bare. ..... (Cooke)

Robert Burns reworked the song, about an unwed mother, and printed it in

Saw ye Jenny Nettles,
Jenny Nettles, Jenny Nettles;
Saw ye Jenny Nettles,
Coming from the market?
Bag and baggage on her back,
Her fee and bountish in her lap;
Bag and baggage on her back,
And a babie in her oxter?

A version of the tune set for Highland bagpipe can be found as "Nighan bhuidh an Tàiller" (The Tailor's Daughter) in Glasgow piper, pipe teacher and pipe-maker William Gunn's Caledonian Repository of Music (1848). In England, the title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tune ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800, and was one of the "missing tunes" of Vickers' 1770 Northumbrian dance tune manuscript. See also the related Irish tune "Old Torn Petticoat (3) (The)." The alternate title "Jenny pawned her bonnet" comes from Peter Kennedy. The melody bears no relation to the American old-time tunes "Jenny Nettles (2)" or "Jenny Nettles (3)."

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Aird (Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II), 1785; No. 86, p. 31. Bremner (Scots Reels), 1757; p. 80. Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 259. Gow (Third Collection of Niel Gow's Reels), 1792; p. 16 (3rd ed.). Honeyman (Strathspey, Reel and Hornpipe Tutor), 1898; p. 18. Elias Howe (Musician’s Omnibus Nos. 6 & 7), Boston, 1880-1882, p. 634. Kennedy (Traditional Dance Music of Britain and Ireland: Reels and Rants), 1997; No. 76, p. 20. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; Set 12, No. 6, p. 9. Joseph Lowe (Lowe's Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs, book 3), 1844–1845; p. 22. Robert Mackintosh (A Fourth Collection of New Strathspey Reels, also some Famous old Reels), 1804; p. 41. Manson (Hamilton’s Universal Tune Book vol. 1), 1854; p. 112. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 115. David Rutherford (Rutherford’s Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 2), c. 1760 (variously dated); No. 119, p. 60. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 143. Williamson (English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1976; p. 52. Wilson (A Companion to the Ball Room), 1816; p. 65.

Recorded sources : - Celestial Entertainment CECS001, Brenda Stubbert (Cape Breton) - "In Jig Time!" (1995). Greentrax CDTRAX 9009, Andrew Poleson (Whalsey, Shetland)- "Scottish Tradition 9: The Fiddler and his Art" (1993). Maggie's Music 109, Maggie Sansone - "Dance Upon the Shore." Topic 12TS381, The Battlefield Band - "At the Front" (1978).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]

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  1. William Stenhouse, Illustrations of the Lyric Poetry and Music of Scotland, 1853, p. 121.