Lass of Humber Side (The)

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LASS OF HUMBER SIDE. Scottish, Slow Air (3/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "An old Highland air, communicated by Miss Jane Boswell (Gow)." Jane Boswell was the daughter of Rev. Mr. Robert Boswell of Edinburgh, a relation of James Boswell of Auchinleck, lawyer, diarist and biographer of Dr. Johnson. She married Henry St. George Tucker (1771-1851) in 1811 when she was twenty-one, although he was twice her age, and in 1812 the couple moved to India, where Tucker had worked for many years. Their stay was brief, however, and Jane was sickly. They returned to Edinburgh, but after the death of their youngest child at the time, the couple moved south to London. Tucker became a member of the powerful Board of Directors of the East India Company. There were some ten children in all; one son died in the Indian Mutiny of the mid-19th century, and a daughter Charlotte Maria Tucker grew up to live in India and England and became a famous children's writer under the pseudonym "A Lady of England." Could Jane have been one of Nathaniel's pupils?

"The Lass of Humber Side" may not have been as "Highland" in character as Nathaniel claimed, for it had a history in England and lowland Scotland. Frank Kidson called it an "old Hull (Yorkshire) song...relating to a period when Hull, Whitby, and other places on the Yorkshire coast, were the great centers of the whale fishery. Apart from this, the air is a most plaintive and beautiful one, and the works quite up to the average of such productions; the fifth verse containing a somewhat pretty and poetical fancy:--'The bride knot which my love did wear'" (The Hull Quarterly, 1884). It was published by London music publishers Longman and Broderip in 1787 on a single song sheet, where it was given that it was "a favorite Ballad sung by Mrs. Thompson, with universal applause, at the Spa Gardens." The Edinburgh Musical Miscellany of 1792 also published the song. It begins:

In lonely cot by Humber Side,
I sit and mourn my hours away,
For Constant Will was Peggy's pride,
But now he sleeps in Iceland Bay;
Ah me! I sit oppressed with woe,
And hear the sailors' yo, heave, ho!

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 547. Gow (Fifth Collection of Strathspey Reels), 1809; p. 20.

Recorded sources:

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