Little Wot Ye Wha's Coming

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LITTLE WOT YE WHA'S COMING. AKA and see "Highland Muster Roll 1715 (The)," "Lasses Make Your Tails Toddle," "Malcom McPhee," "Tail Toddle/Tail Todle" English, Reel. England, Northumberland. D Mixolydian (most versions): A Major (Cocks). Standard tuning (fddle). AABBCCDD. A Northumbrian version of the Scottish tune "Tail Tod(d)le." The title, from a Jacobite song, appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800, while the tune was entered into the c. 1812 music manuscript collection of Northumbrian musician John Bell [1] (1783-1864). "This is really a pipe tune, but whether English or Scottish is we believe, an open question. It has appeared in Scottish collections as 'The Highland Muster Roll, 1715,' though it only appeared in print in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. VI., 1803. The Antiquarian Society possesses a MS copy or the date 1770. The song in Johnson is a catalogue of the Jacobite chieftains, who were expected to rise in 1715, and amongst others named are-

Derwentwater and Forster's coming,
Witherington and Nairn's coming,
Little wot ye wha's coming, &c.

It is known from tradition that a similar Northumbrian ballad was also sung to this tune, a scrap of which only is preserved-

Little wot ye whe's coming,
Bonny Boweree's coming-

the 'Boweree' being the celebrated William Charlton, of the Bower, near Reedsmouth, called from the name of his estate 'Bowery Charlton', whose rough, rude disposition and violent temper led him into many troubles, and frequently brought him within the power of the law" (Bruce & Stokoe).

Matt Seattle [2] calls the tune a modal descedant of the Scottish reel "Tail Toddle", with Northumbrian versions of "Lasses Make Your Tails Toddle" (e.g. William Dixon) and "Little Wot Ye Wha's Coming" (John Bell) derived from a common ancestor.

Scottish poet Robert Burns adapted the song for the Musical Museum. His version begins:

Little wat ye wha's coming,
Little wat ye wha's coming,
Little wat ye wha's coming,
Jock and tam and a' 's coming!

Duncan's coming, Donald's coming,
Colin's coming, Ronald's coming,
Dougal's coming, Luachlan's coming,
Alister and a' 's coming!


Source for notated version: William Vickers' 1770 music manuscript collection [Stokoe & Bruce].

Printed sources: Bruce & Stokoe (Northumbrian Minstrelsy), 1882; pp. 186-187. Cocks (Tutor for the Northumbrian Half-Long Bagpipes), 1925; No. 34, p. 16.

Recorded sources:




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