Michael Wiggins in Ireland

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MICHAEL WIGGINS IN IRELAND. AKA - "Jig of the Twenties," "Michael Wiggins (1)." English, Jig. C Major (Hardings): D Major (Merryweather & Seattle). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Hardings): AABBCC (Merryweather & Seattle). The melody was printed in Thomas Preston's Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1801 (London, 1801, No. 9), John Paff’s Gentlemens Amusement No. 2 in New York c. 1812, and in Edward Riley’s Flute Melodies (New York, 1814). Perhaps the "...in Ireland" part of the title parallels the "Morgiana" tunes (e.g. "Morgiana" and "Morgiana in Ireland" with "Michael Wiggins" and "Michael Wiggins in Ireland." Instructions for a dance called Michael Wiggins in Ireland were printed in dancing master Thomas Wilson's The Treasures of Terpsichore; or, A companion for the ballroom (London, 1816). The tune appears in the music manuscript book of William Tildesley, Swinton, Lancashire, dating from the 1860's, and a similar tune likewise appears in John Clare's (Northants) manuscript under the title "Micheal Wiggens."

Cape Breton fiddlers Andrea and Kinnon Beaton recorded the tune as "Jig of the Twenties", in C Major, probably learned from a Harding's All-Round Collection reprint.

The following annecdote is printed in The Camp Jester; Or, Amusements for the Mess (Augusta, Ga., 1864, pp. 5-6):

--An under-actor, who had a grudge against the great Macready, once had to personate Rosencranz to his Hamlet, and he seized on the favorable opportunity of annoying him. In the scene where Hamlet, according to the correct edition of Shakespeare, hands Rosencranz a pipe and requests him to play upon it; there was some small confusion, the property man having neglected to furnish a "pipe." Rosencranz seeing the dilemma of the noble Dane, reached down into the orchestra and brought up a bassoon. Hamlet was horror stricken, but the play must go on. With much dignity, mingled with mortification, he passed the unwieldy instrument over to Rosencranz and proceeded:

"Can you play upon this instrument?"

"No, my lord."

"You have but to place your fingers upon these little ventages, and it will discourse most eloquent music."

"I cannot play, my lord."

"Do."

"Well, my lord," said Rosencranz, placing the instrument to his lips, "if you insist upon it, I will. I'll give you Michael Wiggins; it's the only tune I ever learned.' And to the horror of the great actor, and the merriment of the audience, the fellow went into the Irish jig of Michael Wiggins in downright earnest, creating a confusion that caused his discharge from the company, though he was gratified at having his revenge on Macready.

Source for notated version: an MS collection by fiddler Lawrence Leadley, 1827-1897 (Helperby, Yorkshire) [Merryweather & Seattle].

Printed sources: Edinburgh Repository of Music, 1816; p. 120. Harding's All-Round Collection, 1905; No. 19, p. 6. Merryweather & Seattle (The Fiddle of Helperby), 1994; No. 71, p. 46. Preston (Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1801), 1801; No. 9.

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