Miller o' Dee

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MILLER O' DEE, THE. AKA - "The Miller of the Dee." AKA and see "Budgeon it is a Delicate Trade (The)," "Llydaw." English, Scottish; Air, Jig or Country Dance Tune. A Minor (Kerr, Raven): C Minor (Gow). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Raven): ABB (Gow, Kerr).

The air to the song appears (as "Budgeon is a Delicate Trade (The)" or "Budgeon is a Fine Trade") in the ballad operas The Quakers' Opera (1728), The Fashionable Lady, or Harlequin's Opera (1730) and The Devil to Pay (1731), and is in Welsh harp repertoire (as "Llydaw"), although its provenance is not known. "The Miller of Dee" was song was originally written for Isaac Bickerstaff's successful play Love in a Village (1762), and is set in Chester, on the River Dee. It was a popular song, reworked by many, and appears in various songsters, songsheets, and in other latter 18th century ballad operas, such as Jamie and Bess (1787). Bickerstaff’s first stanza goes:

There dwelt a miller, hale and bold, beside the river Dee;
He danced and sang from morn till night, no lark so blithe as he;
And this the burden of his song forever used to be: –
I care for nobody, no not I, if nobody cares for me.

Poet Robert Burns was one who tried his hand at improving the lyric (to be sung to the old tune “The Miller of Dee”), and his version begins:

There was a jolly miller once
Lived on the river Dee;
He wrought and sung from morn till night,
No lark more blithe that he,
And this the burden of his song
For ever used to be;
I care for nobody, no, not I,
If nobody cares for me.
And this, &c.

Cecil Sharp, writing in his book English Folk-Song (1907), begs comparison of two English versions of this tune (see notation page), one an "improved" version from a ballad opera, printed by Chappell in Popular Music of the Olden Time (1856), and one collected by Vaughan Williams from a traditional singer. One can "see for himself how grievously a fine tune has suffered at the hands of the editing musician." Chappell did print another version, says Sharp, that he did collect from a traditional source, noted down from a street singer in Kilburn, "one of the very few genuine traditionary (sic) airs in his book. The superiority of this second tune over the first does not, however, seen to have struck him; indeed, it may be doubted whether he perceived the connection between the two tunes."

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Gow (Complete Repository, Part 3), 1806; p. 8. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3), No. 406, p. 44. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 119. Sharp (English Folk-Song), 1907; p. 116.

Recorded sources:

See also listing at:
The Ballad Index [1]




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