Muckin' o' Geordie's Byre (1)
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MUCKIN' O' GEORDIE'S BYRE. AKA and see "Jordie Jig (The)," "O Lassie Art Thou Sleeping Yet." Scottish (originally), English, Canadian, American; Air, Jig, Country and Morris Dance Tune (6/8 time). Canada; Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island. USA, New England. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Martin): AABB (most versions): AA'BB (Cranford). A very enduring and versatile melody that has been played as a song air, country dance, jig, and quadrille part in a number of traiditions on both sides of the Atlantic. According to Donald Ferguson (Beyond the Furtherest Hebrides) there is some evidence that the original of this tune is from the Hebrides Islands, originally used for the song "Eilean Mo Chridhe." This famous tune appears to be a variation of "(O) Lassie, Art Thou Sleeping Yet?" or the similarly old titles "Lea Rig (The)" and "My Ain Kind Dearie O"—all of which are taken (as is the 'Muckin' title) from various songs set to the tune. Poet Robert Burns charged that at some point "My Tocher's the Jewel," attributed to Nathaniel Gow, was derived from "Muckin of Geordie's Byre" (he implied that the Gows plagiarized it, calling the practice 'notorious'), however Graham says that "My Tocher's the Jewel" is "nothing more than the subject of the old air of 'The highway to Edinburgh,' thrown into treble time" [Songs of Scotland].
The tune appears in Allan Ramsay's ballad opera The Gentle Shepherd (1725), while the song "Muckin' of Geordie's Byre" appears in David Herd's Scottish Songs and Heroic Ballads (1776). William McGibbon (1762) noted it in 3/4 time, although with the direction it is to be played "briskly". The air under this title has been used for a single step dance in the North-West (England) morris tradition. Cape Breton fiddler Angus Chisholm (1908–1979) recorded the tune in the 1950's as "Jordie Jig (The)." See also the note for "Keppoch Desolate."
In modern times another song also called "Muckin' o' Geordie's Byre (2)" (popularized by the singing of Willie Kemp and Andy Stewart) utilizes a different tune and words than the original 18th century song. The modern air resembles "Bonnie Strathyre" (c.f. Boulton's Songs of the North, 1885) and the air to the song "Westering Home."
The old 18th century lyric printed in the Caledonian Musical Repository (Edinburgh, 1806) begins:
As I went o-ver yon meadow,
And carelessly passed along,
I listen'd with pleasure to Jenny,
While mournfully singing this song
The mucking of Geordie's byre,
And the shooling the gruip sae clean,
Has aft gart me spend the night sleepless,
And brought the saut tears frae my een.
It was not my father's pleasure,
Nor was it my mother's desire,
That ever I should fyle my fingers
Wi' the mucking o' Geordie's byre.
The mucking, &c.
Though the roads were ever sae filthy,
Or the day sae scoury and foul,
I wad ay be ganging wi' Geordie;
I lik'd it far better than school.
The mucking, &c.
My brither abuses me daily,
For being wi' Geordie sae free; My sister she ca's me hoodwinked*
Because he's below my degree.
The mucking, &e.
Source for notated version: Eddy Arsenault (b. 1921, St. Chrysostom, East Prince County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman].
James Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5), 1801, No. 131, p. 50.
Mozart Allan (Allan's Ballroom Companion), c. 1950; p. 38.
Christeson (Old Time Fiddler's Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; No. 169 (entitled "Marching Quardille").
Cranford (Jerry Holland's Collection of Fiddle Tunes), 1995; No. 223, p. 64.
Kennedy (Fiddler's Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1951; No. 91, p. 45.
Martin (Ceol na Fidhle, vol. 1), 1991; p. 37.
McGibbon (Collection of Scots Tunes, vol. 1), c. 1746; p. 2 (appears as "Mucking of Geordy's byer").
Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler's Repertoire), 1983; No. 22.
Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 2), 1760; p. 35.
Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 128.
Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 109.
Reid (The Piper's Delight), 1932; p. 10.
Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 3), 1927; No. 134 (untitled).
Wade (Mally's North West Morris Book), 1988; p. 8.
Recorded sources: Rounder CD7018, Frank Ferrel – "Boston Fiddle: The Dudley Street Tradition." "The Caledonian Companion" (1975). Rounder CD 1161-7033-2, Natalie MacMaster – "My Roots are Showing" (2000. Learned from the recordings of Angus Chisholm).