North Country Lass (The)

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NORTH COUNTRY LASS. AKA - "The Northern Lass." English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. In England in the 17th and 18th century 'North Country' referred to the North Mid-lands of England, a broad belt of territory from Cheshire and Derbyshire north through Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire to southern Cumbria. The three Ridings of Yorkshire-North, South and West-derived their name from thriding, a variant of Old English thrithing, itself derived from Old Norse thrithi, meaning a third.

The melody was first printed as a country dance in Charles and Samuel Thompson's Compleat Collection, vol. 3 (London, 1788). Along with numerous other tunes from the Thompson's 1773 collection, it was entered into the 1788 music manuscript collection of fiddlers John and William Pitt Turner (Norwich, Conn.), and also appears in the 1840 music manuscript collection of multi-instrumentalist John Rook (Waverton, Cumbria). "North Country Lass" is one of the "missing tunes" from William Vickers' c. 1770 Northumbrian dance tune manuscript. However, "North Country Lass" appears to have originally been a song tune. Chappell (1859) mentions a ballad "North-country Lasse" in connection with the air "Quodling’s Delight." In fact, "North Country Lass" or "Northern Lass" has been a rather generic title exploited by several songs. At least one "North Country Lass" refers to Betty Maddocks, the 'fair maid of Doncaster', who (according to The Strand Magazine, 1906, p. 220) was "a heroine of the seventeenth century, who, being much sought after, bargained that she would only wed the man who could tire her out in dancing. A hundred gallants made the attempt, only to retire, utterly wearied, before the terrific energy of the young lady, who, presumably, lived single ever after."

Source for notated version: "from one of Thompson's manuscripts" [Knowles].

Printed sources: Knowles (A Northern Lass), 1995; p. 12. Thompson (Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 3), 1773; No. 133.

Recorded sources:




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