OH NANNY. AKA – "Oh Nanny wilt though gang with me." English, Air (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. "Oh Nanny wilt thou fly with me" is the name of an 18th century song with music by Thomas Carter (1735-1804), who published it in his first collection of Vauxhall songs in 1773, in which year it was sung on the pleasure-garden stage by Mr. Vernon. Carter was born in Dublin but settled in London around the year 1772, where he found employ as a composer of songs for public gardens, later graduating to composing for the stage, becoming in 1787 the musical director of the Royalty Theater, Goodman's Fields. Although moderately successful with operas such as The Rival Candidates and the pantomime Blue Beard, Carter was not similarly successful in his business and financial dealings, and was often at arrears. Words to the ballad were by Shropshire-born cleric Thomas Percy (1729–1811), author of Reliques of English Poetry (1765) and an Anglican Bishop in charge of the see of Dromore, Ireland. His wife, whose Christian name was Nanny (Nancy) was appointed nurse to the infant Prince Edward in London in 1771. Her duties fulfilled, she returned home to her disconsolate husband, who greeted her with his verses. The Gentleman's Magazine of 1780 regarded it as "the most beautiful song in the English language."
The music was in the Scottish style, and proved popular on both sides of the Tweed. The Scottish version is called "O Nanny Wilt Thou Gang wi' Me?" although poet Robert Burns objected the foisting of Scottish dialect into Percy's version (called "O Nanny, Wilt Thou go with Me?")
O, Nanny, wilt thou gang wi' me,
Nor sigh to leave the flaunting town?
Can silent glens have charms for thee,
The lowly cot and russet gown?
Nae langer drest in silken sheen,
Nae langer decked wi' jewels rare,
Say, canst thou quit each courtly scene,
Where thou wert fairest of the fair?
The melody appears in a number of British and American publications of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including the Eben Irving (Middletown, New York) music manuscript of 1796, and the 1823–26 music manuscript of paper-maker and musician Joshua Gibbons (1778–1871, of Tealby, near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire Wolds). John Burk's manuscript version (1821) is unique in its setting for two violins.
Source for notated version: the 1823–26 music mss of papermaker and musician Joshua Gibbons (1778–1871, of Tealby, near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire Wolds) [Sumner].
Sime (Edinburgh Musical Miscellany, vol. 1), 1792; pp. 187-188.
Sumner (Lincolnshire Collections, vol. 1: The Joshua Gibbons Manuscript), 1997; p. 19.