Old Tom of Oxford

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OLD TOM OF OXFORD. English, Morris Dance Tune (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABCBCB. Collected from the village of Bampton, Oxfordshire, in England's Cotswolds. 'Old Tom' is the name of a famous bell in Christ Church College, Oxford, which hangs in Tom Tower (designed by Christopher Wren). Old Tom, or Great Tom, dates from the sixteenth century and is still sounded each night-101 times, to signify the 100 original scholars of the college (plus one, added in 1663). Bampton fiddler Jinky Wells was interviewed by collector Peter Kennedy in 1952 and had this to say about "Old Tom":

Old Tom of Oxford, he was a forester. He took up with this lad, see-his oldest sister's son-and they lived and dwelled in a caravan. And they was 'awkers-- they used to 'awk all sorts of things, mats and brushes and brooms, oh, dozens of things. Well, he picked up with a girl in Oxford Well, as the song went: "Old Tom of Oxford and young Jim Kent"-that was his nephew-"They married Old Moll and off they went." And she lived in the caravan with 'em. And while they was out doing the 'awking, I suppose, she used to look after the caravan and do the cooking and all that sort of thing. And I've yeared it said they lived together for years. And they never quarrelled, nor they never had no disagreement, nor never fell out, the two men with the one woman. ... [Folktrax 90-084, "Constant Billy: The Morris Dancers of Bampton"]

Wells insisted there were "no backsteps" in dancing "Old Tom."

A 'D' minor version of the tune under the title "Old Oxford" appears in Daniel Wright's Extraordinary Collection of Pleasant and Merry Humours etc. (c. 1713), and as "Peace and Plenty: or, Old Oxford", in John Young's Second Volume of the Dancing Master (1719).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Bacon (The Morris Ring), 1974; p. 54. Mallinson (Mally's Cotswold Morris Book), 1988; No. 46, p. 29.

Recorded sources: Bellow FECD 175, Spiears & Boden. Veteran VT111, Francis Shergold - "Greeny Up" (1988. Recorded from Bampton morris musicians).




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