Pease and Beans

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PEASE AND BEANS. AKA - "Pease and Beans and Rock Partens". Scottish, Slow Air (2/4 time). C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABC. There is an anecdote, given first by John Glen (1895) {and repeated by Alburger in 1983}, which relates a story of the famous Scots fiddler Niel Gow, who had stopped into the Princes Street (Edinburgh) music shop of one Penson and Robertson in 1793. He had been looking for a bow and tried several, but nothing suited him. "Then he noticed a copy of "Peas and Beans," which he had just published, on the counter. The shopkeeper saw him pick it up and said, 'If you play that over without a pause or mistake, I will make you a present of the bow'. Niel played, and the man was astonished at his skill, saying, 'You must have seen that piece before!' 'To be shoore,' said Niel, 'I saw it fifty times when I was making it,'" and bow in hand he walked briskly out of the store. Unfortunately the story is not true. The composition was not Niel's but rather his son Nathaniel's (1763-1831), composed on hearing two women crying these articles for sale in the streets of Edinburgh; “Wha’ll buy my pease and beans, hot and warm” and “Buy Rock Partens” (Frank Kidson, Groves). Mary Ann Alburger doubts the authenticity of the Niel Gow story, pointing out the tune was published after Niel died and there was no music-seller in Princes Street in 1793; aside, she says, the possibility that an Edinburgh music-seller would not recognize the famous Niel Gow. The tune was published by Gow & Shepherd in 1801 in a folio with three other “favorite tunes” ("Galloping Deary Dun," "John Knox," and "Fox Asleep (The)").

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine vol. 9 (1821, p. 401) mentions the ‘peas and beans’ street-cry:

Whae’ll hae my pease and beans—hot and warm! Is the next cry which I shall notice. This cry commences in the beginning of November, and in its periodical return is as regular as that of the cuckoo, which ushers in the spring about the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. Whether hot pease and beans had any necessary connection with the sitting of the Scottish Courts in former times, I have been unable to discover; but, from the criers of the one, and from the other commencing business for winter at the same time, it is not an improbable supposition that the lawyers’ clerks of former days may have warmed their fingers and their mouths with a bawbee’s worth of this flatulent legumen.



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