Annotation:Piper's Maggot (The)

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PIPER'S MAGGOT, THE. AKA and see “Dunreavy Park,” “Here's Good Health to the Piper,” "Piper's Fancy (2)," “Piper's Whim (1).” Irish, Scottish, English; Country Dance Tune and Jig (9/8 time). England; London, Northumberland, Cumbria. G Mixolydian (Bremner, Gow, Kennedy): G Major (Gatherer, Kennedy, Stokoe & Bruce): A Major (Cocks, Feldman & O’Doherty, Howe, Kerr): D Major (O’Farrell). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Kerr): AABB (most versions). The tune is identified as 'Irish' in James S. Kerr's c. 1880's collection, and “Piper’s Maggot” has been called a 9/8 setting of “Chorus Jig (5)” (aka – “Kilfenora Jig (1)”). John Glen (1891) finds the earliest appearance of the tune in print in the Scottish music publisher Robert Bremner's 1757 collection, however, the printing by London publisher John Johnson (A Choice Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 3, 1744) predates Bremner by thirteen years. The provenance may have originally been English, but the slip jig has had wide and long currency throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The tune also appears in the 1840 music manuscript collection of Waverton, Cumbria, musician John Rook (p. 189).

A 'maggot' is a unit of liquid measure equal to a dram but also refers to a favourite, a thing of small or slight consequence or a whim or plaything; from the Italian maggioletta. Maggots were English longways country dances composed in the latter 17th century and often appended with the name of a person, typically a musician, composer or dancing master, and meant to be synonymous with 'fancy', 'whim' or 'humor'. In the context of maggot as a dram, however, the following anecdote (from an appendix to a recent edition of English writer Daniel De Foe’s Journal of the Plague Year) illustrates the consequences of imbibing too many ‘piper’s maggots’. It is called “The Bag-Piper in Tottenham-Court Road,” and refers to a statue that once stood in a garden there:

The statue in question is executed in a fine free-stone, representing a bag-piper in a sitting posture, with his dog and keg of liquor by his side; the latter of which stands upon a neat stone pedestal. The piper (as represented in the statue) had his constant stand at the bottom of Holborn, near St. Andrew's church.

He became well known about the neighbourhood, and picked up a living from the passengers going that way, who generally threw him a few pence as the reward of his musical talent. A certain gentleman, who never failed in his generosity to the piper, was surprised, on passing one day as usual, to miss him from his accustomed place: on inquiry, he found that the poor man had been taken ill, in consequence of a very singular accident. On the joyful occasion of the arrival of one of his countrymen from the Highlands, the piper had made too free with the contents of his keg: these so over-powered his faculties that he stretched himself out upon the steps of the church, and fell fast asleep. Those were not times to sleep on church steps with impunity. He was found in that situation when the dead-cart went its round; and the carter, supposing of course, as the most likely thing in every way, that the man was dead, made no scruple to put his fork under the piper's belt, and, with some assistance, hoisted him into his vehicle, which was nearly full, with the charitable intention that our Scotch musician should share the usual brief ceremonies of interment. The piper's faithful dog protested against this seizure of his master, and attempted to prevent the unceremonious removal; but failing of success, he fairly jumped into the cart after him, to the no small annoyance of the men, whom he would not suffer to come near the body: he further took upon himself the office of chief mourner, by setting up the most lamentable howling as they passed along.

The streets and roads by which they had to go being very rough, the jolting of the cart, added to the howling of thee dog, had soon the effect of awakening our drunken musician from his trance. It was dark, and the piper, when he first recovered himself, could form no idea either of his numerous companions or of his conductors. Instinctively, however, he felt about for his pipes, and playing up a merry Scotch tune, terrified, in no small measure, the carters, who fancied they had got a legion of ghosts in their conveyance. A little time, however, put all to rights; lights were got; and it turned out that the noisy corpse was the well-known living piper, who was joyfully released from his awful and perilous situation.

Source for notated version: fiddler Danny O’Donnell (County Donegal) [Feldman & O’Doherty].

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5), 1797; No. 5, p. 2. Bremner (A Collection of Scots Reels), 1757; p. 29. Bruce & Stokoe (Northumbrian Minstrelsy), 1882; p. 175. Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 458. Cocks (Tutor for the Northumbrian Half-Long Bagpipes), 1925; No. 24, p. 13. Feldman & O’Doherty (The Northern Fiddler), 1979; p. 185 (appears as “Untitled Slip Jig”). Gatherer (Gatherer’s Musical Museum), 1987; p. 22. Gow (Complete Repository, Part 2), 1802; p. 16. Hime (Forty Eight Original Irish Dances Never Before Printed with Basses, vol. 1), Dublin, 1804; No. 2. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 45. Kennedy (Fiddler’s Tune-Book: Slip Jigs and Waltzes), 1999; No. 60, p. 14. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 2), c. 1880’s; No. 246, p. 27. R.M. Levey (First Collection of the Dance Music of Ireland), 1858; No. 50, p. 20. O’Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. II), c. 1806; p. 115 (appears as “Pipers Maggott”). O’Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922; No. 192 (appears as “Piper’s Whim”).

Recorded sources: Jerry O’Sullivan – “O’Sullivan meets O’Farrell” (2005). Topic 12TS423, Chris Miller and Ken Campbell - "Piper's Maggot" (1981).

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