Annotation:Polly Put the Kettle On (1)

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X: 1 T:Polly Put The Kettle On [1] M:2/4 L:1/8 S:T.J. Dixon MS1, TJD.31, Lincolnshire, 1798 R:Quick step N:Repeat mark added at end A:Lincolnshire, Holton le Moor Z:vmp.R.Greig2010 F: K:D a>bag|fdd2|Bged|dcBA|a>bag|fdd2|Bgec|d2d2:|! |:fdge|fdge|B/B/B ed|cAAg|fdge|fdge|B/B/B ec|d2d2:|

POLLY PUT THE KETTLE ON [1]. AKA - "Molly Put the Kettle On (6)." AKA and see “Barney Leave the Girls Alone,” "Jenny's Bawbee." Irish, English, American; Reel, Polka, March, Country Dance Tune (2/4 time). A Dorian (Roche): D Major (Hardings): D Major {'A' and 'B' parts} & A Dorian {'C' and 'D' parts} (Kennedy, Raven). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB'CCDD' (Kennedy, Raven): AABB (Hardings): AAB (Roche). The collector John Glen (1891) finds an early printing of the tune in Dale's Variations for the Pianoforte (1794) and remarked it became at that time "very popular with young ladies." "Polly Put the Kettle On" appears in a number of early 19th century musicians' manuscript collections, including those of T.J. Dixon (Lincolnshire, 1798), Rev. R. Harrison (Cumbria, c. 1815), J. Lishman (Lake District, c. 1825), George Spencer (Leeds, Yorkshire, 1831), James Winder (Lancashire, c. 1835). The reel can also be found in the 1850 music manuscript collection (p. 7) of shoemaker and fiddler William Winters (West Bagborough, Somerset, southwest England)

In America, Gurdon Trumbull (Stonington, Conn., 1801) and Ann Winnington (New York, 1810).

O’Neill (1913) relates that a London uilleann piper, one Thomas Garaghan, enthused his audiences by the trick of uttering intelligibly on the chanter “Polly put the kettle on.” The Standard (March 18th, 1899) reported that Garaghan played his comic version tune at Mr. Santley's St. Patrick's night ballad concert at St. James's Hall (London)--Reg Hall (A Few Tunes of Good Music, 2016, p. 168) points out it "was hardly likely to have been to the taste of Gaelic League purists." His trick was not unique to him, however, and was predated by at least one other professional piper, Master James Blake, who performed at an event in South Africa, reported on in The Morning Chronicle (Dec. 25, 1858). He played "...Polly put the Kettle on, and make me quick some tea." By some means he managed to make these very words come from the body of his instrument in such a comical manner that the company fairly screamed with delight." One of the oddest appearances of the tune is on the barrel organ from the polar expedition of Admiral Parry of 1819. In place of a ship’s fiddler (common in those days), Parry introduced a barrel organ on board ship to provide entertainment and a vehicle to which the men could exercise (i.e. by dancing). “Polly Put the Kettle On” was one of eight tunes on barrel no. 1. Donegal fiddler Danny O’Donnell recorded the tune in the 78 RPM era, first in a set of three Highlands (followed by “Bundoran Highland (The)” and “Niel Gow's Wife (1)”). He called the set “The Thistle and Shamrock.”

As might be expected, it has been said that fifers used "Polly/Molly put the Kettle On" to summon troops to meal while in garrison or camp. However, citations for this are difficult to find, although the Sixth Infantry (U.S.) at Fort Atkinson in Kansas played it for their breakfast call[1].

"Polly put the Kettle On" is quoted by Classical composer Frédéric Kalkbrenner (1785-1849) in his setting of "Robin Adair", toward the end of the sixth variation.

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Browne Family music manuscripts (Book 13, No. 88, c. 1825, Lake District, Cumbria) [Offord].

Printed sources : - (Joseph) Carr (Carr's Pocket Companion), Baltimore, 1800; p. 4. Hardings All-Round Collection, 1905; No. 10, p. 4. Kennedy (Fiddlers Tune Book, vol. 1), 1951; No. 51, p. 25. John Offord (Bonny Cumberland), 2018; p. 26. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 162.

Recorded sources : - Saydisc SDL 234, Parry’s Barrel Organ (vol. 11 in the Golden Age of Mechanical Music).

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  1. Donald E. Mattson & Louis D. Walz, Old Fort Snelling Instruction Book for the Fife,, 1974, p. 2[1].