Annotation:Ratcatcher's Daughter (The)

Find traditional instrumental music

X: 1 T:The Ratcatcher's Daughter M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Country Dance B:T. Westrop's 120 Country Dances, 1860's, no. 12 Z:VMP-R.Greig 2010 K:C G|edce|AcGc|BGce|ed2g/f/|egce|AcGc|Bgfd|dc2:|! c|eddd|feee|g^fff|gG2g/=f/|egcg|AcGc|Bgfd|dc2:|]

RATCATCHER'S DAUGHTER, THE. English, Air and Country Dance Tune (2/4 time). C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "The Ratcatcher's Daughter" was a broadside ballad [Roud #13883] dating 1813-1833, also adapted as a vehicle for a country dance. It's popularity was assisted with its being featured by singer Sam Cowell (11820-1864), who sang it on the popular stage in the 1840's. By the mid-19th century it was very popular and nearly ubiquitous, as indicated by the complaint of a Musical World correspondent in 1855:

Everywhere I go in London...I cannot escape the infliction of having my ears stunned with some hideous words relating to the daughter of a ratcatcher and a seller of sand, set to the most vile tune.[1]

The tune is mentioned in mid-19th century journalist Henry Mayhew's remarkable and sympathetic series of interviews with the poor in Victorian England, contained in his book London Labour and the London Poor. Street organ players were common in London, eking out a living playing selections for a few coins:

There is two ‘Liverpool Hornpipe’. I know one these twenty years. Then com ‘The Ratcatcher’s Daughter’; he is a English song. It’s get a little old; but when it’s first come out the poor people do like it, but the gentlemens they like more the opera, you know. After that is what you call ‘Minnie’, another English song. He is middling popular. He is not one of the new tune, but they do like it. The next one is a Scotch contre-danse. It is good tunes, but I don’t know the name of it. The next one is, I think, a polka; but I think he’s made from part of ‘Scotische’. There is two or three tunes belongs to the ‘Scotische’. The next one is, I think, a valtz of Vienna. I don’t know which one, but I say to the organman, ‘I want a valtz of Vienna’; and he say, ‘Which one? Because there is plenty of valtz of Vienna’. Of course, there is nine of them. After the opera music, the valtz and the polka is the best music in the organ…It won’t do to have all opera music in my organ. You must have some opera tunes for the gentlemen, and some for the poor people, and they like the dancing tune. Dere is some for the gentlemens and some for the poor peoples.[2]

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 147. T. Westrop (Westrop's 120 Country Dances), c. 1860's; No. 12.

Back to Ratcatcher's Daughter (The)

(0 votes)

  1. Scott, Sounds of the Metropolis : The Nineteenth-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris, and Vienna, p. 174.
  2. Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, London, 1861, p. 176.