Saw Ye Johnny Coming?

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X:2 T:Saw You Johnny Coming to the… M:C L:1/16 S:Aird – Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II (1782) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:G z2 | G4 A3B d3BB3g | G4 (A2B2) cA3 z2 :||: f2 | g3fe2d2 e3dB2f2| g3ag2f2 eB3 z2f2 | g2f2e2d2 e2f2 g4 | z2G2 A3B d3BB2g2 | z2 G4 A3B c2B2 z2 :|



SAW YOU JOHNNY COMING? AKA - "Saw you Charlie coming?" AKA and see "Fye father see him," "See him, father, see him." Scottish, Air and Country Dance Tune (4/4 time). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABA (Howe): AABB (Gow). F Major (Gow): G Major (Aird, Howe). The air, entitled “A New Scotch Song or Saw Ye John A’Coming,” appeared in Clio and Euterpe, or British Harmony (vol. 2, 1759), although Glen (1900) finds it first in print in John Walsh’s A Collection of Original Scotch Songs, with a Thorough Bass to each Song for the Harpsichord (part iii), printed c. 1749. Instructions for a country dance to the tune (but not the music) appear in the Menzies Manuscript (1749), contained in the Atholl Collection of the Sandeman Library, Perth., but the melody was printed in Robert Bremner’s Thirty Scots Songs (1757, p. 6), albeit under the title “See him, Father, see him.” The Scots national poet, Robert Burns, wrote a letter to publisher George Thomson in which he described the playing of this air by the celebrated and much enamored (to Burns) oboist Thomas Fraser (c. 1760 1825) who, when playing it 'slow' made it 'the language of despair'. In Burns’ notes he wrote: “This song for genuine humjour in the verses, and lively originality in the air, is unparalleled. I take it to be very old.”

The air was included in the late 18th century manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery’s invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Montreal from British control. An important land-owner in the Hudson Valley and a member of the powerful Livingston family, Henry was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. He was also a musician and presumably a dancer, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly’s dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York.

Saw ye Johnnie cummin, quo’ she,
Saw ye Johnnie cummin,
O saw ye Johnnie cummin, quo’ she;
Saw ye Johnnie cummin,
Wi’ his blue bonnet on his head,
And his doggie runnin’, quo’ she;
And his doggie runnin’? ..... [Scots Musical Museum]


Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Aird (Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II), 1782; No. 148, p. 54 (appears as “Saw You Johnny Coming to the…”). Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 556. Gow (Complete Repository, Part 2), 1802; p. 2. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 123. Johnson (Scots Musical Museum), 1787; p. 10. Wilson (Companion to the Ballroom), 1816; p. 40.

Recorded sources: -



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