Small Coals and Ready Money

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SMALL COALS AND READY MONEY. AKA - "Small Coals," "Small Coals and Little Money." AKA and see “Sleepy Maggie (2),” “To the Quick.” English, Reel. England, Northumberland. A Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. “Small coals” c. 1860-90, variant of ‘small beer’, meaning weak, inferior (Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 1961). The melody is a version of the Irish tune “Sleepy Maggie,” here transposed to A dorian, probably to fit the range of the pipes, in particular the Northumbrian small-pipes. ‘Ready money’ is money in hand. The “Sleepy Maggie” title appears in the music manuscript copybook of Lionel Winship (actually as “Sleepy Meggy”). “Small Coals and Ready Money” appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800.

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Bruce & Stokoe (Northumbrian Minstrelsy), 1882; p. 165. Cato (Northumbrian Choice), 1997. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 180 (appears as "Small Coals").

Recorded sources: -Front Hall FHR 08, Alistair Anderson "Traditional Tunes" (1976). Lough 007CD, Boys of the Lough – “The West of Ireland” (1999). Park Records PRKCD 72, Kathryn Tickell Band – “Air Dancing” (2004).


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