Annotation:Swaggering Boney

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X: 1 T:Freedom And Liberty. JBs.054 T:Swaggering Boney,aka. JBs.054 R:Jig B:Jas.Blackshaw MS, 1837, N.Shropshire Z:Village Music Project, T. Weatherall 2006 M:6/8 L:1/8 Q:3/8=120 A:North Shropshire F: K:G d|BGB dBd|ede d2f|gfg efg|agf g2:| |:g|fga afd|afd d2B|ded dcB|cAB c3| B2 d BGB|c2e cAc|Bcd efg|agf g2:|

SWAGGERING BONEY. AKA and see “Gee Ho Dobbin,” “How Do You Do? (1)”, "Johnny Too," “Oddington,” "Old Frog Dance (The)," "Rummer (The)," "Travel by Steam." English, Morris Dance Tune (6/8 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBB (x4), AACCC (x4), AA. The morris dance version was collected from the village of Longborough, Gloucestershire, in England's Cotswolds, but "the tune was apparently popular all over England, as a number of different songs were written to it" (Williamson, 1976). The title refers to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), dating this version of the tune from the late 1700's to early 1800's. As Steve Winick points out, Bonaparte was "a frequent character in English and Irish folklore [who is] often the hero in Irish songs and the villain in English ones[1]. However, the melody is considerably older than the French emperor, as it was printed by London publisher John Playford in his Dancing Master, 7th Edition (1666) as "Rummer (The)," which was also entered by Northumbrian musician Henry Atkinson into his c. 1694 music manuscript. The melody also was printed in one of London publisher John Walsh's early 18th century volumes (see alternate titles).

The tune was used as the vehicle for morris dancing under the titles "Swaggering Boney" (Longborough, Cheltenham), "Old Frog Dance (The)" or "The Frog Hop" (Oddington), and "How Do You Do? (1)" (Sherborne). The 'Frog' titles are presumable references to Napoleon as well. "Swaggering Boney" was collected from Henry "Harry" Taylor, who was aged 68 in 1910, and who was the leader of the Longborough morris, although the last time he had danced with the side was at the jubilee of 1887. While Taylor might have played the fiddle at one time, the tune was transcribed by Cecil Sharpe from his singing. An alternate name for "Swaggering Boney" was "Travel by Steam" in the Costwold village of Longborough.

A street broadside was published, probably in the early 19th century, entitled "Swaggerin Boney" [Roud Number: V3183], beginning with a common ballad opening line: "Come all ye bold Britons, I pray lend an ear." The melody has been used as the vehicle for several songs as well; see, for example, "Harry the Tailor"[2] and "Coggleton Bear"[3].

See also O’Neill’s similar “Old Leather Breeches (1).”

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Bacon (The Morris Ring), 1974; p. 256. Mallinson (Mally’s Cotswold Morris Book), 1976; No. 12, p. 12. Williamson (English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1976; p. 21.

Recorded sources : - Rounder 3031, Martin Carthy - "Because It's There" (1979). Martin Carthy - "The Collection" (1993). Talking Elephant Records TECD062, Ashley Hutchings - "Great Grandson of Morris On" (2004)

See also listing at :
See Cecil Sharpe's manuscript containing his transcription of Harry Taylor's melody [1]
See Sharpe's ms. of fiddler William Hathaway's (Cheltenham, Goucestershire) version, 1907 [2]
Hear Longborough musician William Kimber's (1872-1961) melodeon version [3]

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  1. Steve Winick, liner notes to Martin Carthy's "The Collection" (1993).
  2. Peter Kennedy, Folksongs of Britain & Ireland, Shirmir Books, New York, 1975, No. 131, p. 307.
  3. Written by John Tams c. 1970's, recorded by John Roberts & Tony Barrand - "Live at Holsteins! (Eat Bertha's Mussels)", Front Hall Records FHR-031, 1983.