Sweet Jenny Jones

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X:2 T:Jenny Jones M:3/4 L:1/8 R:Waltz S:Kerr - Merry Melodies, vol. 3, No. 307 (c. 1880's) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:G d2 | g2d2B2 | G3AB2 | c2e2a2 | f2d2(ef) | g2d2B2 | c3de2 | d2g2f2 | g4d2 | g2d2B2 | G3AB2 | c2e2a2 | f2d2(ef) | g2d2B2 | c3de2 | d2g2f2 | g2z2 || g2 | b2g2b2 | a2f2a2 | g2e2a2 | f2d2g2 | b2g2b2 | a2f2a2 | g2f2e2 | d2e2f2 | g2d2B2 | G3AB2 | c2e2a2 | f2d2(ef) | g2d2B2 | c3de2 | d2g2f2 | g2z2 ||



SWEET JENNY JONES. AKA and see “Cader Idris,” “Grace Darling,” "Jenny Jones," "How Paddy Was Fooled," "Widow on the Train." AKA – “Lighearted I Stroll Through the Vale of Llangollen.” Welsh (originally), English; Waltz, Morris Dance Tune (3/4 time). D Major (Mallinson): G Major (Barnes): C Major (Bacon, Johnson). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Kerr): AAB (Trim): ABA {x6} (Bacon, Mallinson): AABB (Johnson): AABC (Barnes). As “Cader Idris” this melody was an 1804 composition of the 19th century harper John Parry, ‘Bardd Alaw’, and named by him after the mountain in Meirionnydd, Wales. Parry did much to promote and popularize Welsh music in England in both music hall and fashionable society settings, and he was very successful with this air which was immensely popular in 19th century England. It was first published by him in The Welsh Harper, being an Extensive Collection of Welsh Airs (1839). There is a special dance associated with the tune (“Cader Idris”) in Wales.

The Jenny Jones of the title was said to have been a dairymaid at Pontblyddin Farm, who fell in love with a ploughman named Edward Morgan. Edward went to sea and spent twenty years in the Navy, however, he returned to marry Jenny. The story entranced actor Charles James Mathews, who visited Wales around 1825 and actually met the Morgans and heard their story first-hand. During his trip he heard a harper play Parry’s melody in the hotel he was staying at in Llangollen, and memorized it, not knowing who composed it. He was inspired to write a song about the Morgans to the melody, called “Song of Jenny Jones and Ned Morgan,” and performed it for friends in London when he returned. At the end of the evening’s entertainment an elderly gentleman approached him and claimed it was he who originally wrote the tune. It was called “Cader Idris,” the old man—Bardd Alaw himself—said, and it had won him a prize at the 1804 Eisteddfod. Mathews continued to perform the song which caught on immediately. It struck a romantic chord, and was popular for nearly two decades, enough to generate other ‘Jenny Jones’ songs and parodies. Figures of Jenny Jones were fashioned in chinaware, horse-brasses, and other items.

There was another real-life Jenny Jones from Llangollen. Born Jane Drumley (sometimes Browne) in Granard, County Longford, Ireland in June, 1789. There she met and fell in love with Lewis Griffiths, a soldier who had been posted to Granard, and he began courting her, walking her home from church for many months. Jane was aged fourteen. Griffiiths had been a farm worker in Wales and came of age just at the time that conscription for the armed services was effected by the government, which was sore in need of men to fight in the Napoleonic wars. Each parish was required to send a man, and, while Lewis was not initially chosen, the man whose lot it fell to was unsuited to the service and Griffiths volunteered to take his place. He was in training for the army in Dubin when they met, and was a serviceman in the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers. After some months she left school, about the time that Lewis’s unit received orders for duty abroad; the couple hurriedly married in Granard. Lewis’s service did not stop them from starting a family and Jane and he had a daughter. When she was about six months old Lewis was ordered to Ostend, Belgium, with his unit and managed to bring his family along with him—Jane, like many soldier’s wives, became a laundress for the unit, and also acted as nurse. After a few weeks Griffith’s unit was ordered to march toward the French in the prelude to Waterloo, and again Jane managed to accompany the army, although no provision had been made for camp followers, and there were little enough provisions for the army itself. Still, Jane persevered and foraged for food, bringing what she could back to Lewis. Finally the Welsh Fusiliers were ordered into battle, and once again Jane accompanied her husband, staying with him during the initial hostilities until ordered to the rear. She took refuge in a chapel, but it came under cannon fire from the French, and was abandoned when it was hit. Jane was on the field for three days, and after the battle Jane searched for Lewis. Hearing that he had been wounded she began searching the field aid stations with no success. Finally she met a soldier from the Fusiliers who informed her that her husband had been taken to a hospital in Brussels. There she finally located and found his wounds serious but survivable. Six cannon ball splinters removed from his shoulder, but Lewis made a recovery and rejoined his unit a month later. He finished his service and was discharged, after which the family went to his home town of Talyllyn, Wales. There he worked in a slate quarry until his accidental death in 1837, when he was killed by falling rock.

Jane—Jenny—later (in 1853) married John Jones, also of Talyllyn, and with him had more children, to a total of nine, although he too predeceased her. She found work as a hotel laundress until age prevented her, and in the end received a meagre pension from Guardians of the Golgellau rate payers. Jenny Jones died in April, 1884, and is buried in Talyllyn Churchyard.

“Sweet Jenny Jones” was used as the vehicle for morris dances in several village traditions, but it is particularly associated with the village of Adderbury, Oxfordshire, in England's Cotswolds, where it was always the first dance of the season. Adderbury men sang often during their performances and tended to use song tunes more than other teams. During this number dancers sang the following:

My sweet Jenny Jones is the pride of Llangollen,
My sweet Jenny Jones is the girl I love best.

John Kirkpatrick (1976) notes that the 3/4 time morris step is different from the normal one used, and that the pause in the stepping coincides with the pause in the musical phrase. “The stepping in the cinquepace (meaning five steps), or galliard, of Elizabethan times is exactly the same rhythm as this,” he says. The song tune was later converted into a broadside ballad called "The Widow on the Train," from which it found its way into American old-time repertoire as a waltz. Northumbrian musicians picked up the tune and renamed it after a local heroine, Grace Darling.

The Irish jig "Top of Cork Road (1) (The)" AKA "Father O'Flynn" is quite similar to "Sweet Jenny Jones."


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Bacon (The Morris Ring), 1974; p. 6. Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes, vol. 2), 2005; p. 88 (appears as “Morsel Circle”, the name of a dance by Philippe Callens set to the tune). Johnson (The Kitchen Musician, No. 1), 1991; p. 6. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3), c. 1880’s; No. 307, p. 33 (as “Jenny Jones”). Mallinson (Mally’s Cotswold Morris Book), 1988; No. 41, p. 26. Trim (The Musical Legacy of Thomas Hardy), 1990; No. 31.

Recorded sources : - North Star NS0038, "The Village Green: Dance Music of Old Sturbridge Village." Talking Elephant TECD 058, Chris Leslie - "Dancing Days" (2003). Topic TSCD458, John Kirkpatrick - “Plain Capers” (1976/1992). Venerable Records, Andy Cahan – “Hits from the Mountains” (as “Widow on the Train”).




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