Tail Toddle

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X:1 T:Fiddle Faddle M:C| L:1/8 R:Country Dance B:John Walsh - Caledonian Country Dances (1731, p. 6-7) N:"London. Printed for and sold by J. Walsh, Music Printer and Instrument maker N:to his Majesty, at ye Harp & Hoboy in Catherine Street the Strand." Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:G V:1 clef=treble name="1." [V:1] G/G/G BG c2 GE|G/G/G BG A3 FD|G/G/G BG cA BG|A/B/c B/c/d A2 FD:| |:c2 GE Ec GE|c2 GE DAFD|c2 GE Ec GE|A/B/c/A/ B/c/d/B/ A2 FD:| |:G/G/G BG cA BG|G/G/G BG ADFD|G/G/G BG cA BG|A/B/c/A/ B/c/d/B/ A2 FD:| |:c2 Ec Ec GE|c2 E/c/B/c/ DA FE/D/|c2 Ec Ec GE|A/B/c/A/ B/c/d/B/ A2 FD:|

TAIL TOD(D)LE. AKA – “Tail Tottle.” AKA and see “Brandy Bottle (2),” "Fiddle Faddle," "Ffidl Ffadl," "Lasses Gar Your Tails Toddle," “Lasses Make Your Tails Toddle,” “Little Wot Ye Wha's Coming” “Malcolm MacPhee (2).” Scottish; Air, Reel or Strathspey; Welsh?, Reel. D Major {Anderson, Kerr, Martin, Williamson, Young}: G Major {Aird}: C Major {Jones}: A Mixolydian ('A', 'B', 'E' and 'F' parts) & A Minor ('C' and 'D' parts) {Gow}. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Anderson, Gow/Repository): AABB (Jones, Martin): AABBCCDD (Aird): AABBCCDDEEFF (Gow/First Collection): AABBCCDDEEFFGGHH (Young). The earliest appearances of the melody are in Scottish music manuscript collections: the Gairdyn Manuscript (1700-35, No. 378, f. 51v, as "Taill todle"); the Sinkler Manuscript of 1710-17 (where it is an untitled tune, No. 52); the George Skene Manusript (1715-17, No. 37, see "Lasses Gar Your Tails Toddle"); and the Drummond Castle Manuscript Part 2 (1734, No. 14) in the possession of the Earl of Ancaster at Drummond Castle), inscribed "A Collection of the best Highland Reels written by David Young, W.M. & Accomptant." It was printed by Young with several variation sets, as it was in James Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 2 (1785, No. 97), as well as in Dunkeld fiddler-composer Niel Gow’s First Collection of 1784.

Antiquarian William Stenhouse (Illustrations of the lyric poetry and music of Scotland), noted the anonymous Jacobite ballad "Little Wot Ye Wha's Coming" was set to the air around the year 1715; it is also called "The Chevalier’s Muster-Roll, 1715," a name thought to be older by Stenhouse. John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900), however, thought it was probably from the later pen of poet James Hogg (1770-1835). Intriguingly, Stehouse adds: "The old tune to which the words are adapted was formerly called ’Fiddle Strings are dear Laddie,’ from the first line of an ancient though almost now forgotten song. It began:"

Fiddle strings are dear, laddie
Fiddle strings are dear, laddie
An’ye break your fiddle strings,
Ye’se get nae mair the year, laddie

Gow attributed the melody to “the late Mr. Nisbet of Dirleton” in his 1784 publication, but in a later publication said it was “supposedly Welsh.” Robin Williamson included it in 1976 book in a section on Welsh tunes, apparently on the strength of the Gow remark, albeit in a Scots setting, and suggested that the title might have been a garbled version of an original Welsh title. Gow’s attribution references William Nesbit of Direlton who died in 1783 (thus “the late Mr.”) or his son, also William Hamilton Nisbet (1747-1822) of Dirleton, an East Lothian laird and amateur musician who was a member of the Edinburgh Musical Society for much of his life (Johnson, 1984). William the younger married Mary (nee Manners) Nisbet, and their only child and daughter, Mary, was at her birth in 1778 one of the richest heiresses in the world. She later became the Countess of Elgin. Dirleton is an ancient castle and estate in Haddington, Lothian and Tweeddale, and the Nisbet family, through a series of inheritances were immensely rich and powerful. They were not, however, ennobled primarily due to their staunch Jacobite history. Johnson (1984) says that William was also an amateur musician who was a member of the Edinburgh Musical Society for much of his life. It may be that he enjoyed playing the tune, and it became associated with him, at least in the Gows’ minds. Period tunes were also composed for Nisbet’s daughter—see “Miss Nisbet of Dirleton” and “Miss Nisbet of Dirleton's Minuet.” See also Nisbet’s own composition “Mr. Nisbet of Dirleton’s Favorite.”

English printings followed the earliest Scottish ones fairly quickly. It appears, for example, in Walsh’s Third Book of the Compleat Country Dancing Master (London, 1735). Walsh printed it again in his Caledonian Country Dances, book 1, under the title “Fiddle Faddle,” and, again as “Tail Toddle” in his 1749 Compleat Country Dancing Master, Volume the Third. The latter publication was part of a series of reissues of his older publications, with tunes arranged in new sequences. Northumbrian versions, first as “Little Wot Ye Wha's Coming” appears in Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882) and, as “Little wat ye whe's coming” and again as “Tail Tottle,” in the music manuscript collection of John Bell [1] (1783-1864).

Whatever its original provenance, “Tail Toddle” became very popular in Scotland and was played there as a reel (sometimes a strathspey) or a song. The latter had bawdy words, to be sung by a girl about how Tammy made her tail todle. The reel-setting of the tune is particularly associated with Scottish sword dancing (as is "Gillie Callum"). Words, which appear in Robert Burns's Merry Muses of Caledonia (1799) and the Scots Musical Museum (No. 572), to the song go:

O tail toddle, tail toddle,
Tammy gars my tail toddle, .... (gar = make)
But and ben wi' diddle doddle
Tammy gars my tail toddle.

Our Gudewife held o’er to Fife,
For tae buy a coal-riddle;
Land or she came back again,
Tammie gart my tail toddle.

Twain, twain, made the bed,
Twain, twain, lay th’gither;
When the bed began to heat,
The yin lay in abin the tither.

When I’m deid I’m out o’ date,
When I’m seik I’m fu’ o’ trouble;
When I’m weel I step about,
An’ Tammie gars my tail toddle.

Jenny Jack she gae a plack,
Helen Wallace gae a boddle;
Quo; the bride, its oe’r little,
For tae mend a broken doodle.

Stenhouse was the first to note the resemblance between "Tail Toddle" and "Cuttymun and Treeladle."

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Aird (Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II), 1785; No. 97, p. 36. Anderson (Anderson's Budget of Strathspeys, Reels & Country Dances), c. 1820; p. 3. Anonymous (A Companion to the reticule), 1833; p. 28. Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 224 (strathspey version). J. Davie & Co. (Davie's Caledonian Repository), Aberdeen, 1829-30; p. 13. Gow (The First Collection of Niel Gow’s Reels), 1784 (revised 1801); p. 29. Gow (Complete Repository, Part 1), 1799; p. 37. Jones [Ed.] (Complete Tutor Violin), c. 1815; p. 4. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 4), c. 1880's; No. 71, p. 10 (reel). Martin (Ceol na Fidhle, vol. 1), 1991; p. 43. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 89. Williamson (English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1976; p. 44 (Reel version).

Recorded sources : - “Fiddlers Three Plus Two.” Culburnie COL 113D, Aladair Fraser & Tony McManus – “Return to Kintail” (1999). Culburnie COL 119D, Alasdair Fraser – “Skyedance Live in Spain” (2002).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Hear field recordings of the reel setting played on a practice changer at Tobar an Dualchais [3] [4], a the song version [5] [6]

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