Tarry Woo

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X:1 T:Tarry Woo M:C L:1/8 R:Air Q:"Slow" B:McGibbon - Scots Tunes, Book 3 (1742-46, p. 12) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:G G2G2B2 AG|(EDE)G A4|G2G2 B2 AG|(cB)(AG) Bc d2:| |:e2 ge d2 ed|BdgB A4|e2 ge d2 ed|Bdba g4| egeg dede|BdgB {B}A4|GABc dedc|{c}B2 AG B2d2:| |:g2g2{ga}b2 ag|edeg a4|g2g2 b2 ag|(c'b)(ag) (bc')d'2:| |:e2 ge d2 ed|(Bdg)B {B}A4|e2 ge d2 ed|Bdba g4| (e/g/f/g/) (e/g/f/g/) (d/g/f/g/) (d/g/f/g/)|(B/c/d/e/4f/4) gB {B}A4|GABc dedc|{c}B2 (AG) B2d2:|

TARRY WOO. AKA - "Tarry Woo'," "Tarry Wool." Scottish, English; Air (4/4 time). England, Northumberland. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Aird): AAB (Davie): AABBCCDD (McGibbon, Oswald). "Tarry Woo" was popular Scots song in the 18th and early 19th centuries, whose title refers to wool that has been fouled with tar from the efforts of shearers to bind the wounds of sheep during the shearing process. Musicologist John Glen (1900) traced the melody back to William McGibbon's third collection (Scots Tunes) of 1746, and an instrumental version also was printed it McGlashan's A Collection of Reels (1781, vol. 2, p. 13).

The song “Tarry Woo” appears in the fourth volume of Allan Ramsey's Tea Table Miscellany, James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (1787, vol. 1, Song 45, p. 45), and it also appears in Smith's Scottish Minstrel (1820-24, vol. 2, p. 4), Ritson's Scottish Song, and Crosby's Caledonian Musical Repository (1811), p. 106. John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900), besides correcting Stenhouse's citation errors, notes that the melody is included in The Seraph: a Collection of Sacred Music (London, 1818), where it is set to "Milton's Hymn", and has the following note: "This fine air was composed by the celebrated David Rizzio, who was murdered in the presence of Mary Queen of Scots." It is one of several tunes attributed to the musically inclined secretary and courtier, none of which has been proven.

Words to the song (as printed in The Scots Musical Museum, vol. 1, 1787) go:

Tarry woo, and Tarry woo,
Tarry woo is ill to spin,
Card it well, and card it well,
Card it well e’re ye begin.
When it is carded, wrought and spun,
Then the work is half in done;
But when woven, drest and clean,
It may be cladding for a queen.

Sing, my harmless sheep, That feed upon the mountains steep,
Bleating sweetly as ye go,
Through the winter's frost and snow;
Hart, and hind, and fallow deer,
No by hauf sae usefu' are:
Frae kings to him that hauds the plough.
A' are oblig'd to tarry woo.

Up, ye shepherds! dance and skip,
O'er the hills and valleys trip;
Sing in praise of tarry woo;
Sing the flocks that bear it too:
Harmless creatures, without blame,
That clead the back and cram the wame;
Keep us warm and hearty fu';
Leeze me on the tarry woo.

How happy is the shepherd's life,
Far frae courts, and free of strife;
While the gimmers bleat and bae,
And the lambkins answer mae.
No such music to his ear;
Of thief or fox he has nae fear;
Sturdy kent, and colly true,
Weel defend the tarry woo.

He lives content, and envies none;
No, ev'n a monarch on his throne,
He that the royal sceptre sways,
Has nae sweeter holidays.
Who'd be a king? can ony tell?
When a shepherd sings sae well,
Sings sae well, and pays his due,
Wi' honest heart and tarry woo.

"Tarry Woo" of the "missing tunes" from William Vickers' 1770 Northumbrian dance tune manuscript. The melody also appears in 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 poet and 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.

See also note for a later derivative of the melody, “Lewis Gordon.”

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : -James Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5); Glasgow, 1797; No. 142, p. 53. J. Davie & Co. (Davie's Caledonian Repository), Aberdeen, 1829-30; p. 21. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 155. Manson (Hamilton’s Universal Tune Book vol. 1), 1853; p. 180. McGibbon (Scots Tunes, Book 3), c. 1746; p. 12. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 3), 1760; p. 3.

Recorded sources: -

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