Annotation:Three Sheepskins (1)

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X:1 T:Three Sheep Skins [1]. (p)1698.PLFD1.409 M:4/4 L:1/4 Q:1/2=120 S:Playford, Dancing Master,10th Ed,1698 O:England;London H:1698. Z:Chris Partington. K:G P:"_Up to 16th Ed" G2B>c|d2B2|c2A2|d2A2:| |:BGGB|AGGB|AGFEF2D2:| K:D P:"^17th Ed.onwards" |:d>efg|a2f2|g>a g/f/g/e/|a2e2:| |:fddf|e/f/e/d/ c/d/e/f/|d/e/d/c/ B/c/d/e/|c2A2:|

THREE SHEEPSKINS [1]. AKA and see "Hamilton Races." Scottish, English; Air and Country Dance Tune. This country dance tune was printed by Scottish cellist, composer and music publisher James Oswald in his Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 7, p. 10). Oswald was a native of Dunfermline who moved from Edinburgh to London in mid-career to seek new opportunities. Chappell (1859) takes exception to claims of Scottish origins despite the fact that "Three Sheepskins" appears in the Skene Manuscript (c. 1630), a collection of tablature notation for the mandore. Chappell records that the tune first appeared in Henry Playford's Dancing Master (10th ed.) of 1698 (he believed the latter portions of the Skene were written at a later date), perhaps referring to the earliest published version. Another early printing appears in London publisher John Walsh’s Compleat Country Dancing Master (I, 1718). Glasgow musician James Aird printed the tune on the same page as several other trade tunes (such as “Hammermens' March (The)” and “Taylors' March (The)”), indicating the melody was associated with the tanning trade and the Incorporation of Skinners. Indeed, "Three Sheepskins" was used as "The Skinners' March"[1]. "Three Sheepskins" also appears in Scottish musician and dancing master David Young's MacFarlane Collection (c. 1740, No. 33), "

As a song air, “Three Sheepskins” can be heard in the 18th century ballad operas Polly, The Devil to Pay and The Jealous Clown. The song (from a manuscript of c. 1715) begins:

On the Lord Melvill his wife and three sons
Three sheeps skins the wrong side outmost
Three sheeps skins the wrong side outmost
He is a thiefe & she's a whore that call my wife a drunkard
She's not a Drunkerd but she's a pretty dancer
She's not a Drunkerd but she's a pretty dancer
She lyes all Day & eats all night & gives nobody answer
Three long skins as all men may see sir &c
Ther's huffie[?] thin & music thin & chin of Gravity sir
It that your chin be not in mode
Then borrow one from me sir.

The melody can be found in the 1835 music manuscript of James Winder (Wyresdale, Lancashire). Frank Kidson (The Proceedings of the Musical Association, vol. 34, 1908, p. 90) noted "I find that 'Three sheep skins' is still known, traditionally, in Herefordshire as a Morris-dance tune." See also "Three Jolly Sheepskins."

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Barlow (The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford's Dancing Master), 1986; No. 409, p. 95. Walsh (Compleat Country Dancing Master, Volume the Fourth), c 1740; No. 16.

Recorded sources : - Beautiful Jo BEJOCD-36, Dave Shepherd & Becky Price – “Ashburnham” (from the Winder manuscript). Flying Fish FF358, Robin Williamson - "Legacy of the Scottish Harpers, vol. 1."

See also listing at :
See a standard notation transcription of the melody from David Young's MacFarlane Manuscript (c. 1740) [1]

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  1. According to Frank Kidson, "The Vitality of Melody," Proceedings of the Musical Association, 34th Sess. (1907-1908), p. 90.