Upper Denton

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UPPER DENTON (HORNPIPE), THE. English (originally), Scottish, Canadian; Hornpipe. England, Northumberland. Canada; Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Perlman (1996) collected the following ditty, sung to the ‘A’ part of the tune:

Did you ever see the devil with his wooden spade or shovel,
Did you ever see the devil with his tail cocked out?
The potatoes were so big that the devil couldn’t dig,
So he ran through the fields with his tail cocked out!

A note in Doyle's Plain Brown Tune Book suggests the title refers to Upper Denton in Cumbria, near the border with Northumberland (not Denton in Manchester, England), and this seems right, as the tune is nearly identical to the one printed by Dixon (1995) and attributed to Robert Whinham (1814-1893), a musician, teacher, composer, dancing master and fiddler originally from Morpeth, Northumberland. The attribution, however, is only verbal, from Northumbrian fiddler George Hepple, whose grandfather was taught to step-dance by Whinham. Dixon says that Upper Denton is a hamlet on a railroad crossing south west of Gilsland, Northumberland. The melody appears in John Rook's music manuscript collection (Waverton, Cumbria), dated 1840, which dilutes claims for Whinham having composed the tune (although he could have--he was around age 26 when Rook compiled his mss.).

Canadian Maritime fiddlers probably picked the tune up from Kerr’s collection (c. 1880s), or perhaps from New England fiddlers. Bill Lamey played it in Boston, where a young Jerry Holland heard him.

Source for notated version: Peter Chaisson, Jr. (b. 1942, Bear River, North-East Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman].

Printed sources: Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 118, pg. 45. Dixon (Remember Me), 1995; pg. 68. Doyle (Plain Brown Tune Book), 1997; p 8. Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 3; No. 319, p. 35. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 70.

Recorded sources: EAR 015-2, Joe Hutton – “Northumbrian Piper.” Rounder Records North American Traditions Series, Buddy MacMaster - "Cape Breton Tradition" (2011).

See also listings at:
Alan Snyder’s Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]




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