What a Beau Your Granny was (1)
X:1 T:What a Beaw my Granny Was  M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel Q:"Quick" B:John Watlen - The Celebrated Circus Tunes (Edinburgh, 1791, p. 20) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:D g|fdec dBAG|FAdf e E2g|fdec dBAG|FdEc d2D:| |:G|FADF GBEG|FAdf e E2G|FAdf gedc|dBAG FD D:|]
WHAT A BEAU YOUR GRANNY WAS. AKA – “What a Beau My Granny was.” AKA and see "Over the Moor to Betty." English, Reel (cut time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Fr. John Quinn and Matt Seattle find an earlier cognate version of the tune in the Northumbrian "Over the Moor to Betty." The Hardy version is from Geminiani's The Entire New and Compleat Tutor for the Violin, however, the tune is also contained in the Aylemore Manuscript (currently held in the Barbican House Museum of the Sussex Archaeological Society, Lewes, England). In addition to James Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 4 (1796), “What a beau…” was published in Wheatstone’s Clarinet Preceptor (London, 1801). It was entered into the 1840 music manuscript collection of Waverton, Cumbria, multi-instrumentalist John Rook. Fr. Quinn points out variants of "What a Beau..." also crop up in unlikely settings: Parts 5 and 6 of James Aird's multi-part "Yanky Doodle" (see "Yankee Doodle Dandy") are "What a Beau...", and Hamilton's Universal Tune Book as the generically-titled "Old English Country Dance." Finally, Fr. Quinn finds a version (perhaps the ancestral one!) in David Rutherford's Compleat Collection of 200 of the Most Celebrated Country Dances (London, 1756) as "Negroe (The)" (p. 49).
The melody was entered into the mid-19th century music manuscript collection (vol. 2 and vol. 4) of uilleann piper and Church of Ireland cleric James Goodman, of County Cork.
In America, the tune was published by Benjamin and Joseph Carr in Evening Amusement (Philadelphia, 1796), Edward Riley in Flute Melodies, vol. 1 (New York, 1814), Blake’s Gentleman’s Amusement, No. 2 (Philadelphia, 1824), and Daniel Steele in New and Complete Preceptor for the Fife (Albany, 1815). The popular melody was included in musicians’ manuscripts on both sides of the Atlantic. Thomas Hammersley (London, 1790), John Rook (Waverton, Cumbria, 1840), Daniel Henry Huntington (Onondaga, N.Y., 1817), Thomas Mollyneaux (Nova Scotia, 1788), Luther Kingsley (Mansfield, Conn., 1795), George Oits (Worcester, Mass., 1793), and Eben Irving (Middletown, N.Y., 1796). Country dance instructions for the melody appear in Saltator’s Treatise on Dancing (Boston, 1807), Preston’s Selection of the Most Favorite Country Dances, Reels (London, 1796), and the Phinneys’ Select Collection of the Newest and Most Favorite Country Dances (Ostego, N.Y., 1808).
The title are taken from the refrain of English composer William Shield's (1748-1829) late 18th century song, “What a Beau My Granny Was,” a comic complaint about modern fashion and a sentimental remembrance all at once. As was a common practice, Shield mixed original musical material along with adaptations of existing, often folk melodies for his songs and ballad operas. This lyric was printed in songsters such as New Vocal Enchantress (1788) and numerous others. The version below is taken from an American collection of 1833:
My granny had but her own hair,
Which she in comely mode did wear,
But now with wool they load each skull,
And frizzle it to make it stare;
With feathers high as if ‘twould fly,
Each girl for beauty aims to pass,
But ‘twas not so long time ago,
When a great beau my granny was.
My granny was both fair and plump,
And like a squirrel she could jump,
With coral lips and natural hips,
But now each girl has her cork rump.
The pleated ruff looks well enough,
Now pigeons’ craws they wear, alas!
Stuck out before like the breast of a boar,
O what a beau my granny was.
A story is told of King George IV and Queen Charlotte (1744–1818) who were both consumers of snuff and patrons at the Crown and Rasp. Queen Charlotte was so enamoured of the substance that she was known as "snuffy Charlotte." On one occasion, says Sir Walter Besant, she gave a dance to her young grand-daughter Princess Charlotte and her companions, and the Princess was asked to call for a dance. "Tell the band," she said, "to play up ' What a beau my granny was!", no doubt having in mind the verse that goes:
What a beau my granny was!
What a beau was she!
She took snuff and that's enough!
And that's enough for me!