Back to Whirligig (1)
WHIRLIGIG , THE. AKA and see "Woodicock." English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 time). D Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABBA (Sharp): ABBCBBC (Barnes, Raven). The dance instructions to “The Whirligig” were published in John Playford's English Dancing Master (1651), and were retained in the long-running series of editions through 1686. The late 19th/early 20th century folk dance and music collector Cecil Sharp set the dance figures to "Whirligig" to another Playford tune, "Woodicock," also published in the first edition of the English Dancing Master, but to different dance figures. See note for "Woodicock" for more on this tune.
Graham Christian (2015) notes that a 'whirligig' in the 17th century referred to a 'town' or 'parish' top, a type of large top (up to eight inches), a plaything. Alexander Dyce, in his A General Glossary to Shakespeare's Works (Boston, 1905), explains that a parish top was "A large top was formerly kept in every village, to be whipped in frosty weather, that the peasants might be kept warm by exercise, and out of mischief, while they could not work." It was referenced by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night (1601), while the same object (called a 'town-top') was mentioned by Fletcher in a dance context in his stage comedy Night Walker (1640) :-- "And dances like a town-top and reels and hobbles."
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Christian (A Playford Assembly), 2015; p. 130. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 38. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 43.
Recorded sources: Familiar Records FAM 47, Pyewackett "7 to Midnight" (1985. Appears as "Woodicock").
See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources