Jack's Health (2)

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JACK'S HEALTH [2]. English, Jig. G Major/Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The melody was published by John Playford in the 6th edition of the Dancing Master [1] (1679), and in all subsequent editions through the end of the series, with the 18th edition published by John Young in 1728. The Walsh's (father and son) published the tune in their Compleat Country Dancing Master, published in London in 1718 and republished in 1731 and 1754. The melody was also employed as the vehicle for a song in J. Watts' ballad opera The Chamber-Maid, staged in London in 1730. It also appears in the 1790 music manuscript copybook of London musician Thomas Hammersley. This was the first melody employed for the dance Jack's Health--in the early 1970's the Irish jig "Bolt the Door" was substituted as the vehicle for the dance (see Jack's Health (1)"), and, as is often the case, that tune also became known as "Jack's Health" through association (see "Jack's Health (1)").

Graham Christian (2015) provides an intriguing but rather speculative explanation for the title, associating it with a drinking vessel called a Black Jack, a sturdy leather tumbler lined with resin or black pitch as waterproofing. It was a common tankard in alehouses and taverns, or anyplace where drink was typically served. As such, it would have been employed for the drinking of 'healths' at convivial occasions. Of course, as Christian admits, 'jack' or 'Jack' had many meanings, and the exact meaning of the title remains elusive.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Barlow (Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master), 1985; No. 228, p. 58. Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes, vol. 2), 2005; p. 65. Moffat (Minstrelsy of Ireland), 1897; Appendix, p. 339. Walsh (Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth), London, 1740; No. 185.

Recorded sources:

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