Old Swan Band

English country dance band playing mostly English tunes.

"Swan-Upmanship" sleeve notes by Paul Burgess and John Adams

1. The Green-Clad Hills/ Jimmy Garson's March

Johnny Garson was an Orcadian musician recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1955. One of the tunes he played was an untitled march tune, which Peter Kennedy told Paul Burgess he decided to call "King William's March", just because he felt it should have a title. We don't subscribe to any extra-musical association this tune may have, so prefer to call it Jimmy Garson's March as it's a fine melody!
The Green Clad Hills comes from Richard Valentine. We can't remember where he got it, but we'll ask him next time we see him!

2. Jack Robinson/ William Irwin's No 3/ The Tipputs (P. Burgess/ J Burgess)

There was a comic song Jack Robinson being sung on the London stage in the 1820's - whether there is any connection is not known. We got the tune from the much missed Mel Dean. William Irwin's No 3 is from a MS tunebook compiled by William Irwin of Wigtown, Cumberland in the 1840s or '50s - we learned it from Cock and Bull Band. The Tipputs Inn at Tiltups End, Horsley (originally the Black Horse) gives it's name to the last tune, written by Paul and Jane Burgess.

3. Steamboat Hornpipe/ Gloucester Hornpipe

Steamboat is a popular English tune, but it, like so many, has traveled and can be found in Kerr's Merry Melodies. Our version was learned from the playing of the Yorkshire ironstone worker George Tremain, who was the melodeon player for the North Skelton Sword Dancers. Stephen Baldwin had a habit of changing around the names of the tunes he played "it's difficult remembering all them names". Some collectors also imposed their own ideas on what the tunes were called. This one was called "Gloucester Hornpipe" on one of the sessions and "Swansea Hornpipe" on one of the others. It's also known as "The Man from Newry", under which title it appears in O'Neill's Music of Ireland. (The Gloucester Hornpipe" we recorded on Gamesters, Pickpockets and Harlots which was re-issued on "Still Swanning After All These Years", is a different tune which Cecil Sharp recorded from Stephen Baldwin's father, Charles).

4. (false start)

5. General Ward/ The Day Room

Both written by Paul when he was in hospital!

6. Winster Gallop/ Four-Hand Reel/ Dark Girl Dressed in Blue

This set of tunes was included on the band's first album, "No Reels" in 1977 and Dave Hunt adapted a dance for it, which we now know as "The Old Swan Gallop". It's changed a bit since then and shows the way the band has developed. "Winster Gallop" is one of the traditional Morris tunes from Winster in Derbyshire, which was noted down by Cecil Sharp in his famous meeting with the team in 1908. The "Four-Hand Reel" with its off number of bars in the A-music, was a tune played by Herbert Smith in 1952 to Peter Kennedy. smith was a sexton from Blakeney in Norfolk.
"The Dark Girl Dressed in Blue" Decca F11140 coupled with "Growing Old" in 1959 by Stanley Holloway. Jack Warner (more famous as Dixon of Dock Green) was said to have used it as his theme song when he worked on the Music Halls, but, in fact it's much older than that, with broadside versions having been issued around 1865. It's a humourous song where the chap (often up for the Great Exhibition) meets the Dark Girl, who asks him to get her change for her five-pound note. Of course the note is forged, the girl disappears and he has to explain himself to "the large man dressed in blue". It was popular as a tune especially in England and Ireland, where the great fiddler Johnny Doherty had a fine version.

7. Church Street/ Redwing/ St. Mary's

Ah - a quintessential set of English tunes. Well, actually not. The first and last tunes were originally recorded as "Memories of Ballymonte" and "Gurkin Cross" by Paddy Killoran's Irish Orchestra in New York in 1937. Killoran was a good, rough-toned fiddler who ran a bar in the Bronx and who played with Michael Coleman. His life was cut short at a very early age when he perished in a New York ferry disaster. We originally got the tunes from an inspirational group led by a Canadian hammer-dulcimer player called Bill Spence and Fennig's Allstars and only found out later, that he had them from the Chieftains.
"Redwing" was written in 1907 by Kerry Mills, a prolific American composer of songs and dance tunes, who also brought us "Whistling Rufus".

8. Flowers of Edinburgh/ Soldier's Joy/ Morpeth Rant

The first known appearance in print of one of the most popular of all tunes, the Flowers of Edinburgh, was originally published in 1742 as "My Love's Bonny When She Smiles on Me". The Scottish fiddler Neil Gow claimed that the "Flowers of Edinburgh" were the city's magistrates. A likely story. It is popular all over Britain, Ireland and the US. The slower version if from the Cotswolds, and was collected by Cecil Sharp from Harry Taylor, mainstay of the Loughborough and Lower Swell Morris sides, in Gloucestershire. Soldier's Joy (also known as King's Head) is a universal tune, appearing on both sides of the Atlantic in major, minor and multi-mode versions, with and without words and with extensive variations available even within the same band. Paul Roberts sings a complete song which starts with the following verse which suggests a possible meaning of the name.

25 cents for the morphine
15 cents for the beer
25 cents for the morphine
... and Soldier's Joy is here!

"Morpeth Rant" (also known as "Woods Hornpipe") has been credited to the pen of the 18th Century Northumberland musician William shields. Since when it has spread all over, with versions recorded from William Hocken (Boscastle) and Stephen Baldwin (Forest of Dean). It was listed in William Vickers tunebook, dated 1770 (now in Gosforth Record Office), but the notation is missing. Vickers could well have been an Excise Officer living in Newcastle and his huge collection of tunes if prefaced with the poem:

Musicks a Crotchet the Sober thinks it Vain
The Fiddles a Wooding Projection
Tunes are But fights of a Whimsical Brain
Which the Bottle Brings Best to Parfection
Musisians are half witted mery and madd
And Those are the same that admire Them
Theyr Fools if they Play unless their Well Paid
And the Others are Blockheads to Hire them

9. Wenlock Edge/ Summer Waltz

We had "Wenlock Edge" from Tony Gibbons via Flos. Tony and Caroline's band Hetty Peglar's Tump, based in Cheltenham, have been going almost as long as we have! Summer Waltz, or Sommarwaltzen, was written by Filarfolket bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and amazing person Ale Möller.

10. Flowers Of Edinburgh

Is a version used by the Loughborough Morris dancers, and was collected by Cecil Sharp from the prime mover in the side, Harry Taylor.

11. Schottis fran Havero/ Another Fine Mess

Also known as "Schottisch from Harjedalen", there are no prizes for guessing that this tune from Sweden! The second tune is a remnant of the early days of Edward II and the Red-Hot Polkas and we got it from Dion Cochran. We don't know the proper name, but he always called it "Another Fine Mess".

12. "George Green's College Hornpipe"

George Green played melodeon for the Little Downham Molly dancers and photographs taken by WH Palmer on Plough Monday 1932 and reproduced in Elaine Bradtke's Truculent Rustics - Molly Dancing in East Anglia before 1940 show him with the dancers. It bears no relation at all to the College Hornpipe that most people known which is also known as The Sailor's Hornpipe. George Green's tune now often accompanies the dance "Mr Dolly" originated by the Southampton based border morris team Red Stag.

13. Basquet of Oysters/ Sally Sloanes.

Basquet of Oysters is three parts collated by Pete Coe from a longer Basque tune that can be heard on a tape owned by our friend and fellow musician Andrew Cronshaw. The second part is the same as the B music of the well known tune The Oyster Girl which gives us our title. Pete tells us firmly that the triple hits in the C music were not how the tune was played originally. We have ignored this.

Sally Sloane was an American fiddler/melodeonist of Irish descent but her jig is not particularly Irish. It appears in Yorkshire (in one of Lawrence Leadley's handwritten manuscripts of around 1840) as Trip to Cottingham, but was previously published by one John Simpson (who claimed to have invented the tenor flageolet and had a shop in Regent Street London) as La Nouvelle Fantasie (probably an English fashionable construct rather than an actual French tune, given the bag grammar of the title).

14. Freedom of Ireland/ Kitchen Girl.

The First tune came to the band via Rod Stradling, who had it from a melodeon player in Sutton, Surrey. However, the original source was probably the classic recording by "The King of the Pipers", Leo Rowsome, who recorded it in 1948. It also appears related to the song "I'll Marry and I'll Never be a Nun" and is another of the family of tunes which included Salmon Tails, a fact which causes much confusion in sessions!

15. Beatrice Hill's Three-Hand Reel.

Another Gloucestershire tune,

Last updated on 17/07/2010