One reason it has taken me a long time to get to my next tune is that there are a lot of pages in Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 which I have skipped. There is a big section of mostly or entirely Denis O’Hampsey material from pages 164 to 172, which I am skipping because I am concentrating on the other harpers. Then there are two sections which don’t seem to be harp transcriptions. I am less certain about identifying what these are, since my focus has been on spotting the harp style and idiom.
The fiddle tunes
Pages 174 through to 177 seem to be fiddle music, perhaps connected to the area around Coleraine on the north coast – we have the placenanes Coleraine, Ballymoney and Aghadowey associated with these items. I think Bunting may well have travelled through this area on his way to or from Magilligan. Page 178 has the tune list mentioning the tunes collected from Daniel Black near Crumlin in summer 1796. You can see these places marked on my map in my Bunting collecting trips post, and so it seems likely that this whole section is related to his Summer 1796 trip from Belfast to Magilligan and back.
The beef song
From page 179 to 183 there is an English-language song. Page 179 has what looks like transcription dots; pages 180-2 gives a full piano arrangement with English words underlaid; and page 183 gives the full lyrics in English. It is a very strange song; the arrangement has the titles “The Weavers Lamentation” and “Bill Leather” but we know by now not to trust Bunting and these titles may be totally unrelated to the tunes (the transcription on p.179 has a title which refers back to the tune on page 172). On the other hand, some verses on p.183 are headed “B:L” presumably to indicate Bill Leather.
The song begins: “As for Mr Steele, he’s a very good man, but he trusted his beef, boys, into a rogue’s hand…” and tells of Paddy McFadden who eats all the beef and says he will pay for it “when the sun’s in the North”. How do we understand this song? Did Bunting transcribe it from a live performance? From a traditional singer? Or from a middle class or aristocratic host’s performance on the piano? I have yet to track down another version of this song.
Page 184 is tune list which looks like it was the final page of this pamphlet.
The song airs
Page 185 is the beginning of a new, independent collecting pamphlet with no apparent connection to the previous one. It finishes with a tune list on page 200 and so we seem to have a neat 16 page pamphlet formed from four sheets folded together. A lot of the items in this section seem like they may date from 1796, and a number of them are tagged “Byrne” in later piano arrangements.
Many of these items do not appear to be harp-style, and may represent transcriptions from Charles Byrne‘s singing rather than his harp playing.
Over the next weeks I will try to have a go at any of these which may plausibly be harp performance, though it seems to me that many are not, and may instead be from the singing of the harper informant. It is very hard to know how we might untangle these provenances.
My header photo shows the grounds of Glendaragh House near Crumlin, where Edward Bunting collected tunes from harper Daniel Black in summer 1796
Many thanks to Queen’s University Belfast Special Collections for the digitised pages from MS4 (the Bunting Collection), and for letting me use them here.
Some of the equipment used to create this blog post was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.