Saturday, September 12, 2015

(Hammered?) dulcimer in Ireland in 1857 novel, The Black Baronet by William Carleton

A mystery, well, not so much a mystery as something I didn't expect and I don't know what to make of it yet -- while I was looking for something else [*see below], I found a reference to a dulcimer in a novel published in 1857 in Ireland. It's in Chapter XIII of "The Black Baronet; or The Chronicles of Ballytrain" by William Carleton, and it's almost certainly a hammered dulcimer. (But good scholar that I try to be, I can't say that with 100 percent assurance.) Available on line in several editions. The one I consulted (which has links to illustrations, etc.), is at

Here's an excerpt:

And a later passage, in which "Dandy Dulcimer" plays his instrument on top of a stagecoach. It's of interest because it gives a hint of the size of the instrument, and how it was played ... and it mentions a couple of songs:

The tops and bottoms of the pages are cut off here, but it's enough to give the flavor of the passage ...

William Carleton, according to Wikipedia at, "is best known for his Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry a collection of ethnic sketches of the stereotypical Irishman." He was regarded as something of a turncoat anti-Catholic who "succeeded in offending everybody during the course of his life," according to Wikipedia. Judging by the excerpts I turned up this morning, his sketches in Baronet are nothing if not stereotypical.

But there's that hammered dulcimer, and those songs.

The book is available at in

"Bonnie Brown Girl" -- [PLEASE NOTE: When I first started looking at this a couple of weeks ago, I though it referred to the common English ballad "Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor," also known as the "Bonnie Brown Girl" and widely sung throughout the British Isles. But I found another reference in an article by Carleton that clearly identifies it as an Irish song called "The Pretty Brown Girl." I'm leaving what I wrote about "Lord Thomas ..." up on the blog (never know when you might need it in future), with this note indicating that I've reconsidered it. -- PE 09-24-15]

... cf. "Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor"? -- says Martin Carthy, as quoted on the website Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music at


Lord Thomas is a twerp whose mother thinks that the sun shines out of his saddle sores. Does a lot of riding does our Thomas, what with all the to-ing and fro-ing between his place, his mother's place, the penniless but very lofty and fragrant (where O where have we heard that word before?) Fair Eleanor in her gaff and his imminent wedding. Seems that Thomas and Eleanor think of the Brown Girl as nothing more than some nouveau riche arriviste unworthy of his attentions—except (as far as he is concerned) for that damnably interesting “rich” part following on from the loathed “nouveau” and preceding the equally contemptible “arriviste” bit. Eleanor's mother, however, is possessed of at least half a brain and is far from blind to this disaster waiting to happen, but even her focused warnings fail to stem her daughter's drive to impale herself on her own spite. The one truly lamented casualty here is the Brown Girl, whose love is thrown back in her face but whose riposte is swift, silent and final. Costs her her own life though. A.L. Lloyd is right when he says that some of the Scots oral versions have small illuminating extras, so while ditching the last two “Rose and Briar” verses which seem to me our of place, I've taken a couple of others from those Scots sets in order to underline the fragrant Eleanor's real malice aforethought. It's from Somerset and Cecil Sharp.

"Merrily Kissed the Quaker" has quite a pedigree. Says Andrew Kuntz in the Fiddlers Companion at

MERRILY DANCED/KISSED THE QUAKER('S WIFE). AKA - "Quaker's Wife." AKA and see "The Legacy," "The Humours of Last Night," "Blithe Have I Been," "Wilke's Wrigle." Scottish, English; Jig. Irish, Slide. G Major (Bremner, Gow, Mitchell, Taylor/Tweed): D Major (Hardie, Johnson, Kerr, Sumner, Sweet). Standard. AB (Hardie): AABB (most versions): AABBCC (Mitchell, Taylor). A variant of "Merrily Kissed the Quaker('s Wife)." Phillips Barry, FSSNE, No. 11, pg. 13, traces the tune back to the 14th century plain‑chant, "on the authority of Wilhelm Tappert's curious little book Wandernde Melodien' (Bayard, 1981). Bayard thinks that "Merrily Danced" is either devolved from "The Mill Mill O" or that both tunes evolved from a single tune; thus, to him if Barry is right and one tune stemmed from the late Middle Ages, then logically so does the other. John Glen (1891) finds the earliest appearance of the melody in print in Robert Bremner's 1757 Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances, and it also early appears in the 1768 Gillespie Manuscript of Perth. However, an earlier printing can be found in Rutherford’s Choice Collection of Sixty of the Most Celebrated Country Dances (London, 1750).


Francis O’Neill (1922) remarks: “For over a century the name ‘Merrily Kissed the Quaker’ has been associated with a tune or Special Dance in Ireland, but no song or verse relating thereto has been traced. In O'Farrell's Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes (1804-10), we find the tune with name annotated ‘New Sett Irish’ {ed. note: the ‘New Sett’ tune, given below, appears to be a different tune or so distorted or distantly related it may be considered a different tune}. Continuing the investigation we discover that ‘Merrily Dance the Quaker’ (probably the original tune) was printed in No. 7 of Bremer's Collections of Scots Reels, or Country Dances" issued in 1760. The traditional version in North Kerry taken from the Rice-Walsh manuscript serves to illustrate how far a tune may deviate from the original in a few generations.” The title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800. Merrily Danced the Quaker's Wife is also the name of a rather uncommon Scottish country dance.


The Quaker’s wife sat down to bake
With all her bairns about her.
She made them all a sugar cake,
And the miller he wants his mouter (i.e. a fee for grinding flour).
Sugar and spice and all things nice,
And all things very good in it,
And then the Quaker sat down to play
A tune upon the spinet.
Merrily danced the Quaker’s wife,
And merrily danced the Quaker
Merrily danced the Quaker’s wife,
And merrily danced the Quaker.


The melody was well-known in America at the time of the War for Independence where it was employed as both a quick march and dance tune. As a march, it was published in Captain Robert Hinde’s (1720-1786) Collection of Quick Marches (Hinde was the author of The Discipline of the Light-Horse, an authoritative work on the use of light cavalry, and very influential in the British army). It appears in Henry Beck’s manuscript copybook for the flue (1786) and (as “So Merrily Danced the Quakers”) in the music manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery’s invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Montreal from British control. An important land-owner in the Hudson Valley, and a member of the powerful Livingston family, Henry was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. He was also a poet and musician, and presumably a dancer, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly’s dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York.

Three (?) other songs mentioned:


Here's the information I was chasing. On the Athens (Ala.) Dulcimers website, David and Carolyn Bennett posted an account of their visit to the Mountain Music Museum in Bristol, Tenn.-Va., titled "Bob Mize & Maybelle Carter Dulcimer Connection" with a picture of a dulcimer Mize created for Mother Maybelle Carter. Included in the dulcimer picture is a placard reading, "The Appalachian dulcimer is based on the design of the German 'doran.' When the instrument makers of the region began building dulcimers, they forgot the original name and searched the Bible and came up with this name."

First I'd heard of an instrument called a "doran." So I searched the Internet and came up with -- "Dulcimer Dandy" and William Carleton's novel. Never did find what I was looking for!

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