A Wexford Dance School of the 1800’s

A Wexford Dance School of the 1800’s

Whilst doing a bit of local research, I came across a few interesting accounts of country dancing in the 1800’s from the Wexford area. The book is ‘The Banks of The Boro’, published 1867 and written by Patrick Kennedy who grew up in this district. You’d suspect these are stories from his early days there, so probably mostly based in the early 1800’s. The book can be viewed via Google Books at http://books.google.ie/books?id=K6JSC8VzY3EC&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22Patrick+Kennedy%22&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

Basically stories from the Irish countryside of the time, some flowery writing as befits the period, but insofar as I can tell, based on real stories of people and places. The relevant chapters from a musical point of view are Chapter XXII - The Dance School - pages 129-150 and Chapter XXX - Minuets, Long Dances & May Boys - pages 220 on.

Of interest in The Dance School chapter, is the already hostile attitude of the local clergy to cross roads dancing. I thought this came later, after The Free State was formed in the 1920’s. But here, much earlier, we read of the clergy smashing a poor blind fiddlers instrument when he plays for dancers on a Sunday at a crossroads. The priests then regret it when they see that he’s very poor and a Protestant to boot and buy him a new fiddle, so long as he promises not to lead their flock astray anymore!

The social niceties of learning how to dance are well documented. These dance masters travelled the country in the same way as travelling musicians. Their market would have been the sons and daughters of the better off farmers who could afford to pay for a few lessons. Presumably the families of the landed gentry weren’t as interested and the poorer farmers and labouring families couldn’t afford it. There is an account of the latter sneaking in, learning by watching, then practising afterwards. Country & house dances would have been a big thing at the time, an opportunity to meet the opposite sex, and the various dances had to be learnt as a means to that.

There’s a good few tunes listed, many with familiar names like Tatter Jack Walsh etc., but others that must have been local names/ tunes. In one place, he’s talks of single, double and triple hornpipes but then goes on to list what seem more likely to be jigs - maybe a simple mistake. I wonder did he mean single, double and triple jigs but then what are the latter?

Anyway, it’s an interesting, fairly contemporary account of the music of the 1800’s in the Wexford area, SE Ireland.

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Re: A Wexford Dance School of the 1800’s

Oh

Re: A Wexford Dance School of the 1800’s

This is terrific. Thanks, TWH and I hope your research goes well.

Re: A Wexford Dance School of the 1800’s

Great stuff thanks for sharing 🙂

Re: A Wexford Dance School of the 1800’s

Thank you for your great share.

Re: A Wexford Dance School of the 1800’s

That’s very cool.

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Well, that passed me by Ceolachan - I did indeed post it a few days ago but it seemed to dissapear into nowhere. I didn’t spot that it resurfaced subsequently.

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Dear Mr.Hussar ( on the banks of the Rhine) thanks a bunch for posting this link, ‘tis indeed wonderfully entertaining reading.I wonder in a few hundred years time will people be reading old scripts and descriptions of scores of young girls wearing identical plastic or nylon curly wigs in the 2000/2011 s and sweating bricks to outdo each other in Irish dancing competitions ? there’s nowt as strange as folk

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It’s certainly colourful alright - did you spot the bit where the dancemaster gets paid ‘thirteen’ (shillings?), whilst the fiddler gets six shillings and sixpence!! Thus it has always been..

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How do session-goers in northern California feel about bands of mummers arriving in the pub?