Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Title.

Within the bounds of my capability as people said I was playing too hard tunes but not ones that other session goers would cringe at due to them being cliche like the aforementioned or kesh jig/eogan’s for example (not those).

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I know there are lists of hundreds of common session tunes on here but that doesn’t narrow things down too much.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Contemptuous! That’s a bit strong, and there’s nothing wrong with a cliche, people do it all the time. Learn tunes that are accessible to your ability and maybe not learn to be a musical snob. Maybe you don’t mean it like that but that’s what comes across to me.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

The Irish Washerwoman isn’t particularly easy to play for a beginner and even The Kesh isn’t any more basic than most other jigs.

As the old saying goes, "familarity breeds contempt". Most of us will have tackled some very well known tunes while learning our instruments but would probably have found it easier to play many of the lesser known ones from the vast repertoire out there.

I should add that I prefer to use the term "simple" as opposed to "easy". Most of the best tunes do fall into that category.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

The Kesh isn’t that "simple" (and it’s fine…most people who aren’t jerks won’t cringe when you play it… approaching the music with the view of "I won’t learn certain tunes because they’re cliche" is the wrong attitude. If they were good enough for the Bothy Band…). I was trying to teach it to a friend who was just learning the whistle, and he was getting into a tangle in the B part. I switched to something a little more straightforward but can’t remember what it was. Maybe Jimmy Ward’s Jig?

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Try BYRNS MARCH, a longish march, straightforward and quite satisfying. (I hate Irish Washerwoman and it is anyway as mentioned not the easiest). "Rocky Road to Dublin" is great so is "Top of the Cork Road". And try "The Juice of the Barley" - song with lovely words. How about "The Salley Gardens"? All on The Session (sorry not good with links).

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Swallowtail jig, tipping up the stairs, lilting banshee, lisnagun, out on the ocean, kerfunten, rolling waves are some nice jigs that are easy to learn and everyone I’ve met played along to.

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Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

It’s not the tunes themselves, oftentimes, that are easy or difficult, but rather the versions.

For whistle workshops I would find reels that very easy, but still traditional-sounding, versions could be created. These became the students’ "first tune" on whistle. Once they had the tune then I would add rolls here and there.

Other tunes feel like certain rolls are built-in, and the tune suffers too much if they’re taken out.

One thing that strikes me as interesting about ITM is that I usually see ITM beginners being given jigs to start off with. This would never occur to people in Highland piping, or in some other idioms I have some familiarity with. Coming from outside as I do, my thought would have been to start out ITM beginners with polkas.

Re: Recommended tunes

An accomplished musician can make any tune beautiful and interesting. I dislike tunes I don’t play well. If I dislike a tune it’s up to me to make it meaningful and lovely. Would you scorn Matt Molloy for playing The IWW (or the older setting of it — The Waddling Gander)?
The old chestnuts are popular because they are lovely tunes. I am always happy to play these tunes with my session pals and with any committed player new to the tradition.
The old guys did not, generally speaking, have nearly as many tunes as players have today. They were not fussy or pretentious. Many of the old guys would walk or bike miles to the nearest fleadh and come back whistling or singing the new tune to themselves all the long way back home, that they might remember it the next day. They didn’t have the luxury of being dismissive.
The most important tunes are those played at your local session. Aside from those, isn’t there a place on thesession where the tunes played most often are listed? That would be the best reference for learning tunes common to the tradition.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I started to learn the accordion in the early fifties. The only tunes I knew were a few tunes in my head from playing a mouth organ. No idea of keys or music as such. Picked everything up by ear. My neighbour Terry was a great whistler and one day he sat on our windowsill and whistled two tunes for me. He didn’t know the right names but I learnt to play them as Terry’s No 1 and Terry’s No 2. Wrong keys of course. Years later when I found out a bit about music and so called written keys, I found that Terry’s No 1 was the Rambling Pitchfork Key of D and Terry’s No 2 was the Maid on the Green. Key of G so I had to relearn them for a start. As for a tune being universally contemptuous. No such thing in my day. You played anything and everything that came your way. Even old repetitive tunes like ‘Pop goes the Weasel’ and the ‘Farmer wants a wife’ was grist to the mill, and I enjoyed the whole experience…….

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Actually, one of my favorites is "Shoe the Donkey," which I learned by ear. The person introduced it as a "really dumb waltz" because it’s so repetitive, but it’s so cute!
Contempt is an attitude. Trying to say this nicely: Learn them because otherwise you will regret it later. I know I have regretted bypassing St. Anne’s Reel and similar tunes.
Pop Goes the Weasel is fun—it’s all in the way you play it. Little kids go crazy when I play it for them while busking. (I "pop" the e-string with left hand pizz. Thanks for the idea, Little House on the Prairie!)

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

It depends on the instrument as well. I find the Kesh difficult on mandolin, on the hammered dulcimer it’s so blamed easy it’s probably the first tune you should learn when you’re starting on that instrument.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

"Would you scorn Matt Molloy for playing The IWW (or the older setting of it — The Waddling Gander)? "

Speaking of Matt Molloy….

Sometimes I’ll take a well-worn tune and slow it down to where I gain new insight into the possibilities. I remember hearing Matt do Drowsy Maggie on one CD - forget which one - which he slows down and turns it into a beautifully haunting tune.

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Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

David Levine’s comment a pleasure to read, thanks. Pop goes the Weasel was 1st tune I learnt on fiddle and quite revolting it sounded.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I am enjoying playing the irish washer woman again after hearing Liag’s lovely version on their CD. It can be a rather elegant tune.

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Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Here’s the link mentioned above to Popular Tunes here on thesession.org, based on people adding them to personal tunebooks:

https://thesession.org/tunes/popular

A decent starting point, I think, and none would be considered out of bounds to call at a local beginner to intermediate level session. The first two pages would keep you busy for quite a while.

I think the only tune that’s actually problematical is the "Irish Washer Woman," due to its possible history as a tune written for an English play mocking the Irish, and also due to the way it can incite an unfortunate level of enthusiasm among the non-musicians in the room. I have heard this tune played well on recordings, but I would never call it in a session. I won’t sit on my hands if someone else calls it though, and I have played along on occasion when it comes up, usually as a helping hand for a beginner sitting in for the first time where it’s one of the few tunes they know.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

"I think the only tune that’s actually problematical is the ‘Irish Washer Woman,’ "
Gary Owen’s might be a problem in some circles, too

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

@Conical bore good shout thanks.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I never heard it referred to as "a tune written for an English play mocking the Irish…" Have you a date? That gives a lot of credit to the English (sorry Jeremy) and covers a pretty wide field.

We occasionally play the IWW. It’s challenging and it excites the punters because there is great energy in the tune. One old title for the tune is The Irish Waterman. Another is The Stool of Repentance. And the ur-text for the tune might be The Waddling Gander: https://thesession.org/tunes/3225

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+waddling+gander

If it’s good enough for Charley Coen it’s good enough for me.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I’ve always considered that part of a musician’s skill set is to be able to take a well worn tune and to put some life to it. The Forty Pound Float is one tune that at least here in Australia has been ”done to death”, power chorded, speeded up, banged around, and ruined as piece of music. One day the thought came to me that I’d try and rejuvenate the tune on guitar and after awhile it started to sound like a decent sort of polka. And I recall John Regan recorded a lovely version of the aforementioned ”Irish Washerwoman”, I suspect by treating the tune and playing it as he would any other jig.
I call it imagination……..

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Regarding a possible English origin for the IWW, the infallable (cough) Wikipedia entry says the following:

"Although usually considered an Irish tune, some scholars claim that it is English in origin, derived from the seventeenth-century tune "Dargason".[1]

No mention of its use in an English stage play, but someone mentioned that in the comments section of the database entry here at thesession.org. Anyone else, please chime in if you know more about the tune’s origin… although at this point it might be lost in the mists of time.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Well, so much for the mists of time. There is a huge amount of information (and speculation) about the IWW at the Traditional Tune Archive, including the bit quoted below:

https://www.tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Irish_Washerwoman_(1)

"A variant of the modern version of the tune appears as air 13 in Samuel Arnold’s stage piece The Surrender of Calais, report Van Cleef and Keller (1980), which was first performed in London in 1791. It was sung by the character O’Carrol, and Irish soldier, and the song became known as "Corporal Casey:""

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Who was it that just said ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ is simple? Okay,- this is on the fiddle, but it proves the point that a tune is what you make it. You have to just get your footwork right. :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBbcitQCHXM

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Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Astonishing!!

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

The phrase "universally contemptuous" raises a whole host of question-marks in my mind.
First, did you not mean "contemptible"? "Contemptuous" suggests the tune had something against you!
That aside, who on earth decides this sort of stuff? It’s not "universal" as I would have no qualms about anyone playing Irish Washerwoman! Maybe it has been over-played in some sessions, but I would still see it as a fun tune to play: we do have it in one of our ceilidh band sets
But having said that, I can think of other songs/tunes that produce the groan reaction in certain quarters. Don’t even dream of singing "Wild Rover" in one group I know of, or playing "Dingle Regatta" in a certain bar in the same town. And "Wild Mountain Thyme" gets its share of "Oh, not THAT again", almost equalled by the nervous "I only know one song" or "Could you sing……WMT"!
Recommended tunes? Just keep an open mind!

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I begin by learning & playing tunes which my fellow session goers know and appreciate. If they cringe it’s probably not the tune but my playing. Is that an acceptable starting point, WindMusic?

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Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Re the Irish Washerwoman origin again. Well most of the evidence points to it originating from that English play, but who knows that they didn’t borrow the tune from the Irish? What makes me doubt it though, is firstly that it doesn’t actually sound like it is Irish (listen carefully), and secondly, why would an Irish composer call it the *Irish* Washerwoman? I hate to play it unless as a joke, but I have occasionally heard really nice versions of it, especially orchestral versions. It’s the same thing with "Danny Boy";- it’s English, and it usually makes me cringe, but there are some really nice versions of it all the same. How can ANY music be universally contemptible? Think about it. That’s impossible.

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Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I might have started this by recommending WM a couple of weeks back ‘don’t learn Irish Washerwoman everyone hates it’ looks like I opened a whole can of worms! Apologies to people who don’t mind it, maybe its irrational, but I just cannot like it. Trish - I am quite happy to play Dingle Regatta, and have been known to sing Wild Mountain Thyme - just as well I don’t live in your town……………

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I found jigs easier to learn than reels when I was starting out because reels can be more complex rhythmically. Kerfunten as suggested before, is a good one to learn as you can play it in two keys. Other easy and lovely jigs are Haunted House, Charlie the Prayermaster (Cowboy Jig), Mist Covered Mountain, Dancingmaster, Gallagher’s Frolics, Out on the Ocean.

Hornpipes tend to be easy to memorize, including old chestnuts like Harvest Home, Rights of Man and Off to California.

One of the easiest reels to work up is Sally Garden. It lies very nicely on whistle fingering. Peeler’s Jacket is also kind of easy on whistle.

Some of my favorite and very rewarding reels include, Maid Behind the Bar, Virginia Reel, Wedding Reel.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

@christy taylor Thanks for putting your hand up for saying you were the start of it. I was actually only echoing what someone said in that other thread though I couldn’t be bothered to look precisely who but I even got one of Jeremy’s ‘warnings’ for the language I used to describe it.

Obviously (I thought) my wording was hyperbole.

But that isn’t the first time I had read that. I read it loads of times on here about it being a cliche tune. It is no different to how there are a lot of jokes on here about people hating Bodhrán players for whatever reason.

There was a practical reason for me asking in that; not being confident playing in public I didn’t want to pull out any tune that the veterans would roll their eyes at and show I was not ‘hip to the scene’.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

@benhockenberry Thanks, I think that is maybe the best bet as they have also have the benefits of offering tutorials for the playing as well as being popular tunes.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

A while back we were waiting for friends in a pub car park and my Dubliner wife picked up a little metal disc with a hole in it, then another and another. "Oh no!" says she "I’m the Irish Washer-woman!"

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

WindMusic ok no hard feelings - have you checked out the various ‘Best session tunes ’ lists available here?
Theres no promise that all of the tunes listed will be popular at any given session, but at least its a start!

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

"not being confident playing in public I didn’t want to pull out any tune that the veterans would roll their eyes at and show I was not ‘hip to the scene’. "
🙂
The veterans will soon realise that is the case regardless of what tunes you decide to play. If you deliberately pick out something too obscure, they may think you are trying to show off. It’s better to play something simple well. Nothing too difficult and there’s no need to try to hard.

Incidentally, you will likely often continue to find yourself in situations where there may be a strange repertoire and you will be unsure of what to play at a given time. It’s probably best not to worry too much and just "go with the flow" if you can. Sometimes it’s just best to sit things out until you get an idea of whta usually gets played in a particular session and then learn one or two of these tunes for next week.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Yes the few sessions I been to in different cities always had different tunes. I found it best to just record them on the sly (I found that asking would sometimes make people self-conscious when they knew they were being recorded even though they said it was fine) and try and learn them when I am back home.

People record everyone in public all the time these days so I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Believe it or not The IWW does pop up at sessions now and then. I occasionally remind myself to run through it every now and then just to keep up on it. I wouldn’t want to be seen with my fiddle in my lap while the others are playing it. I think people would assume that I was too snobby to play it rather than thinking that I just didn’t know/remember it, and I wouldn’t want that.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

It’s also the type of tune which tends to get played a little differently wherever you go and it can actually "throw" even some of the more experienced musicians if a "drop in" or visiting musician starts it off.
I noticed this in Sandy Bells one time when someone played the tune. Some of the regular (and very highly respected) musicians were actually visibly struggling.

As I say, it’s always best to "go with the flow" or veer on the side of simplicity when joining a diffrent or new session. Many of the so called "hackneyed" tunes aren’t necessarily the most straightforward.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I’ve had a cracking 4 part pipe version in the repertoire for decades. It goes down very well in solo performances but misses the session boat as it isn’t widely known and when I have tried it people jump in but then grind to a halt as the differing versions go their ways. I don’t really get the "too common to be cool" labeling that some tunes get . I quite regularly see some great tunes slated on these boards. Though I’m guilty of that as well with a documented protest at Polkas!

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Blarney Pilgrim is fun to play and seems to be well liked.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Most people like that one although one old member here once snorted a comment "The Blarney Pilgrim indeed!"
🙂
It’s also a good one to play in that it travels very well and doesn’t vary too much from session to session.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Seems like The Irish Washerwoman gets played by two types of players, generally. The first type that comes to mind is someone who is really new to the Music with a very shallow understanding and IWW is simply familiar to them from the soundtracks of cartoons and St Patrick Day television adverts. The second group are folks that listen to the auld boys, and play for example Ed Reavy’s setting or the version on the recording Fiddlesticks: Traditional Music of Donegal. Me, I’m in a middle category. I act all snobby and precious.

Some easier tunes that are still cool IMO:
Rolling In The Ryegrass (reel)
The Old Copperplate (reel)
The Humours of Glendart (jig)
The Black Rogue (jig)

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Blarney Pilgrim, Yes! Love it. Just remind any guitar backers the middle section goes into G major……..

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Life us too short to worry about what strangers think of me and my choice in tunes and mansplaining harmonic structures.

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Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

My overarching advice would be: Don’t ask this forum what you should learn for your local session. This forum is not here to homogenize local and regional ITM.

If you want to learn tunes to be able to start a set, pick tunes where others at your session will give you good cover for your little flubs; where they are strong. Get to know your session. If you record your local session and listen back, you might find something in there at the intersection between "sparks your fancy," "I think I might be able to not butcher that too badly," and tunes the other players clearly play with alacrity.

If you hear a good set, learn the first tune in the set: That way, you get to start the set and the others will know where to take it from there, and you’ll know in advance where they’re headed.

Regarding the OP’s post title: My feeling is that The Irish Washerwoman is not contemptuous, cliched, hackneyed, or anything like that. It is iconic, for sure. The tune at its essence is lovely. But it happens to be challenging to interpret artistically - certainly not suitable for introduction by someone new to ITM - and certainly never by someone who is dismissive.

Other session players might be uneasy about that tune because it may not let them shine. It’s not the tune that’s hackneyed, it’s the playing. I don’t mean that as a slight to any individual player. Something in the structure of unison session-playing may be the culprit.

One must be really thoughtful to do The Irish Washerwoman artistic justice. If you can dispense with the dismissive attitude, you could set The Irish Washerwoman as an artistic destination. Then, one day, you could show your local session what they’re missing.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

"An accomplished musician can make any tune beautiful and interesting."

Yet another case in point (tune in question starts at roughly 4:40):

https://youtu.be/TlT3CmtKTqo?t=280

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

The thing about IWW supposedly originating in a play reminds me of the lifelong work of Dr Andrew Charlton, expert on Renaissance music: reconstructing the music of the Shakespeare plays.

He talked of it often. It seemed to me that Dr Charlton took it as a given that the music was popular music of the period, not written by Shakespeare for the plays.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

If it was always played like Johnny Doherty played it I could probably learn to like it……………

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

I love hearing a tune I’ve dismissed played really well - the Fiddlesticks version is played with such pronounced lift - I’ve always heard it as a relentless repetitive din.

I’m unlikely to get practicing it to the sophistication of John Doherty but I’m glad to hear it’s not solely an awkward imposition on the tradition - part of the reason it irritated me and, doubtless, many others.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

# christy taylor: sure you’d be quite safe with Dingle Regatta, Wild Rover or Wild Mountain Thyme in my town! Those aversions occurred at another festival far away from here! And they’d just love IWW!

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Have you tried "Cutting Bracken" (Scottish), I find that simple and most pleasant.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Francis O’Neill in his Irish Folk Music states that there are printed versions of the tune of The Irish Washerwoman as early as 1782. The earliest printed score of it I’ve seen myself is in the book One hundred airs (principally Irish) by "Lieut.-Gen. Dickson;" I couldn’t find a date on the copy I’ve seen, but the printing style seems to date it around 1800. It was printed in London.

The play referred to is probably The Irish Agent by Bernard Francis Moore. I don’t know when it was first performed, but a printed script was published in Boston (USA) in 1895. In one scene the stage direction is for one of the characters to pick up a fiddle and play a few bars of The Irish Washerwoman. So the tune clearly wasn’t written for the play, but was already well known. The play is embarrassingly sentimental and "Oirish," full of lines like "Ah, Norah, accushla, but yer lookin fine today!" and "Shure ye don’t take me fer the ghost av Brien O’Lynn, do ye?"

If I remember correctly Robin Huw Bowen on one of his wonderful Welsh harp recordings has a song with a Welsh title which is identical or as near as makes no difference to The Irish Washerwoman. Perhaps the tune is actually Welsh, or both Welsh and Irish? I can’t find the track just now among the several of his albums I have, but if I come across it again, I’ll give the Welsh title.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

"A variant of the modern version of the tune appears as air 13 in Samuel Arnold’s stage piece The Surrender of Calais, report Van Cleef and Keller (1980), which was first performed in London in 1791. It was sung by the character O’Carrol, and Irish soldier, and the song became known as "Corporal Casey:""

That’s pretty specific. Any reason to think that "The play referred to is probably The Irish Agent by Bernard Francis Moore" rather than, um, the play referred to (i.e., The Surrender of Calais)?

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

What I meant by "the play referred to" was an unnamed play mentioned in this discussion as one which "made fun of Irish people," which I assumed was The Irish Agent. When I made my post I didn’t know about The Surrender of Calais. I’ve since found a copy of that play and don’t see anything in the particular edition I’m looking at called air 13 or the word "washerwoman" anywhere, though there are a couple songs which more or less would fit the meter of The Irish Washerwoman. No musical scores are given in that edition. Of course, even if the tune was used for the play, that wouldn’t necessarily mean it was written for the play rather than being used as a traditional air for the playwright’s lyrics.

Re: Recommended tunes within my remit but not universally contemptuous like ‘irish washerwoman’?

Okay, that’s curious - re: Surrender of Calais. I was quoting directly from a post in the thread, which was quoting directly from the Traditional Tune Archive. So, either there’s a different manuscript of the play/score around, or somebody along the line was stretching things ……

I don’t think anyone suggested that the tune was written for Surrender, merely that it was in existence by 1791.