Elsie (Alice) Marley was an innkeeper’s wife in the Swan in Picktree, County Durham in the 1700’s. Apparently she was quite a character, and some stories of her life and death have been documented - fortunate that this was so otherwise the origins of this tune would have been lost, and its Northumbrian origins might have been forgotten. This jig is usually played in pubs in the Northeast as an instrumental, but it is in fact a song, which is often used in competitions since it is fast and full of leaps of 6ths etc. The words and more info about the song are available at http://www.folkinfo.org.
I’ve never heard this tune but I’ve heard *of* it.
In the song Byker Hill, which I believe is a traditional English song, there’s a reference in the refrain to dancing "… to the tune of Elsie Marley".
Yeah Byker’s an area of Newcastle - I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard reports about what it’s like from other people… I’ve never been interested in visiting the place (he said tactfully!)
This was one of the first traditional tunes I learnt, before Irish music came along and hogged all my brain capacity. I got it from a High Level Ranters record. I read that Elsie Marley met her fate in 1768, falling into a disused mineshaft and drowning.
I used to play it in Dmix, probably because it sat more easily on the whistle, which I played it on at the time. I remember noticing that this tune - the first part, at least - bears a passing resemblance to the Irish tune, The Rolling Waves.
This is the two part version that is most frequently played in North-East England. However, Robert Topliffe wrote out a three part version at the start of the 19th century which is wellworth playing.
The mention of Elsie Marley in Byker Hill is rather strange as the rhythm of the two are very different. I guess its an indication of how widely known the tune was a couple of hundred years ago.
On the geographic front, Byker is just to the East of Newcastle city centre. It has the best music traditional music pub in the North East (The Cumberland Arms), an innovative power station fueled by domestic rubbish and a European Award winning housing project. Don’t knock it till you’ve been there!
Angels of the North
I take back everything I said and apologise unreservedly! It was a slip of the tongue honest. Divvent tek a hesh on uz man.
That 3rd part goes:
|: G2g gdB | gdB gdB | G2g g^fB | =f3 fcA | G2g gdB | gdB gdB | cac BgB | A2f fcA :|
…with a roll ~ on that f natural in bar 4, or alternatively =f>gf.
Topliff’s 3rd part is really old and also appears in the Vickers manuscript (1770). I made an error with that F# - Topliff had it as:
|:G2g gdB|gdB gdB|G2g gdB|f>gf fcA|
G2g gdB|gdB gdB|cac BgB|A2f fcA:|
(I’ve cheekily added repeats in)
Can you not go back and edit the ABC to add this? I love third parts. I have this in my tune book but I’m scared I’m going to forget to dig up the missing piece when I sit down and learn it.
Kerri, if you go to "download abc" you get the full 3-parter.
I could, but then it’s not in my online tunebook. It’s probably past time I put together a tune collection on my hard drive. It’s easier than keeping them all in my brain…
Oh, alRIGHT then *loud tut and petulant stomp of foot* 😉
ABCs in tunebooks
For the record, it *is* in your tunebook. Any ABCs added in the comments to a tune will be downloaded when you download your tunebook.
Origin of tune
Don’t be too sure of this tune’s Northumbrian origin. It may be a distinctively localised version of the Irish jig ‘The Humours of Trim’. brought over to England ata time when the Irish were comingto England’s industrial regions in great numbers during the nineteenth century, Of course, the tune may be English and have gonethe other way, but who knows? A tune’s status should depend on its quality, not on its provenance.
Re my last comment
Having noted just how old the tune is in Northumberland, I must reconsider my last statement. It’s not invalid though; as a point of history, when did the Irish first appear In Northumberland? Or - and here’sone of those mysteries that make researching traditional music such a fascination and a pain - did they share a common source? Hmmm
Luc McNally & Eddie Seaman
I’ve given Luc "prime billing" here, as he’s singing :
Elsie Marley, X:5
This is not a new version. I am just putting version X:1 up a tone to compare it with other versions for pipes.