The Old Wife Of Coverdale slip jig

Also known as Ampleforth Sword Dance.

There are 3 recordings of this tune.

The Old Wife Of Coverdale has been added to 1 tune set.

The Old Wife Of Coverdale has been added to 37 tunebooks.

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Three settings

X: 1
T: The Old Wife Of Coverdale
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Amin
ABA c2e edc|BAB G2B BGE|ABA c2e edc|BAB GAB A3:|
|:agf edc B3|g3 B3 e2g|agf edc B2B|GAB A3 A3:|
X: 2
T: The Old Wife Of Coverdale
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Amin
|:A3 c2e edc|B3 G2B dBG|A3 c2e edc|BAB GAB A3:|
|:age edc B3|g3 egd e2g|age edc B3|ABG GAB A3:|
X: 3
T: The Old Wife Of Coverdale
R: slip jig
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Amin
|:ABA c2e edc|BAB G2B BGE|ABA c2e edc|B2B GAB A3:|
|:e2g agf edc|B3 g3 B3|e2g agf edc|B2B GAB A3:|

Thirteen comments

The Old Wife of Coverdale

A lovely slip jig from North Yorkshire (I think). I like the way that the last beat of the last bar of the B part feels as though it’s ‘borrowed’ from the 1st bar of the B part, i.e.
|: agf edc | B3 g3 B3 | e2g agf edc | B2B GAB A3 A2g :|.

This sounds like a 9/8 version of “T‘owd Lass o’ Dallowgill”, a jig used for several Yorkshire Longsword dances, particularly the Escrick and North Skelton dances. It can get very monotonous when played continuously for what seems like nine hours!

Old Wife of Coverdale

Seriously old. Seriously Yorkshire.
Used in various varients for longsword (See Sharp, swords Dances of Northern England).

It may well be a relict of the tunes used for circle dancing ( a bit like An Dro etc from Brittany), a dance tradition which we know existed in rural places but is now extinct.

Old Wife of Coverdale a circle dance?

This may not be entirely relevant to the tune, but I’d like to know why Noel thinks it’s a relic(t) of circle dance tunes and how he knows An Dro-like dances existed in rural places.
C. Nicolas

There are accounts in early literature from Ireland that describe ‘circle dances’…

Now to see if I can dig up something more specific… 😏

I have sent Noel an email forwarding your query…

Circle Dances

Circle Dances - we’;d be the only country in Europe not to have them if we didn’t. In fact there are lots of pictures and engravings from 17th and early 18th centuries and lots of mediaeval references from things like royal visitations.

People like Maud Karpeles went too far when she linked the Northern Sword dances to a mythical iron age priestly dance but the indications are that the round dances go back a long way. Our oldest dance is Abbots Bromley and it has a circular bit and a hey interspersed with a processional bit.

Its not my area of scholarship but have a look at John of the Green , Cheshire Way. There is quite a lot of background in that excellent publication.

“Early Music” magazine did an article on the subject, and it included iconography. That’s going back to when I was a subscriber, so ages back, but most major city libraries, or university libraries where music mattered, maintained a subscription. There’s loads to enjoy in those back issues…

Noel, I buried myself in the books, well, not as much as the music, but I had my nose there too, and I couldn’t just pick out a reference, but I saw plenty… Oxford and Cambridge both have amazing collections, as does Harvard, and the National Libraries in places like London, Aberystwyth, Edinburgh, Dublin, New York, Paris, Munchen ~ etc…

As you’ve said, it would be very odd to find someplace here in Europe where linking up in a line and moving to music, or not, as in the ‘silent kolo’, didn’t happen in some form or other…

Cecil Sharp was a nut case though, he took, by a serious mistake and ignorance, the American ‘Big Circle’ dancing as being something very ancient, primevil, the root of all dance, or some balderdash along those lines… Instead of listening and asking, trusting living source, he was too ready to form dogma based on his strong preconceptions, and the conviction that he knew, that he had the greater insight. Bless him for his work, but he did say some daft things, as do we all… 😏

There are also a couple of hisories of dance I’ve read through and they too deal with line and circle dancing and its mention and representation in literature and art. I don’t have that library here. I’m trying to remember a name or two, or a scholar. There’s also a journal out of Jersey on dance, and I’m pretty sure they dealt with it in a past issue.

I just went looking and trying to shake out a memory, no luck yet. But, there are still some survivors, in the processional and wedding dances that still are part of the tradition in these isles and across Europe… Amongst my favourite are the dances of the Faroes, and the music for them, and I am also fond of the wedding marches of the Shetlands too…

One of my first purchases was merely called “The History of Dance”, and I should remember the author’s name, but my brain is not cooperating lately. I’m in a restless period, hayfever and asthma, which interferes with sleep and makes an generally cantacerous memory worse…

C. nicolas, if you let me know where you are, the chances are I can put you in touch with resources within reach so you can answer your question for yourself, and have the answers in hand rather than virtually…

I remembered, a crazy book, but an interesting read ~

“World History of the Dance” ~ Curt Sachs

Re: The Old Wife Of Coverdale

On his album “Through the Seasons: a Year of Morris and Folk Dance”, Will Pound calls this tune “Ampleforth Sword Dance.”

The Old Wife Of Coverdale, X:3

This tune has bothered me for a while. The original transcription by the Rev. John Tinkler, who collected it from Christopher Reine of Arkengarthdale in 1870, suggests to me that the old chap didn’t play it that well, hence the wrong time signature, 6/8 not 9/8. This is my attempt at a coherent version, with the ‘B’ part following the structure of the ‘A’ part. See