reportedly from Staffordshire.
Village Music Project Code ST
41 tunes in the file, other tunes variously illegible or not
Probably Early 19th C., because of absence of Polkas, Quadrilles,
though someone with knowledge of the songs may be able to enlarge
on this date. Meg Merrilies was the old gipsy woman in Scott’s
Guy Mannering, published in 1815, so the MS is later than this.
My opinion would place it at c1820.
Our Photocopy of this MS came from Paul Roberts who was given it
in about 1980 by Vic Ellis. He thinks Vic Ellis may be the owner
of the MS.
14 of the 41 pieces are parlour song airs, giving a slightly unfamiliar
feel to the MS, nevertheless the remaining 27 pieces are normal dance
tunes of the early 19th C., most of which are well enough known.
We do not know what was in the rest of the MS or how large it was/is.
The handwriting is neat and legible (in the original), and the music
notation is competent as copying but sometimes wrong when authoring.
Given the complexity of some of the airs it is evident that perhaps
the majority of the tunes have been copied from print.
Top D is reached in 2 tunes and Top C in another 2 tunes, and not just
in the song airs. This might be taken as an indication that the
instrument implied was not a fiddle, or it might mean the writer couldn’t
play all the tunes properly!
Tim Willets coded the MS into abc for the Village Music Project, and here is what he writes:
The source for these tunes is a photocopy of part of the original
manuscript. Either the ms. or the photocopy (maybe both!) are
incomplete and some of what there is, is not legible.
Many of the tunes are Parlour Song airs or “art” pieces, and the usual
dance music formula of four or eight bar repeated sections is noticeably
absent, as is the usual repertoire of the 18th and early 19th centuries
to be found in many manuscripts. Many of the titles appear unique to
It is possible that the ms. was not for the most part a collection
of tunes used for dancing and/or the writer of the ms. knew what he/she
intended and noted the tunes in a way that was perfectly clear to them
if not to those trying to decipher the MS almost two centuries after
it was written. It is also possible that the musician only noted
down tunes they wanted to learn/found it difficult to remember and
that the vast bulk of their repertoire was not represented in their
The MS contains a large number of bars of lengths that are at odds
with the time signatures indicated and some accidentals that are
musically “surprising”. I have not “corrected” any of these “errors”
as to do so requires significant editorial decisions to be made. The
material is therefore presented “as is”, to the extent that the abc
system allows. Many of the tunes have Italian “classical” tempo and
other indications and a great deal of slurring, staccato, accents
and grace notes are indicated. This perhaps suggests that at least
those tunes were copied from a printed source.
Note regarding transcription.
The abc was transcribed in accordance with the 1.6 abc standard and
checked for compatibility with abc2ps (under Linux) and abc2win2.1.
Some of the markings defined within the abc standard (e.g. staccato)
are supported by abc2ps but not abc2win2.1. As abc2win handles the
coding it does not recognise by simply ignoring it I have left the
coding in the abc for the benefit of those with alternatives to