It has been a whirlwind of a week, and I’m exhausted – which may be why I’m so late posting anything.
I spent last weekend mostly at the Scots Fiddle Festival, which has nothing to do with the Age of Sail, although with my usual habit of finding it everywhere the four bands in the two big concerts I went to each gave me something – a tune called Nelson and Victory ‘which isn’t from the North East but wants to be’, a Danish sea shanty with different characters, Cuckold Come out of the Amery from the Master and Commander soundtrack (which might be a good topic for another day), and just when I thought the last band had let me down, Bonaparte’s Retreat as the last tune of their encore!
In between the rest of the chaos, I have been rereading HMS Surprise and remembering the borrowed names, which I first noticed when I started looking up Joan Maragall to find out if he was a real person – and there was a Joan Maragall, but he was a Catalan writer at a much later date. Of course, there could easily have been many people by that name, but Joan Ramis is another writer, confusingly one who was living in Mahon at the time the books are set, but who obviously wasn’t Stephen’s doctor friend!
And of course John Aubrey is an English writer – and although Jack’s eventual library is inherited from an earlier John Aubrey, I don’t think there’s supposed to be a family connection.
Are there more writers hiding in the books? There is a writing Maturin, but none of the others have changed the first name, so I can’t decide if that’s an inspiration or not.
According to the Regency Dances, the first set of figures fits a tune played one – 16 bars – and the second set can be used to go twice through the tune, so the two figures are alternatives, not two parts of a dance.
There is an art to interpreting old dance instructions, and it’s one I don’t know much about – there were specific words used to describe figures now, and there are specific words used now, but they’re not always the same thing. Maybe I’ll find out more about it some time!
Thinking about the AGM got me thinking about the College Valley again, which is what I spoke about last year – after Trafalgar Collingwood became ‘Baron Collingwood of Caldburne and Hethpool in the County of Northumberland’, Coldburn being the south end of the valley and Hethpool the north.
You get the impression that he was never quite sure why that was the title chosen – the estate came down his wife Sarah’s family in a slightly complicated fashion (I think in 1805 she – or Collingwood – owned the half which had been her aunt’s, and her father owned the half which had been her mother’s – I did know all about this last year, and might go back to her family at some point, but the pretty pictures will do for today!)
It’s a beautiful place – I love all that end of the Cheviots. Here’s the view back up the valley from near Coldburn.
And here’s the cottage at Coldburn now.
These Hethpool pictures come from a different much earlier trip, when I walked in from Akeld, but obviously at much the same time of year. I still have some oak leaves I gathered on that trip, if I had any idea where I had put them…
Collingwood planned, of course, to plant oaks there, but never got back to do it – Sarah planted oaks on Hethpool Bell after his death, but they never grew as well as he had hoped.
The new oaks were planted in 2005 as a memorial, on the other side of the road.
I can’t look at these without feeling sore, as I fell off my bike and bruised and scraped my elbow halfway back up the valley on last year’s trip, and could barely bend my arm by the time I got back to the oaks – suffering for my art, if adventures are an art!
I might be off to the Cheviots on Saturday, if the weather improves a bit – cross your fingers for me!
I went down to Newcastle (again!) for the Collingwood Society AGM last Tuesday – apart from it being interesting to hear what’s going on, they have slots afterwards for anyone to talk for 5 minutes, and I had things to say, as well as wanting to hear what everyone else did.
And the meeting was interesting, hearing about what had happened this year and what might happen next year, and the plans for membership renewals now that the first three years are up. (And I have paid mine, so must remember not to do it again later, like I did for my RSCDS membership!)
There weren’t nearly as many people at the meeting this time round, but there were still four others wanting to speak, so apart from me, there were:
– someone talking about his experiences in Collingwood House at school, which was very entertaining, although half of it was about Edith Cavell and a bridge where bungee jumping was invented!
– someone giving the history of all the ships called Royal Sovereign
– someone who had set Collingwood’s life story to the tune of the Drunken Sailor
– someone with a (probably Victorian) telescope to show
All very interesting – and none of us could keep to 5 minutes!
I spoke about tunes named after Collingwood, which I’ve been tracking down for a long time now – I’m up to 5, although I only have the music for two.
I’ve been hunting, basically, for anything with his name – this is going back to a time when what we now think of as ‘folk music’ really was just popular music, and a lot of music was being written and named for topical events.
Apart from just being pleased to see him recognised, I’ve found it really interesting to see the variety of places in which this music has been preserved, even between my 5 tunes!
The first comes from a manuscript collection – which just means a book where a musician wrote down tunes that they played or that they wanted to remember, in the days when written music was scarcer – possibly copied from other written music, but possibly learnt by ear and then written down, so that you get quite a lot of variations in tunes between collections.
This one is the Thomas Sands collection from Lincolnshire from 1810 – so quite close to the time the tune was presumably written – and the tune is Admiral Collingwood’s March – you can find a typeset version here, or a pdf of the original here.
The music is here, written out with all the bagpipe ornaments (which I did not try to play on the fiddle!). Since bagpipe music only has one key, they haven’t bothered with a key signature, but the implication is that the scale has a C# and F#, although it runs either G to G or A to A (the pipe range is from a G to the A just over an octave above – although to confuse things further, what they call A is more like what most people would call Bb!)
The third seems to come from quite a different class of society – Lord Collingwood’s Waltz, composed by the Hon. Mrs. Coventry and harmonized by Augustus Voigt, and on sale for 1s in 1810. Sadly, as you can see from the cutting from the Universal Magazine below, it doesn’t appear to have been particularly original!
Sir David Hunter Blair’s reel is available here – I may yet track down the music for Lord Collingwood’s Waltz, as I believe there’s a copy in the British Library
The fourth is possibly the oddest of all – Lord Collingwood’s Reel, in a book of American band music printed in Maine sometime between 1819 and 1829 – Ezekiel Goodale’s Instrumental Director: ‘Containing Rules for All Musical Instruments in Common Use, Laid Down in a Plain and Concise Manner. To which is Added a Variety of Instrumental Musick of the Richest and Most Popular Kind Extant, a Part of which was Never Before Published in this Country’. There is an edition of this online, but it doesn’t have this tune – there may be a copy of the relevant edition in the Library of Congress!
The date is a bit of a mystery, too – the cover gives 1803, but the fact that three of the tunes are Lord Collingwood, Tars of the Victory and The Earl of Northesk’s Strathspey definitely suggest 1805 or later! More investigation needed…