Your steel string guitar's true heritage - history

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David Kilpatrick

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Jan 8, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/8/00
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You may recall some threads recently about guitar history, Sor, Segovia
etc. At the time, I knew that guitar was important in Scotland in the
18th c and before, and it was much more like guitar as we play today in
some ways, but I had no real evidence apart from 'general knowledge'. I
felt the 'Spanish' or classical gut/nylon string guitar was the
aberration in the public perception of how guitar developed. But I could
not back this up. There's still this awful snobbery in music circles
about steel strings, alternative tunings etc because they think all this
is a 20th century American development of a 19th century Spanish
instrument. Now I will go to any lengths to set THAT one right.

Well, yesterday night my new guitarist/smallpiper friend Matt Seattle
came for the first time to our weekly session and got a slightly better
handle on what interests me (I played dulcimer and guitar with some of
his pipe tunes) and promptly emailed me about a friend of his, Rob
MacKillop, who turns out to be THE number one expert in Scottish guitar,
cittern, lute and mandoura music pre 19th c.

Rob's website has no tunes although he has seven CDs and a brand new
music book of Scottish tunes for DADGAD and Open G tunings, only just
published. But it has notes on the stuff he teaches and plays.

In brief: lute reached Scotland with Crusaders in 13th c. At least 500
manuscripts exist covering over 600 years of lute and guitar music
(where? I want them!). The first 'tutor' for Scottish guitar was
published in 1756. In early 18th century, the Scottish guitar was a
six-string, wire strung instrument (ring a bell?) and the tuning was
CEGCEG, an octave apart. Rob has actually recorded using an original
18th century 'guittar'. He also records, and does recitals, using an
alto guitar made by Colin Morrison. This is a short scale instrument
tuned one-fourth up (in A) and has five additional bass strings, total
11 strings.

I thought I wasn't talking through my hat when I said that Scots were
playing six-string steel string guitars 300 years ago! I had no idea
they were also using an open C tuning. Apparently, the volume of music
written and the popularity of the instrument set off a 'craze' in
London. Anyway, see Rob's website for more info.

http://www.sol.co.uk/r/rennimackillop/

Greeting from the true home of the guitar... and not a castanet in sight!

David Kilpatrick

ChrisRockcliffe

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Jan 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/9/00
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David Kilpatrick wrote:

> I thought I wasn't talking through my hat when I said that Scots
> were playing six-string steel string guitars 300 years ago! I had no
> idea they were also using an open C tuning. Apparently, the volume
> of music written and the popularity of the instrument set off a

> 'craze' in London. Greeting from the true home of the guitar... and

> not a castanet in sight!

David,

I read your post and viewed Mr Mackillop's website with great interest.
But I must admit I didn't draw the same conclusions as yourself
regarding the widespread popularity of a six-string, wire strung guitar
from the early 18th century.

According to many learned historians, the guitar, guittar, ghittar,
guittara, (various spellings) - as opposed to the lute - was first
popularised by its adoption by the royal courts of the mid-17th century
(Charles II, Louis XIV in France and Philip IV in Spain. This royal
patronage and popularity spread to 'street level' and to adoption in the
general populations of these and many other countries throughout Europe.

But where this info is surprising is literally in putting a six-string
steel strung instruemnt from 70 to 100 years before its time. If true,
it it would make most of the history books on guitar entirely wrong -
something I find amazing!. I'd love to know more about these early
c18th Scottish 6-stringed instruments and who was making them and where
they were being made.

According to the guitar history books, the first 6-string guitars
appeared about 1782 - some lute (pear) shaped - and a few guitar shaped
(2 distincts bouts). Although they remained an oddity (as against the
5-course instrument) until the very early 19th century - thereafter
increasing in popularity until becoming the 'norm' by about 1835.

There is no doubt that Mr Mackillop is a fine Scottish and classical
musician. But could this be Scottish exuberance clouding historical
fact?. I'd love to know more and see more evidence.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


mcdonald

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Jan 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/9/00
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ChrisRockcliffe wrote:
>
> According to the guitar history books, the first 6-string guitars
> appeared about 1782 - some lute (pear) shaped - and a few guitar shaped
> (2 distincts bouts). Although they remained an oddity (as against the
> 5-course instrument) until the very early 19th century - thereafter
> increasing in popularity until becoming the 'norm' by about 1835.


I wonder if a hundred years from now our counterparts will be playing 7
or 8 stringed guitars, and looking back at our instruments and
wondering, "why did they use only 6 strings?"


mcd

"recast the familiar until it demands explanation"

David Kilpatrick

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Jan 10, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/10/00
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Chris - the first question I asked was whether these were 5-stringers.
Rob tells me that the 'guittar' instrument he plays dates from the
1770s, looks more like a folk cittern than a modern guitar, but is
single coursed and six string. He also confirms that wire strings were
normal at this date. I suppose with so much wire string being produced
for harps and for spinets, virginals, clavichords etc it would not have
been difficult to string a guitar. I have offered to do the studio
photography for his next book in exchange for residual rights in the pix
for library use, so with luck I'll get to see some of these museum
pieces from the Reid Collection (he said yes please!).

Personally, I don't swallow the European royal court route story. I
think that's 'official history' from people who want to validate the
guitar and get away from its vernacular roots. You MUSt know the
Newcastle Apprentices Statute - can't find my reference, think it's
reprinted in 'The Democractic Muse' - which is Elizabethen in date and
forbids the apprentices from dancing, drinking, playing dice and playing
'gyterns'? Do we really think they were being forbidden to sit down and
play courtly music on parlour guitars?

We are repeatedly told that medieval music is not chordal (and I've been
playing some dreadful 13th c stuff from a Mel Bay book to prove it!) but
here were people holding an instrument with five or six strings, often
pictured standing up playing it (unlike lute players) and often pictures
in the company of bagpipers or players of box-shaped fiddles. It may not
have been a dreadnought, but I'm perfectly sure from the behaviour of
any inexperienced player confronted with a 'session' or trying a song
that these instruments will have been used rythmically. And I'm sure
that if apprentices were playing them, they were nothing special in
terms of luthiery.

I have corresponded a bit further with Rob and in response to a small
suggestion I made, he expressed the opinion that YES, there is a PhD
waiting for anyone who chooses to trace the migration of those 18th c
instruments with the Scots to Virginia.

What really got me interested was the tuning - CEGCEG - which is just so
similar to open blues tunings, banjo tunings and slack key tuning
(especially). We know that Hawaiian slack key with slide could never
have been played on gut strings - it doesn't work - and that American
Spanish 'cowboys' brought into Hawaii in the 19th c introduced that.
They obviously didn't carry flamenco guitars!

So I tried my recently bought old Eko small body plywood job with silk
strings tuned GBDGBD, considerably higher but the right tension for
playability. Great sound - like a dulcimer or cittern - and incredibly
good for Scottish/Irish material. Recorded about ten minutes of new
material yesterday after writing one piece. This horrible little guitar
sounds wonderful strung like this and rings out for ever.

David

> According to the guitar history books, the first 6-string guitars
> appeared about 1782 - some lute (pear) shaped - and a few guitar shaped
> (2 distincts bouts). Although they remained an oddity (as against the
> 5-course instrument) until the very early 19th century - thereafter
> increasing in popularity until becoming the 'norm' by about 1835.
>

Stonker7

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Jan 10, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/10/00
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>I wonder if a hundred years from now our counterparts will be playing 7
>or 8 stringed guitars, and looking back at our instruments and
>wondering, "why did they use only 6 strings?"
>

This drives home the point that to declare anything "standard" (such as the
standard vs altered tuning issue) is a matter of perspective and is relative.

They would (100 years from now) probably say we were in a "transitional" phase.
Nothing is absolute. We are always in a state of transition...it just depends
on the time scale from which you are making your observation.

Regards,
Fred Albert

ChrisRockcliffe

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Jan 11, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/11/00
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David Kilpatrick wrote:

> Chris - the first question I asked was whether these were 5-

> stringers Rob tells me that the 'guittar' instrument he plays dates

> from the 1770s, looks more like a folk cittern than a modern guitar,
> but is single coursed and six string.

That seems entirely possible and its only some 5-10 years earlier than
when the text books say that the first 6-strings appeared.

> He also confirms that wire strings were normal at this date. I
> suppose with so much wire string being produced for harps and for
> spinets, virginals, clavichords etc it would not have been difficult
> to string a guitar.

I'm sure that someone like JP can enlighten us here regarding
string technology and dates.

>From what I can deduce, wire strings seem to have preceded metal frets
by some 200 years. I've always understood that improvements in
metallurgy, machine tools, together with the development of the grand
piano in the mid-19th century had a huge bearing on the wider
availability of wound strings for guitars. Ironically, the piano was
the instrument that completely overshadowed the guitar in the 19th
century.

Like you, I also find this history stuff totally fascinating.

What interests me in particular are the facts about the 'chitarre
battenti' (or battente) which was around in the late c.16th and
throughout the c.17th. This was a very early steel-strung instrument
played with a pick and designed for strumming dance music, almost
identical in appearance from the front to the 5-course. But there were
major differences; the back often had a pronounced curve; the bracing
was stronger, the strings were fixed over a bridge/saddle and fastened
to the bottom of the lower bout.

It also appears to have been devoid of frets which would, in a gut
stringed instrument, have been made also of gut. Just how this was
played effectively without metal frets is a puzzle. So little is known
about them but they seem to have originated first in Italy and then
later in Portugal, but a few found their way throughout Europe.

Some of the few which have survived were retro-fitted with 6-pin bridges
retaining the original 10 friction pegs while others were converted with
the very early geared pegs on revised headstocks. But so few of these
have survived that any stong documentary evidence has shifted into the
mists of time. There is an example of such (or photo evidence at the
Dick Institute in Kilmarnock I believe. The University of Edinburgh
apparently has a great deal of info on ancient guitars also.

Julian Bream seems to think that the 5-course instrument would have lent
itself to 'frothy' dance and folk music much better than the later
6-string Spanish instrument. I would imagine that the gut-stringed and
wire-strung instruments were played together in ensembles - it seems
logical enough when they were around together.

> I have offered to do the studio photography for his next book in
> exchange for residual rights in the pix for library use, so with
> luck I'll get to see some of these museum pieces from the Reid
> Collection (he said yes please!).

Sounds like an interesting project!



> Personally, I don't swallow the European royal court route story. I
> think that's 'official history' from people who want to validate the
> guitar and get away from its vernacular roots.

I must disagree with you here. I think you'll find that the 'official
history' as you put it, is a matter of historical fact. Francesco
Corbetta's influence in the 17th century as a fine player, music
composer and guitar teacher of both strumming styles and what we might
now call 'fingerstyle', plus his enthusiasm and royal patronage was one
of the most significant factors in the development and popularity of the
guitar in Europe.

He was responsible directly for creating many thousands of guitar
players throughout Europe - quite a feat. Italy was the centre of the
guitar world and it was a true instrument of the people at that time.
He like his contemporaries used tablature and standard notation in his
teachings and the 5-course was usually tuned A,D,G,B, E in pairs with
the chord arrrangements very similar to our modern 6 string. The tuning
was typically a tone lower than we'd expect with present day
instruments.

I think if we all removed the bass E string from our 6 string guitars
we'd get a feel for the 5-course instrument's range, but keeping those
gut string pairs in tune must've been a bugger and the rosette can't
have let the meagre sound out anyway.

I don't hold with the conspiracy theory entirely, but I must admit there
is a tendancy on the part of classical guitar music historians to
channel all previous guitar development to the milestone Spanish
'Torres' 6-string classic instrument of the late c.19th - while
completely disregarding any other tangents altogether. They usually
avoid any mention of wire-strung instruments in any period - the Italian
'chitarre battenti' is the one exception.

> You must know the Newcastle Apprentices Statute - can't find my

> reference, think it's reprinted in 'The Democractic Muse' - which is
> Elizabethen in date and forbids the apprentices from dancing,
> drinking, playing dice and playing 'gyterns'? Do we really think
> they were being forbidden to sit down and play courtly music on
> parlour guitars?

I've heard something like that quote before, although I can't find it
right now or pin down the exact date.... but I wonder what those
'gyterns' were exactly? In c.15th England, the 'gyterne' was a
forerunner of the mandolin with a round back and 4 pairs of strings -
tuned in England to G,C,E,A with only the G tuned as an octave and the
others in unison. In Spain it was tuned to G, D, F# B. By the c.16th
the name applied to members of the 'guitar family'. If you can find the
source I'd like to know more!

As we're talking about 'Scottish' guitars and looking at references to
Newcastle, it's interesting to look at the two nations then. A Voboam
guitar at the Royal College of Music has a story attched to it about
being given by Mary Queen of Scots to her private secretart David Rizzio
- who was murdered in 1566 at Holyrood House in Edinburgh. The guitar
is now known to have been made 120 years after his death.

At the time the 5-course guitar reached new heights of popularity in
England and the fabulously decorated court guitars were being made by
Rene Voboam, the Scottish Presbyterian army occupied Newcastle. All
music playing and theatre was banned; taverns closed and drinking
banned; marriages and christenings forbidden; and widespread religious
persecution (Quakers and Catholics were kicked out of the city). All
coal production and a thousand coal ships lay idle with 3000 keelmen
unable to work at all.

It lasted 3 years and was not a good time to be a guitar or even a
'gyterne' player up in Newcastle :-). London was starved of coal but
still struggled through. A great deal of the wonderful, heavy Tudor and
Stuart period furniture was burned in the capital duing the harsh
winters of the early 1640's. (The curse of English furniture collectors
everywhere) It was also why the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745
received no support from Newcastle's citizens who were proud to be
called 'Geordies' after the Jacobite nickname for George's I and II (wee
Geordie of Hanover) stuck.

> We are repeatedly told that medieval music is not chordal (and I've

> been playing some dreadful c. 13th stuff from a Mel Bay book to prove

> it!) but here were people holding an instrument with five or six
> strings, often pictured standing up playing it (unlike lute players)
> and often pictures in the company of bagpipers or players of box-
> shaped fiddles. It may not have been a dreadnought, but I'm
> perfectly sure from the behaviour of any inexperienced player
> confronted with a 'session' or trying a song that these instruments
> will have been used rythmically. And I'm sure that if apprentices
> were playing them, they were nothing special in terms of luthiery.

We're jumping about through the centuries here... Guitar-like
instruments were found illustrated on Babylonian artifacts that date
back to 1900 BC. Instruments like the guitar were developed among the
Assyrians (chetarah), Hebrews (kinnura), Chaldeans (quitra), Persians
(sitar), Greeks (kithara) and the Moors (rebec). With the exception of
the last one there's a theme running through those names. I think the
returning crusaders as well as gypsies wandering west from Persia are
supposed to have brought lutes and vihuelas back with them.

The 4 or 5 string vihuela being of what we call the guitar (trad waisted
shape) and was about 4 inches longer than the modern Spanish guitar.
But the 8-stringed lute was the 'royal' instrument in all European
courts except Spain until the c.17th when the guitar (or guittar,
ghittar) took over and spread throughout the population.

The Spanish nobility did not like the idea of the peasants playing the
same 4 paired strings so increased the strings to 6 pairs. Spain
continued to use a six-course instrument long after the 5-course had
taken over elsewhere by the mid c.17th.

> I have corresponded a bit further with Rob and in response to a
> small suggestion I made, he expressed the opinion that YES, there is
> a PhD waiting for anyone who chooses to trace the migration of those
> 18th c instruments with the Scots to Virginia.

The Spanish conquistadors sold vihuelas to the aztecs as early as the
beginning of the 16th century. I'm sure the European guitar arrived
with many of the early European settlers in New England too. From 1629
to the English Civil War there were some 14,000 English speaking
migrants alone. By the end of Charles II's reign that had risen to
80,000. There must have been many guitars from France, Italy, Germany,
Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland and even Scotland and other
instruments too which found their way to the New World.

Many of the Catholic Scots who wanted to migrate to America during the
Bishops War and the Scottish Prebyterian persecution of the 1630's-40's,
were not allowed to. There was anti-catholic feeling in the New World
as controlled by the monarchy too. There was some significant highland
Scots (Skye) and Ulster migration after the Act of Union in 1707,
particularly to the last of the original '13' - Georgia - I understand,
and which took a more lenient view of catholics.

Scottish fighting ability was something Pitt recognised and the newly
formed Scots regiments were put to work in Canada not long after
Culloden - distinguishing themselves first with Woolfe at Quebec. But
the main thrust of Scottish migration came during the later Highland
Clearances in the 1840s to 1860's. In between, Britain was busy
shipping slaves from Africa then at war with the French in the New World
and then fighting the Revolutionary War itself and the war of 1812-15.
All this slowed down emigration.

> What really got me interested was the tuning - CEGCEG - which is
> just so similar to open blues tunings, banjo tunings and slack key
> tuning (especially). We know that Hawaiian slack key with slide
> could never have been played on gut strings - it doesn't work - and
> that American Spanish 'cowboys' brought into Hawaii in the 19th c
> introduced that. They obviously didn't carry flamenco guitars!

There are different theories about the beginnings of slack key guitar.
The six-string guitar was probably originally introduced to the
Hawaiians by European sailors around the beginning of the 19th century.
Guitars were also brought to Hawai'i by Mexican and Spanish vaqueros
hired by King Kamehameha III around 1832 to teach the Hawaiians how to
handle an overpopulation of cattle.

The gut string guitar brought by the cowboys had a very different sound
than the steel string guitar, which came to the Islands later, probably
brought in by the Portuguese around the 1860s. The steel string sound
caught on with the Hawaiians, and became very popular by the late 1880s,
by which time slack key had spread to all of the Hawaiian Islands.

Royal patronage played its part here too. The slack key tradition was
given an important boost during the reign of King David Kalakaua, who
was responsible for the Hawaiian cultural resurgence of the 1880s and
1890s.

I can't believe how long this post has become now... sheesh!!!

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


David Kilpatrick

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Jan 11, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/11/00
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ChrisRockcliffe wrote:
>
(huge detailed and highly informative post)

Only one comment - fascinating stuff! - is that when I said I don't hold
with theories of guitar being popularised by royal court patronage, I am
not doubting that it was at society level. I am just fairly sure that
this is example of an instrument already known to exist, and in common
use by common people, being adopted in court society and becoming
polite; and not an instance of a courtly instrument somehow being
noticed in court hands by people who never had a chance to see any of
this, and then filtering downwards.

David


ChrisRockcliffe

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Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
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David Kilpatrick wrote:

> Only one comment - fascinating stuff! - is that when I said I don't
> hold with theories of guitar being popularised by royal court

> patronage, I am not doubting that it was at society level. I am just
> fairly sure that this is example of an instrument already known to
> exist, and in common use by common people, being adopted in court
> society and becoming polite; and not an instance of a courtly
> instrument somehow being noticed in court hands by people who never
> had a chance to see any of this, and then filtering downwards.

David,
At the risk of being boring (god forbid) or exposing my 'anorak'
tendencies regarding history... if we were talking about the mid c.15th
rather than the mid c.17th I could see your point.

I find it difficult to separate the momentous general history from the
very lively history of the guitar in this incredibly dramatic period.
The written history of the guitar generally does not concern itself with
the politics and social history of the times.

Royal patronage by Charles II played its part, but the adoption of the
guitar was a two-way thing. The guitar was already starting to become
popular in England, although still secondary to the lute. Frivolous
singing was condemned by the puritanical elements, although hymn singing
of approved music was encouraged. I think that the combination of
patronage by the royal courts in France and Spain together with the
street-level popularity in England was a perfect reason for Charles to
push the instrument as hard as he did. But it also acted as a
diversion.

England had tried a form of republicanism and ended up with a dictator -
Cromwell - who acted as a monarch in everything but name. Charles'
restoration meant bright Royal Red velvet replaced dull puritan black
and white and people could once more enjoy themselves after 11 years of
tyranny and war. The first years of the restoration of the monarchy
was an uncomfortable time for Charles but he soon settled into a life of
unadulterated debauchery with a wife and at least 3 or 4 mistresses.

The threat of puritanical elements and further unrest resulted in the
monarch supporting many frivolous and diverting activities such as
"games, skating, dancing, Morris dancing, the Lord of the May, the fool
and the hobby horse, Whitsun Lord and Lady, carols and Wassails at
Christmas, plus 'paille maille' (a cross between croquet and golf),
horse racing, cockfighting and associated gambling. Some of these
traditions reinstated by Charles have survived 'til now.

The king's lifestyle was as opulent and vulgar as could be imagined and
he spent a great deal of time in the royal bedchamber with a succession
of royal whores and occasionally his forgiving wife Catherine of
Braganza. How he himself had much time or energy for guitar playing is a
puzzle but he did and was by all accounts a fairly good and serious
player. The women too were heartily encouraged to play and take guitar
lessons.

When the player teacher and composer Francesco Corbetta came over from
France in 1662 and offered his services, Charles' playing improved in
the process. Maybe it was a 'stress reliever' in what were incredibly
stressful times. Charles - referred to as the 'merry monarch' - also
formed a string band with several guitars - sometimes bringing in
cellists and fiddle players too.

In addition to Corbetta, he had Henry Purcell write music specially for
his string band (had it published later) and also music for the theatre.
Charles had opened the theatres up again and of which he was a fond
patron - encouraging comedy in particular. Actresses - not previously
allowed on the English stage - appeared for the first time - including
his own beloved Nell Gwyn. This had been the normal custom in France
for years.

The guitar had royal endorsement and lute players gradually took it up,
while luthiers started building more and more guitars to order. Every
barbers shop in the city took to hanging a guitar on the wall for
patrons to amuse themselves while waiting for a haircut or a shave. The
guitar and lute maestro Francesco Corbetta must have been enjoying
himself at Charles' court because he stayed on for eight years -
teaching guitar, writing and publishing music, giving private concerts
and cavorting with royal household.

The sprawling palace which was Whitehall covered a large area along the
riverside and the 'King's Music House' with a suite of rooms was
situated between what was the court of the palace and Scotland Yard.
(200 yrs later the site became the police HQ). Behind it lay the Royal
wood yards and the Kings coal. Oak logs were favoured in royal rooms
for the pleasant aroma they gave off - although coal was used for most
heating and cooking.

In the dry hot summer of 1665 the Great Plague (a bubonic type spread by
rats) hit London in a few months killing 110,000 people (a third of the
population) and the entire royal household - including Corbetta - were
hurredly moved out to Oxford, where they stayed - presumably playing a
lot of guitar - until February of 1666. Hardly had the last plague
victims been dropped into the pits and covered over, that another
heatwave struck. In Sept 1666 over 80% of London was destroyed by the
Great Fire which lasted for 5 days, destroying 13,200 dwellings and
making 100,000 homeless.

Protestants believed it to be the work of papists... Despite the strong
anti-catholic feeling, there was real guilt about the horrendous crimes
committed by the Paliamentarians. It is worth remembering that just a
few years before the restoration, Cromwell had exacted a terrible
revenge on the Irish for the murder of a few dozen English nobles. He
slaughtered over 650,000 people in Ireland killing the entire population
of Drogheda. The numbers just begger belief!.

...older puritans thought the fire and pestilence was the wrath of God
for all the wickedness and debauchery. In fact it had been started
carelessly at a baker's shop.

Personally my own theory is - that on the guitars that were spared from
the flames - we had the birth of the first blues! ... Now there's an
interesting thought :-)

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


David Kilpatrick

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Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
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What you need to do is to write a complete alternative history of the
guitar - I've seen the names (i.e. Corbetta) but only in isolation and
out of context. Try reading entire Brittannica section on music, for
example, which I have done a couple of times. Endless repetition of
facts about all kinds of music other than anything vernacular, total
'blanking' of folk or ethnic music in Western Europe, and the guitar
doesn't even get mentioned at all in the development of music
instruments section on 'lutes' into which category it is pre-lumped.
Corbetta gets a small mention.

I think you must have been something in a previous life. You don't go
and re-enact stuff at Sealed Knot events, do you? DK

ChrisRockcliffe wrote:
>
>(another huge excellent post about Charles II)


ChrisRockcliffe

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Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
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David Kilpatrick wrote:
>
> What you need to do is to write a complete alternative history of
> the guitar - I've seen the names (i.e. Corbetta) but only in
> isolation and out of context.

Now that would indeed be fun - although not a best seller! But I won't
tell you how many books I needed to reference to write these posts!
This thread however does seems to be you and I alone talking to each
other.

The web too is rapidly becoming the best source of so much specialist
information. The library in Cecil Sharpe House contains very little on
guitar from what I've heard.

> Try reading entire Brittannica section on music, for example, which
> I have done a couple of times. Endless repetition of facts about all
> kinds of music other than anything vernacular, total 'blanking' of
> folk or ethnic music in Western Europe, and the guitar doesn't even
> get mentioned at all in the development of music instruments section
> on 'lutes' into which category it is pre-lumped. Corbetta gets a
> small mention.

The change-over from lute to guitar as the dominant instrument largely
happened in Charles II's reign and Corbettas role was very significant.
So much of what is English and British - and what is currently 'thought'
to be quintessentially British - can be traced back to that short
turbulent and dramatic period.

What you're talking about here and lamenting by its absence, seems to be
a full and very detailed folk history of the guitar. Folk music from
Ireland and Scotland - papist or subversive or both - was suppressed
time and time again. (There's an encyclopedia all on its own)

The intense interest in ancient (pre-industrial age) Folk Music, Celtic
Music, the folk music spawned by our maritime history and the industrial
revolution is largely a late 20th century thing. From the now
century-old efforts of Vaughn Williams, Cecil Sharpe, (not forgetting
the Lomax's in the USA) - we have a preserved version of the past (with
largely cleaned up lyrics), but the interest in these cultural sub
strands - by outsiders - was minimal until the 1950's.

I remember Jack Elliott (not the whistling US one, but the guy from
Birtley, County Durham) saying that he'd been singing mining songs all
his life in the pit and in the working men's clubs, but in the 1960's he
got well paid to sit on big folk stages round the world and do it! The
songs were being transcribed and put into books just as the 500 year-old
industry was dying.

Many UK trad' folk purists today still don't consider the guitar a
'real' folk instrument - as compared to fiddles, various bagpipes or
even 19th century concertinas. I've been told as much to my face!. It
aint worth the breath really. But it seems to add weight to your
argument.

> I think you must have been something in a previous life. You don't
> go and re-enact stuff at Sealed Knot events, do you? DK

I don't now about 'Sealed Knot', but I've been to some of those English
Heritage events at large country houses renacting 16th - 18th century
life - they're very fond of the violent 17th century in particular BTW -
and they're fun. Costumes, sounds, smells, odd language etc - but just
as an observer. Most people go for the battle re-enactments which over
the last 20 years or so have turned into a very fine art - and with
cannon and gunfire - bloody noisy too! In the last decade the
associated period history folk music events have proven very popular
too.

But I'm not sure what I was in a previous life :-) I was a very odd
child... all my relatives said so. I'd get taken to historical sites
and dissappear into a world of my own. I could see Roman soldiers at
Hadrian's Wall, I could see Vikings attack the priory at Lindisfarne or
at Shields - even see the Scots attacking over the Cheviots and the
Hepple Hills... The first time I visited the battlefield of Culloden
Moor had a profound effect on me. Virtual reality has nothing on what
I've 'seen' mate!

As it's OT, I'll send you some stuff I wrote on this by e-mail if I can
dig it out. I've enjoyed this thread you started.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


Chuck Boyer

unread,
Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
to
ChrisRockcliffe wrote ...

> This thread however does seems to be you and I alone talking to each
> other.

Ah, but some of us lurk with great interest. Nice going, you two!

Regards,

Chuck Boyer

Michael S. McCollum

unread,
Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
to
ChrisRockcliffe wrote:
>
> David Kilpatrick wrote:
> >
> > What you need to do is to write a complete alternative history of
> > the guitar - I've seen the names (i.e. Corbetta) but only in
> > isolation and out of context.
>
> Now that would indeed be fun - although not a best seller! But I won't
> tell you how many books I needed to reference to write these posts!
> This thread however does seems to be you and I alone talking to each
> other.
>
On the contrary, I'm enjoying it thoroughly, albeit vicariously. Charles
II is outside my particular area of interest (belong to Regia Anglorum,
Norman Conquest era recreation).


>
> But I'm not sure what I was in a previous life :-) I was a very odd
> child... all my relatives said so. I'd get taken to historical sites
> and dissappear into a world of my own. I could see Roman soldiers at
> Hadrian's Wall, I could see Vikings attack the priory at Lindisfarne or
> at Shields - even see the Scots attacking over the Cheviots and the
> Hepple Hills... The first time I visited the battlefield of Culloden
> Moor had a profound effect on me. Virtual reality has nothing on what
> I've 'seen' mate!

Have to concur on Culloden..had a similar effect on me.

> As it's OT, I'll send you some stuff I wrote on this by e-mail if I can
> dig it out. I've enjoyed this thread you started.

I wish you'd share..

Mike (who is quite sure Saxons would've enjoyed guitars if they'd had
'em)

Tor Arntsen

unread,
Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
to
ChrisRockcliffe <chrisro...@scripto99.demon.co.uk> writes:
>David Kilpatrick wrote:
>>
>> What you need to do is to write a complete alternative history of
>> the guitar - I've seen the names (i.e. Corbetta) but only in
>> isolation and out of context.
>
>Now that would indeed be fun - although not a best seller! But I won't
>tell you how many books I needed to reference to write these posts!
>This thread however does seems to be you and I alone talking to each
>other.
[...]

Another lurker here, I find this extremely interesting and I'm saving
everything you guys write about it.

-Tor

David Sutton

unread,
Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
to

> This thread however does seems to be you and I alone talking to
> each
> other.

Ah, but it's the most interesting thread I've seen in ages

David Sutton

* Sent from RemarQ http://www.remarq.com The Internet's Discussion Network *
The fastest and easiest way to search and participate in Usenet - Free!


Uncle JimmyPie

unread,
Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
to
chrisro...@scripto99.demon.co.uk (ChrisRockcliffe) wrote in
<387C96...@scripto99.demon.co.uk>:

>This thread however does seems to be you and I alone talking to each
>other.

Others are listening. I plan to harvest this "keeper" thread from Deja Vu.

I know the last-century-or-so, USA, guitar history prety well, but it's
hard to get a glimpse as far back as you guys have taken us.

Thanks.

Jim Myers

David Kilpatrick

unread,
Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
to
Mainly for Chris Rockcliffe, but for the two other people out of the
4,000 NG readers who have interest in knowing whether guitars have a
history other than the one in their Dorling Kindersley Book of the Guitar:

I have been corresponding more with Rob MacKillop, sent him a tune on a
CD in GBDGDB tuning, and although Rob thought my tune sounded nothing
Scottish at all and was just 'celtic' in the current mode, he produced
this real GEM of information in reply:

> As for tuning your guitar to GBDGBD instead of CEGCEG - you have an
> historical precedent: James Oswald fae Crail in Fife published a tutor for
> the guittar tuned to GBDGBD in 1760, and about 20 or so Irish guittars from
> that period survive and were tuned that way.

Now those predate the Dobro or the Irish bouzouki by just a little. And
where are those Irish guittars? Mr Lowden, are you listening?

This of course firmly dates the six-string, wire strung guittar to
period before 1760 as tutor books are not often written for instruments
which do not exist in some numbers.

David

Richard T. Donelan

unread,
Jan 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/12/00
to
David Kilpatrick wrote:

> Mainly for Chris Rockcliffe, but for the two other people out of the
> 4,000 NG readers who have interest in knowing whether guitars have a
> history

Make that three, kemo sabe, and at least one on this side of the Great Pond. The
information that:

>
> > As for tuning your guitar to GBDGBD instead of CEGCEG - you have an
> > historical precedent: James Oswald fae Crail in Fife published a tutor for
> > the guittar tuned to GBDGBD in 1760, and about 20 or so Irish guittars from
> > that period survive and were tuned that way.

inspires several impertinent Yankee questions about these Irish guittars:

First, is "guittar" pronounced differently than "guitar" ? To this day, it is
common in Southern U.S. dialect to refer to the "git-tar", with the emphasis on
the "git."

Next, is the GBDGBD tuning simply two sets of GBDs, i.e., tuned to the same
intervals rather than bass/treble octaves?

What did the Irish guittar look like? Small-waisted a la francaise or
lute-bodied?

I agree that the existence of the tutor is evidence of at least a significant
number of would-be "guittarists."
Is the locus of publication perhaps indicative of a "customer base" for the
guittar inclusive of Scotland and the Irish Plantation, both prodigious
exporters of their children to the American colonies during the period c. 1760,
particularly to those portions of the Southeast where "git-tars" are still
played today.

Richard Donelan


Ronan Toomey

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
On Wed, 12 Jan 2000 14:56:45 +0000, ChrisRockcliffe
<chrisro...@scripto99.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>This thread however does seems to be you and I alone talking to each
>other.

Still listening here as well. Lurking with the multitudes until now I
suspect.

<snip some>


>
>What you're talking about here and lamenting by its absence, seems to be
>a full and very detailed folk history of the guitar. Folk music from
>Ireland and Scotland - papist or subversive or both - was suppressed
>time and time again. (There's an encyclopedia all on its own)
>

Not guitar history but certainly related to the history of folk music
on these islands.
Some time ago David and I were having a conversation about some old
Irish tunes and one in particular piqued my interest enough to go and
ask a few more questions. (Crúiscín Lán was one of the tunes). My
father is a wealth of information about the history of this country
and would know quite a lot more than I will ever pretend to know.
Anyway, what interested me most about what he had to say about Irish
music was that a song such as Crúiscín Lán, despite being titled 'The
Little Jug' and very obviously, on the surface, about the love of the
writer for whiskey is not at all about whiskey. After the enactment of
the Penal Laws by the English parliament, it was forbidden to use the
words 'Ireland' or 'Irish' (actually the Irish equivalents, please
forgive the English translation) in the words of any song, tune or
written publication. In order to get around this, it would appear that
song writers wrote about anything they could express great love for,
particularily whiskey, fair maidens, tall mountains etc as a means to
express great love for the land in which they were born. Of course,
because the songs were sung in Irish, the forces of law and order
rarely understood what was being said, but because the words
'Eireannach, Eireann' etc couldnt be heard they were ok.

>
>The intense interest in ancient (pre-industrial age) Folk Music, Celtic
>Music, the folk music spawned by our maritime history and the industrial
>revolution is largely a late 20th century thing. From the now
>century-old efforts of Vaughn Williams, Cecil Sharpe, (not forgetting
>the Lomax's in the USA) - we have a preserved version of the past (with
>largely cleaned up lyrics), but the interest in these cultural sub
>strands - by outsiders - was minimal until the 1950's.
>

Strangely enough, when I first started playing the guitar, searching
out web resources, this newsgroup etc I was quite surprised to find
Celtic music is so popular. I was aware of the success of performers
such as The Chieftans, Enya, De Dannan particularily in America. I was
in probably the best music shop in Dublin yesterday to have a look to
see if they had any of the Celtic music for fingerstyle guitar books.
There were only two available. Even a quick browse through Stefan
Grossmans or Happy Traum's site turns up twenty or thirty books. I
often wonder why Celtic music seems so much more popular away from
here than it is here.

>
>Many UK trad' folk purists today still don't consider the guitar a
>'real' folk instrument - as compared to fiddles, various bagpipes or
>even 19th century concertinas. I've been told as much to my face!. It
>aint worth the breath really. But it seems to add weight to your
>argument.
>

Same over here! A few months ago I was at a session in a small country
pup in Co. Galway where the usual traditional session was going on.
The musicians were giving it everything as always and getting a great
response from the others in the bar, all the usual whooping and
hollering. When they took a break the guitarist gave his guitar to a
couple of younger guys sitting next to them and asked them to play
something. One of the guys then played an Oasis tune and believe me,
he did a far better job than Liam or Noel Gallager could ever do. The
reaction from the crowd (apart from this well-travelled man of the
world<G>) was stoney silence. Needless to say, the guitar was handed
back.
But, of course, one of the beauties of folk music is that it is, and
should be, constantly evolving. In a hundred years from now, it is
quite possible that our descendents will be claiming that the real
folk instrument is a guitar and that one shouldnt be playing
traditional music on some form of synthesiser. I also think it is
important for us to remember that the guitar is considered a folk
instrument in the US. I dont think Elizabeth Cotten or Mississippi
John Hurt or Blind Lemon Jefferson etc would have considered carrying
around a big concert harp or a set of bagpipes with them.
Of course, it goes without saying that the guitar is a wonderfully
versatile instrument and ideally suited in a lot of ways to playing
traditional music. It is only since Chipping Norton that I realised
how important alternate tunings can be, (Would I be right in saying
that George ODowd's guitar was never taken out of DADGAD all weekend?)
but even without venturing out of standard tuning there is so much a
guitar can offer.

>
>Gan canny,
>Chris Rockcliffe
>
Thanks Chris and David. Some fascinating stuff in this thread.

__
Beir bua agus beannacht,
Rónán.

Michael S. McCollum

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
David Kilpatrick wrote:
>
> Mainly for Chris Rockcliffe, but for the two other people out of the
> 4,000 NG readers who have interest in knowing whether guitars have a
> history other than the one in their Dorling Kindersley Book of the Guitar:
>
> I have been corresponding more with Rob MacKillop, sent him a tune on a
> CD in GBDGDB tuning, and although Rob thought my tune sounded nothing
> Scottish at all and was just 'celtic' in the current mode, he produced
> this real GEM of information in reply:
>
> > As for tuning your guitar to GBDGBD instead of CEGCEG - you have an
> > historical precedent: James Oswald fae Crail in Fife published a tutor for
> > the guittar tuned to GBDGBD in 1760, and about 20 or so Irish guittars from
> > that period survive and were tuned that way.
>
> Now those predate the Dobro or the Irish bouzouki by just a little. And
> where are those Irish guittars? Mr Lowden, are you listening?
>
> This of course firmly dates the six-string, wire strung guittar to
> period before 1760 as tutor books are not often written for instruments
> which do not exist in some numbers.
>
> David

David, my memory is extremely deficit since my illness, but without
referring to the books I seem to recall a guitarist (Spanish?)
associated with Mary, Queen of Scots. Am I correct in remembering that a
guitar purported to have been his is still extant? I apologize for being
so vague, but not all the books are unpacked and I really used to be up
on this..at least that's what the wife says.

Mike..historically frustrated at times

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
David,

These tidbits of info from Rob are indeed very interesting - if not very
tantalising indeed.

We know from several sources that the wire strung 'chittare battenti' -
of Italian origin - with its arched back; its altered bracing; (stronger
than the fan bracing of gut-stringed guitars); its floating adjustable
bridge; and which was was common in Europe from the late 16th century
and through to circa 1700.

The last of these to have survived is in fact from 1700. Some of the
music/guitar books and websites I've read up are unusually specific that
the year 1700 or very near actually saw the end of these wire strung
instruments - although it does not preclude them being made after that
date.

What is unclear about the chittare battenti (for me at any rate) is what
kind of fretting they used, how they were braced to take the strain of
mutiple wires at high tension - indeed how they were played with a
plectrum. The more common 5-course instruments had gut strings and gut
frets. I have seen no evidence of a full metal-fretted guitar before
about 1800 - although 6 single strings are usually thought to date from
around the mid 1770s at earliest.

Gut strings played well on gut frets quite successfully and gut strings
played OK on wire frets in the early 19th century. But I somehow can't
imagine wire strings working well on gut frets. So did these circa 1760
Irish guitars have wire frets as well as strings? Did they have paired
strings - 4, 5 courses - or as this tuning implies - the 6 twin courses
unique to the Spanish version - or were they actually single 6-stringed
instuments?.

It's very interesting, but we need to know more.

Knowledge about the stringing, bracing and fretting of these instruments
is crucial to an understanding of how they might have sounded. I'm
sure that John Pearse and others could shed light on string manufacture
and what kind of wire or wire-wound bass strings could be produced for a
guitar in the mid-18th century.

Are there any pictures of these or is there a website of any kind to
look at or text to read? This stuff is indeed interesting David.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
Michael S. McCollum wrote:

> David, my memory is extremely deficit since my illness, but without
> referring to the books I seem to recall a guitarist (Spanish?)
> associated with Mary, Queen of Scots. Am I correct in remembering that a
> guitar purported to have been his is still extant? I apologize for being
> so vague, but not all the books are unpacked and I really used to be up
> on this..at least that's what the wife says.
>
> Mike..historically frustrated at times

History is frustrating at times Mike... Mary, Queen of Scots first
husband, King Francis II died around 1558 and shortly afterwards she
arrived in Scotland from France. She brought with her an Italian adviser
Rizzio - also her Personal Secretary - and who remained her 'personal
favourite' at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.

She then married Lord Darnley, but Rizzio stayed on. David Rizzio (or
Riccio) is reputed to have played a guitar of some sort. This may have
been either a six-course, Spanish style vihuela or perhaps a French
style 3 course + single top string (7 string instrument). He played for
Mary frequently, singing love songs and making her laugh.

Well you know what they say about chaps with guitars!!!

The suspected affair was well known both inside and outside the court.
A Voboam guitar at the Royal College of Music has a curious story
attached to it about being given to Rizzio by Mary, but the guitar has
been dated to the 1670's.

In a fit of jealousy, Mary's 2nd husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley,
(who was in fact also her cousin) finally stabbed Rizzio to death right
in front of Mary, suspecting him (probably correctly) of infidelity with
his wife.

In turn, she plotted Darnley's murder with James Hepburn, Earl of
Bothwell and she married this border warlord after he'd made promises to
save her throne. But it didn't work out and in 1569 she fled
prosecution in Scotland seeking Elizabeth's protection in England. After
some 18 years of Catholic plots, neurotic fears and conspiracy theories
Mary was executed on Elisabeth's orders.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


David Kilpatrick

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
Chris referred to this - it is a five-string, and has been dated to 120
years after Mary according to Chris (she is said to have given it as a
gift to Rizzio). The 120 years after would place it in use during the
Restoration period which Chris says is so important. DK

David Kilpatrick

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
Chris - the guittars mentioned are all single string, six course. Rob
MacKillop is quite clear in describing them as having more a
cittern-shaped body than a guitar body.

As various derivations of the lute had partial fretting, and the 18th
century Scottish cittern according to Rob's notes had diatonic (dulcimer
style) fretted with some strings given a scale different from others,
these instruments obviously didn't have wrapped round gut frets but had
ivory or metal inlaid frets. Remember that metal was not the only choice
for frets, bone and ivory could be used and replaced when worn. The
playing style, now that I have heard Rob's Greentrax album, is
interesting and heavy on trills and two-finger vibratos and ornaments,
but fairly light and without pressure vibrato or bending, so wear on
frets would have been less than with modern techniques.

Does 'battenti' just meaning 'strumming'?

David

Joe LaManna

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
In article <387DAA19...@maxwellplace.demon.co.uk>,
da...@maxwellplace.demon.co.uk wrote:

> Chris - the guittars mentioned are all single string, six course. Rob
> MacKillop is quite clear in describing them as having more a
> cittern-shaped body than a guitar body.
>
> As various derivations of the lute had partial fretting, and the 18th
> century Scottish cittern according to Rob's notes had diatonic (dulcimer
> style) fretted with some strings given a scale different from others,
> these instruments obviously didn't have wrapped round gut frets but had
> ivory or metal inlaid frets. Remember that metal was not the only choice
> for frets, bone and ivory could be used and replaced when worn. The
> playing style, now that I have heard Rob's Greentrax album, is
> interesting and heavy on trills and two-finger vibratos and ornaments,
> but fairly light and without pressure vibrato or bending, so wear on

> frets would have been less than with modern techniques.
>
> Does 'battenti' just meaning 'strumming'?
>
> David
>

Probably better answered by one our real Italian members, but I happen to
have my trusty dictionary nearby so here goes:

Battente (singular, battenti plural) is the present participle of the verb
"battere" used as an adjective modifying the feminine noun "chittara (pl =
chittare). Battere is translated as to beat, to thresh, to strike, with
some idiomatic usages that give more feel for the meaning, "battere le
mani" = to clap, "battere i piedi" = to stamp one's feet, or even
"battere a macchina" = to type.

I hope this helps.

--
Joe LaManna
Case Western Reserve University

Greg Thomas

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
Chris, interesting comments concerning frets of these early wire strung
instruments. It's often overlooked that the viol (NOT violin) was a wire
strung and wire fretted instrument common during the Baroque period (late
17th early 18th centuries), that a six string viol was not uncommon, and
that the instrument was tuned in fourths with a weird third thrown in. Sound
familiar? A history of musical instruments (which is on my nightstand at
home) does in fact make the connection, implying that the viol's tuning,
strings, etc were borrowed from the guitar or that the guitar's were
borrowed from the viol.

(BTW, the viol family and the violin family coexisted for quite awhile. One
fretted and strung with wire, the other gut strung, unfretted.)

My news server is notorious for dropping A LOT of messages, so I hope this
info isn't redundant. Fascinating thread.

Greg


ChrisRockcliffe <chrisro...@scripto99.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
news:387D45...@scripto99.demon.co.uk...

Michael S. McCollum

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
ChrisRockcliffe wrote:
>
> Michael S. McCollum wrote:
>
> > David, my memory is extremely deficit since my illness, but without
> > referring to the books I seem to recall a guitarist (Spanish?)
> > associated with Mary, Queen of Scots. Am I correct in remembering that a
> > guitar purported to have been his is still extant? I apologize for being
> > so vague, but not all the books are unpacked and I really used to be up
> > on this..at least that's what the wife says.
> >
> > Mike..historically frustrated at times
>
> History is frustrating at times Mike... Mary, Queen of Scots first
> husband, King Francis II died around 1558 and shortly afterwards she
> arrived in Scotland from France. She brought with her an Italian adviser
> Rizzio - also her Personal Secretary - and who remained her 'personal
> favourite' at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.
>
> She then married Lord Darnley, but Rizzio stayed on. David Rizzio (or
> Riccio) is reputed to have played a guitar of some sort. This may have
> been either a six-course, Spanish style vihuela or perhaps a French
> style 3 course + single top string (7 string instrument). He played for
> Mary frequently, singing love songs and making her laugh.
>
> Well you know what they say about chaps with guitars!!!

Excellent detail to follow

Thank you Chris. On reading the first paragraph the light came on and I
remembered the details. Do you have any idea if the guitar is still
about.
Typical GAS remark..tha chap was murdered..do I care?..my response..is
the guitar OK?...grin.
Well, I needn't bother unpacking the books. I know where to direct
further inquiries.

Thanks again

Mike not so much frustrated by history as my inability to recall it

Michael S. McCollum

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
David Kilpatrick wrote:
>
> Chris referred to this - it is a five-string, and has been dated to 120
> years after Mary according to Chris (she is said to have given it as a
> gift to Rizzio). The 120 years after would place it in use during the
> Restoration period which Chris says is so important. DK
>
> "Michael S. McCollum" wrote:
> >
> > David, my memory is extremely deficit since my illness, but without
> > referring to the books I seem to recall a guitarist (Spanish?)
> > associated with Mary, Queen of Scots. Am I correct in remembering that a
> > guitar purported to have been his is still extant? I apologize for being
> > so vague, but not all the books are unpacked and I really used to be up
> > on this..at least that's what the wife says.
> >
> > Mike..historically frustrated at times

Thanks for responding. I'm thoroughly enjoying this thread. How we got
here is important. Understanding little known aspects of the art is a
fascinating topic.

Mike

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
David Kilpatrick wrote:
>
> Chris - the guittars mentioned are all single string, six course. Rob
> MacKillop is quite clear in describing them as having more a
> cittern-shaped body than a guitar body.
>
> As various derivations of the lute had partial fretting, and the 18th
> century Scottish cittern according to Rob's notes had diatonic (dulcimer
> style) fretted with some strings given a scale different from others,
> these instruments obviously didn't have wrapped round gut frets but had
> ivory or metal inlaid frets.

> Remember that metal was not the only choice for frets, bone and ivory
> could be used and replaced when worn. The playing style, now that I have
> heard Rob's Greentrax album, is interesting and heavy on trills and
> two-finger vibratos and ornaments, but fairly light and without pressure
> vibrato or bending, so wear on frets would have been less than with
> modern techniques.

You're quite right, there are alternative fretting materials that could
have been used here... As I've said I'm noe expert on this stuff but
find it fascinating - and I'm hungry for more info.

> Does 'battenti' just meaning 'strumming'?

Joe LaManna's post is helpful here... I couldn't find my own Italian
dictionary...

All I can find is a quote which says that it was "played with a plectrum
and used for chordal accompaniment", so I guess it probably means
'strumming' or as Joe says, 'to beat, strike or thresh'.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
to
> Michael S. McCollum wrote:

> Thank you Chris. On reading the first paragraph the light came on
> and I remembered the details. Do you have any idea if the guitar is > still about.

I don't think so... having stabbed the guitar player Rizzio to death, I
imagine that Lord Darnley being the callous, jealous youth that he was,
would have murdered Rizzio's guitar too! Somehow I can imagine him
smashing it to smithereens, stomping on it and then burning it on an
open fire.

> Typical GAS remark..tha chap was murdered..do I care?..my

> response... is the guitar OK?...grin.

In this case probably not :-) As I've said the exquisite-looking Voboam
guitar associated with Rizzio here - although fitting with the idea of a
truly expensive and precious royal gift - is plain nonesense. It
matches in design, those that were being made in the 1670s to 1690s. I
understand it is in the Royal College of Music in London.

> Well, I needn't bother unpacking the books. I know where to direct
> further inquiries.

Please unpack the books, you never know what glimpses they bring. We
need some help here. Someone once said - can't remember who - that if
you want to discover the real history about anything, find the oldest
books and references you can. I've found that to be largely true and
unfortunately the older books are becoming ridiculously expensive to buy
and available to us only in reference libraries.

Gan canny
Chris Rockcliffe

ChrisRockcliffe

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Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
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Ronan Toomey wrote:

> Not guitar history but certainly related to the history of folk music
> on these islands.

> Some time ago David and I were having a conversation about some old
> Irish tunes and one in particular piqued my interest enough to go and
> ask a few more questions. (Crúiscín Lán was one of the tunes). My
> father is a wealth of information about the history of this country
> and would know quite a lot more than I will ever pretend to know.

I remember that thread and was impressed with the knowledge of gaelic
from you two. The silly arguments which go on in the celtic and folk
NG's sometimes about this are hysterical in more than one sense.

(snip)

> After the enactment of the Penal Laws by the English parliament, it was
> forbidden to use the words 'Ireland' or 'Irish' (actually the Irish
> equivalents, please forgive the English translation) in the words of any
> song, tune or written publication. In order to get around this, it would
> appear that song writers wrote about anything they could express great
> love for, particularily whiskey, fair maidens, tall mountains etc as a
> means to express great love for the land in which they were born.
> Of course, because the songs were sung in Irish, the forces of law and
> order rarely understood what was being said, but because the words
> 'Eireannach, Eireann' etc couldnt be heard they were ok.

The idea that the gaelic language - either in Scotland or Ireland -
particualrly as used in patriotic or political songs could fool the
authorities in any era, is a bit of a fallacy. Elizabeth the First's
power lay in her amazing spy network and secret services. They were as
good in their day as anything the modern MI5, CIA could muster. Queen
Mary had used the same spying techiques on the Protestants before that
and tortured and executed some 300+ leading people during her short
reign.

The supression of specific words and sentiments - in poems, songs and
theatre - although they could be upheld in law - were more of a
deterrent than a reality. Later in the Hanoverian era both Georges I
and II had the Jacobite songs transcribed and even translated - in the
case of Wee geordie - into German! They found the songs amusing,
viewing them as a necessary pressure valve for the entire Stuart claim.

The Hanoverian Kings despite popular myth were not daft and the facts
regarding the hereditary line could not be disputed other than on
religious grounds or grounds of political stability. It should be
remembered that at the time in 1714 when George I landed at Greenwich
there were some 68 prior clamaints to the English crown. George ruled
by Parliamentary consent only and without the hearts of the English
people.

The German entourage was mocked mercilessly in a deluge of songs not
just in Scotland but in Ireland too. There were riots and demonstrations
in London and people - mostly Anglicans btw - openly wore oak leaves and
white roses to show support for the James III the Old Pretender. The
Catholic Stuarts had as many enemies in Scotland as they did in England
- and not a scornful word or lyric passed then by.

The song 'Cam Ye O'er Frae France' is a prime example of the lampooning:
of Madame Schulemberg - "The Goose" Count Konigsmark "The Blade' and
the Earl of Mar 'Bobbing John' as well as George himself 'Geordie
Whelps'. The story goes that George who spoke no English had to have
the whole thing explained to him in German - which must have taken some
time and effort and which must have lost a bit in translation. The
references that were used 30 years later for Bonnie Prince Charlie such
as 'The Bonnie Moorhen' got round the letter of the law - although they
didn't fool anyone.

What was it that Oscar Wilde later said about Bonnie Prince Charlie?...
the only English would-be monarch to be named after three sheepdogs!


> Strangely enough, when I first started playing the guitar, searching
> out web resources, this newsgroup etc I was quite surprised to find
> Celtic music is so popular. I was aware of the success of performers
> such as The Chieftans, Enya, De Dannan particularily in America. I was
> in probably the best music shop in Dublin yesterday to have a look to
> see if they had any of the Celtic music for fingerstyle guitar books.
> There were only two available. Even a quick browse through Stefan
> Grossmans or Happy Traum's site turns up twenty or thirty books. I
> often wonder why Celtic music seems so much more popular away from
> here than it is here.

I've heard such sentiments before on the folk nrwsgroups. There is
plenty of stuff around but it needs to be searched for. Sought-after
books sell out quickly, shop buyers - young and inexperienced - often
haven't got a clue either about stocking needs or potential demand.

There are many young Irish who want to shed the images of the Irish past
and bring in the new. I find it sad that some young Irish feel this
way, but there are as many who feel the opposite and love Irish music
and culture. The last time I was in Dublin was 20 years ago and from
what I've read and deduced from Irish friends and musicians, Dublin and
Ireland as a whole has changed enormously. For many youngsters I'm sure
the musical traditions and what we might call the 'Riverdance
phonemenon' represent everything they hate about their mother country.
My recommendation would be to access the folk and Celtic groups and ask.
You may be surprised at the response.

> >Many UK trad' folk purists today still don't consider the guitar a
> >'real' folk instrument - as compared to fiddles, various bagpipes or
> >even 19th century concertinas. I've been told as much to my face!. It
> >aint worth the breath really. But it seems to add weight to your
> >argument.
> >
> Same over here! A few months ago I was at a session in a small country
> pup in Co. Galway where the usual traditional session was going on.
> The musicians were giving it everything as always and getting a great
> response from the others in the bar, all the usual whooping and
> hollering. When they took a break the guitarist gave his guitar to a
> couple of younger guys sitting next to them and asked them to play
> something. One of the guys then played an Oasis tune and believe me,
> he did a far better job than Liam or Noel Gallager could ever do. The
> reaction from the crowd (apart from this well-travelled man of the
> world<G>) was stoney silence. Needless to say, the guitar was handed
> back.

Being in the old git category, I'm not a fan of Oasis myself, so I may
have been one of those po-faced individuals. The change in mood just
burst the 'musical bubble' that folk were enjoying. Traditional music
creates an aura of ancient - almost spritual magic - something in which
an Oasis song - juxtaposed particularly in the environment you describe
- fits very uncomfortably. The wrong groove at the wrong time maybe.

A little aside here... I mentioned my ex-patriot American friend Caspar
Cronk from Kalamazoo in another post regarding his rather fragile and
wonderful '57 Martin D28. Well Caspar's other main instrument is the
musical saw - a toothless swedish job - which he bows remarkably well on
some of the slower bluegrass tunes and Old-Timey stuff. Well a few
years ago he was featured in an Oasis video - playing the said saw in
the background. I think I saw this once and I can't remember the date
or the song. Can anyone remember or shed any light on this video?

> But, of course, one of the beauties of folk music is that it is, and
> should be, constantly evolving. In a hundred years from now, it is
> quite possible that our descendents will be claiming that the real
> folk instrument is a guitar and that one shouldnt be playing
> traditional music on some form of synthesiser. I also think it is
> important for us to remember that the guitar is considered a folk
> instrument in the US. I dont think Elizabeth Cotten or Mississippi
> John Hurt or Blind Lemon Jefferson etc would have considered carrying
> around a big concert harp or a set of bagpipes with them.

100 years eh... I just hope people continue to learn how to play
acoustic instruments and to feel the real joy of making spontaneous
music together.

> Of course, it goes without saying that the guitar is a wonderfully
> versatile instrument and ideally suited in a lot of ways to playing
> traditional music. It is only since Chipping Norton that I realised
> how important alternate tunings can be, (Would I be right in saying
> that George ODowd's guitar was never taken out of DADGAD all weekend?)
> but even without venturing out of standard tuning there is so much a
> guitar can offer.

This one made me laugh Ronan... had you been at the old 'Water of Life'
again when you posted here?

George Duff and his Irish wife Ethel were/are from south of Edinburgh.
George O'Dowd wasn't invited, although I'm sure he'd have loved it.
George O'Dowd is the real name of one 'Boy George', fine singer and ex
front-member of Culture Club. There isn't even any physical
resemblence! Seriously though, I too was impressed with George's
playing and his singing too (yes all in DADGAD capoed at the 5th I
believe) - and he's a great guy.

I wish he'd partake in this newsgroup. Like you, Chipping Norton has
inspired me to new things and I'm currently playing around with dropped
D and discovering all kinds of new things.

> Thanks Chris and David. Some fascinating stuff in this thread.

Thanks for a great post from you too Ronan

> Beir bua agus beannacht,
> RÛn·n.

Please explain this one... or would you have to kill me afterwards yet
again?

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


David Kilpatrick

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Jan 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/13/00
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I prefer 'thrash'! I'm always being accused of playing 'thrash folk'!
the Italians got there first - good ranting, frantic,
pickguard-destroying guitar bashing. Great! DK

David Kilpatrick

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
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I grew up in Cumbria, and on 'Oak Apple Day' (don't why we called it
that, as the galls or apples had no connection) we children had to wear
an oak leaf, to signify loyalty to Prince Charles (who is reputed to
have hidden in an oak tree to evade capture). If you did not wear an oak
leaf, other children would chase you with nettles (similar to poison
ivy, for US readers) and sting you. I did this when I was at school for
ages 4 to 6. Then I left Cumberland (as it then was) and never heard of
it again. I have no idea when this day was, but it must have been when
leaves were on the oak trees. We were always told the oak lead
connection was with Bonny Prince Charlie and not the Old Pretender, and
we sang Over the Sea to Skye on that day. Perhaps our traditions were muddled.

David

ChrisRockcliffe

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
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David Kilpatrick wrote:
>
> I grew up in Cumbria, and on 'Oak Apple Day' (don't why we called it
> that, as the galls or apples had no connection) we children had to wear
> an oak leaf, to signify loyalty to Prince Charles (who is reputed to
> have hidden in an oak tree to evade capture). If you did not wear an oak
> leaf, other children would chase you with nettles (similar to poison
> ivy, for US readers) and sting you. I did this when I was at school for
> ages 4 to 6. Then I left Cumberland (as it then was) and never heard of
> it again. I have no idea when this day was, but it must have been when
> leaves were on the oak trees. We were always told the oak lead
> connection was with Bonny Prince Charlie and not the Old Pretender, and
> we sang Over the Sea to Skye on that day. Perhaps our traditions were muddled.

David,

I'm sure that living where you do in Kelso you're well aware of the
Jacobite history. I don't think the traditions were muddled in the
north - but rather just lumped together.

'Oak Apple Day' (29th May) commemorating the Restoration of the Monarchy
in 1660, was celebrated in Northumberland too - largely because of those
later Jacobite connections - without any support in the South of
England.

The significance of Charles Stuart hiding in that Oak Tree at Boscobel
Shropshire and his subsequent escape to France cannot be
underestimated. Had he been captured and executed the whole history of
England would have been very different. The guitar which we've
discussed at length already - may not have gained the popularity it did
either. The Stuart guitar playing tradition was passed on to his
maternal grandson and great grandson.

The Northumbrian Jacobites played a leading role in the 1715 rebellion
but were almost non-existent 30 years later. James Radcliffe 3rd Earl
of Derwentwater was the most prominent - being a maternal grandson of
Charles II. His son Charles in turn supported the '45. Perhaps they
had both inherited their grandfather's/ great-grandfather's guitar
playing abilities and sang Jacobite songs - but there's no mention of
which ones unfortunately.

In 1714 there were many Northumbrian supporters - and a few in
Cumberland and what was Westmoreland - preparing for the arrival of the
'Old Chevalier' or 'Old Pretender' (depending on which side you were on)
at Peterhead. After it failed, they were rounded up and publicly
executed. They included Lords Derwentwater, Widdrington, Kenmure,
Nithsdale, Carnwath and Nairn. The huge Scottish and Irish support had
never come as planned.

The only reference I can find to guitar playing, relates to James'
beautiful young wife-to-be Anna Maria Webb. When in 1712 a competitor
for her affections presented her with a rose, she fixed it to her
dress. The handsome young Earl was very very jealous of this and
particularly when she refused to give it up.

The story goes..."the Earl retired for the night in an unusually sullen
manner. But unable to sleep, he arose and stole silently to beneath Anna
Maria's window and - accompanying himself on the guitar - composed the
following serenade":

When I watch the sun as he sinks to rest,
On his purple couch in the gorgeous west,
Oh, then I think of your deep blue eye,
Far dearer to me than the gorgeous sky,

When I see the pale moon from the ocean arise,
Which, a flood of silver before her lies;
Oh, then I think a smile from thee
Would be lovlier far than the moonlit sea.

When I hear the nightingale down in the grove,
Warbling his notes in the tenderest love;
My heart then fondly turns to thee
For sweeter by far is thy voice to me.

She was overcome by this and opening the window threw down the rose
given by her admirer. The Earl married her soon after. He was a smooth
singing young bugger was he not? I wonder what that guitar was like
too... most likely a five-course affair. (The son Charles who was at
his father's execution was later also a fine guitarist).

After his arrest, his lovely young wife pleaded with George I to spare
him but to no avail. She managed to steal his body together with the
severed head and return it via a circuitous route back to
Northumberland. As the body reached Durham there were strange lights in
the sky - (the Aurora Borealis) brighter than had ever been seen before
and the spouts at Devil's Water and Dilston ran red with blood. There
were many strange happenings at that time including people being healed
who helped the body's progress.

His heart was cut out by the family and sent to the Augustinian nuns in
Paris. Anna Maria never returned to the family home and a few months
later gave birth to the Earl's daughter. The estates were confiscated.

The Langley Cross stands on the roadside south of Haydon Bridge - not
far from Langley Castle. It commemorates the executions on Tower Hill of
both father and son for their parts - 30 years distant in the 2nd and
3rd Jacobite rebellions.

The Bonnie Prince was believed to be still avoiding capture in the
western highlands when James' son Charles Radcliffe met his fate on
Tower Hill in Dec 1746. Because of his royal Stuart blood, Charles
Radcliffe was, like his father, granted a beheading rather than being
hung, drawn and quartered (for traitors).

Afterwards, his family were allowed to cut out his heart and transport
it first back to langley and then to be preserved in a casket along with
his father's. His house was by royal decree to be demoished but local
people refused to do the work. His grave in the chapel of Dilston became
a kind of shrine and George III ordered it closed in 1775. In 1805 the
Greenwich Hospital Commissioners ordered it to be opened on the pretext
of seeing if the body and head were together.

The Commissioners found the body and head together, embalmed and in 'a
complete state of preservation': 'the hair being perfect and the
features regular and youthful'. A local woman a Mrs Walters opened the
coffin and held the head in her hands recalling that the features were
perfect.

Her companion a young medical student extracted a tooth and it was said
that blood had run immediately from the mouth and that she had rushed to
wash the blood from her hands. They did not close the vault properly
and an enterprising local blacksmith removed all the Earl's teeth which
he sold then for two shillings and sixpence each. There were many
gruesome tales and in 1838 the casket was found containing the heart -
removed by his wife 120 years earlier.

The Earl's life and death is commemorated in 'Derwentwaters Lament', a
Jacobite pipe and fiddle tune, as well as a song. The complete set of
clothes and hat that he wore at his execution - with blood stains
visible on them are still on display in the area.

The words on the Langley Cross are rather spooky and read:

"When a green oak leaf shall turn to red
The last Earl shall die in his gory bed
The fox and the owl shall inhabit his halls
The bat and the spider shall cling to his walls
His lands from his house the strong arm shall sever
And the name of his race be extinguished forever"

The place Langley Castle is reckoned to be seriously haunted and
personally I wouldn't want to be anywhere near there at night. :-)

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

David Kilpatrick

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
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Chris - right - Charles II for the oak leaf, not BPC. Remember, no books
here, just memories now well over 40 years old! But it was important.
You could get set upon pretty badly if you did not wear the oak leaf in
Harrington, which was within sight of Scotland. I wasn't born in
Scotland but grew up looking at Galloway hills and wondering whether you
could walk across the Solway at low tide, and being told horror stories
about the quicksands (an effective way of preventing children from
trying to do so).

ChrisRockcliffe wrote:
>
>> The Northumbrian Jacobites played a leading role in the 1715 rebellion
> but were almost non-existent 30 years later. James Radcliffe 3rd Earl
> of Derwentwater was the most prominent

> The story goes..."the Earl retired for the night in an unusually sullen


> manner. But unable to sleep, he arose and stole silently to beneath Anna
> Maria's window and - accompanying himself on the guitar - composed the
> following serenade"

Have ye got the tune?

(continues to the earl's son, below)

> The Earl's life and death is commemorated in 'Derwentwaters Lament', a
> Jacobite pipe and fiddle tune, as well as a song. The complete set of
> clothes and hat that he wore at his execution - with blood stains
> visible on them are still on display in the area.

You mention Lord Nithsdale as one of the executed Lords. He wasn't -
although he should have been. His wife engineered one of the classic
escape stories of all time, and he walked out of the Tower of London
dressed in women's clothing brought in by a servant. She sat in his
cell, holding a 'conversation' with him for a long time after he left,
finally saying goodbye and departing herself. The jailors never bothered
to check, until half an hour later. By that time, the two had boarded a
boat on the Thames, and they ended their days in exile in Italy. An
excellent book reprinting the letters and giving many more details of
Lady Nithsdale's life was published a few years ago by the lady of
Traquair; I have a copy.

Now on the pipe and fiddle tune one I do have music, and the words,
under two titles:
Derwentwater's Lament and Lord Ellenwater's Farewell (the titles are
concurrent). For some reason very few Northumbrian pipers play it. The
words are very similar to the opening of Sir Patrick Spens:

The king has written a lang letter
And sealed it wi' his hand
And sent it to Lord Ellenwater
To come at his command

The first line that Lord Ellenwater read
A loud loud laugh lauched he
The neist line that Lord Ellentwater read
A sault tear blind his ee

Go saddle to me ma best black steed
Go saddle to me the brown
Tonight I leave, I leave with speed
I must gan to London town

(etc - he has some peculiar 'portents' happen to him, such as a violent
nosebleed and his horse losing a shoe, which don't exactly make very
good ballad poetry)

The whole ballad reads like a pastiche of earlier material - even the
'saddle to me' stuff is straight out of the Gypsy Laddie, and at the end
there a 'Up there sprang an auld auld knight, his sword held in his
hand' etc. Altogether it looks like a 19th c mock-antique ballad.


>
> The words on the Langley Cross are rather spooky and read:
>
> "When a green oak leaf shall turn to red
> The last Earl shall die in his gory bed
> The fox and the owl shall inhabit his halls
> The bat and the spider shall cling to his walls
> His lands from his house the strong arm shall sever
> And the name of his race be extinguished forever"

Probably written by the same hand that produced the ballad? Once again,
all the signs of a good literary pastiche - 'gory bed' straight from
Scots Wha Hae, the bit about the strong arm is nicked from lines
relating to a Border reiving clan (instead of saying 'the Armstrongs' it
was common for poet-balladeers to use phrases like that), and the first
and middle lines are close copies (in the wrong metre) of Thomas the
Rhymer's prophetic style, specifically his own lines about the
extinguishment of Scotland's hopes 'When laddies sall lovedies wed', and
'When the hare sall kindle on the hearthstane'; the former meaning when
young men shall wed widows, the second meaning when castles lie empty
and hares make their nest and lay their young in the fireplaces.

In real 18th c northern poetry the names of animals were hardly ever
used directly, or their 'old' names or local names were used. Foxes tend
to be tod or reynard, owls are hoolits or howlets, and bats and spiders
hardly get a look in...

>
> The place Langley Castle is reckoned to be seriously haunted and
> personally I wouldn't want to be anywhere near there at night. :-)

I must go there and see some of this stuff.

David


JOHNPEARSE

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
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This thread is most interesting. I had never encountered a steel-strung
Scottish branch of the guitar family.
However, it should not really be a surprise since most of the Northen European
plucked or struck cordophones - laangeleiks, kanteles, vleers, laangespils,
etc. - were (and are) wire-strung...as are the majority of cordophones in Asia.

The wire-string tradition probably originated in Asia, in fact, and travelled
westwards and southwards along the trade-routes.
Remember, at the same time as the Crusaders "adopted" the silk or gut-strung
oud - which developed into the lute - they also "adopted" the wire-strung
Saracen Q'anoun, which became the English psaltery...so wire stringing of
musical instruments in Europe goes back a very long way.
The winding-on of a softer wire to add mass, and, thereby make possible the
playing of lower registers is probably linked to the development of the larger,
mechanically plucked or struck psalteries that finally became the clavichords,
virginals, harpsichords and from whence we get the pianos of today.
Looked at from this perspective, a wire-strung memeber of the guitar genus
existing in Scotland is not at all unlikely. What IS surprsing, to me, is that
no-one seems to have heard of it until now.
John Pearse.

David Kilpatrick

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
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"Richard T. Donelan" wrote:
>
> inspires several impertinent Yankee questions about these Irish guittars:
>
> First, is "guittar" pronounced differently than "guitar" ? To this day, it is
> common in Southern U.S. dialect to refer to the "git-tar", with the emphasis on
> the "git."

You can be reasonably sure it was pronounced the way you think, but
without much double-stop on the middle T. Scots and Irish would tend to
give almost equal emphasis to both syllables, unlike English which comes
down heavy and long on the 'tar' bit. Same difference can be heard today.


>
> Next, is the GBDGBD tuning simply two sets of GBDs, i.e., tuned to the same
> intervals rather than bass/treble octaves?

It is two octaves - but it is also, according to Rob, to be assumed to
be in 'Operatic tuning' which is roughly one full tone to one and half
tones lower than modern A=440 concert tuning. That is why my little
Yamaha Guitalele tuned to a modern CEGCEG sounded wrong, but tuned a
third down, it matches his recordings. So to get the modern match for
GBDGBD, we would need to tuned FAcfac´ or even EG#Beg#b


>
> What did the Irish guittar look like? Small-waisted a la francaise or
> lute-bodied?

I have asked Rob this and will relay his reply. My guess is that if they
are called guittars, they will be a cittern-style body - not deeply bowl
backed like a lute, but pear shaped rather than waisted.


>
> I agree that the existence of the tutor is evidence of at least a significant
> number of would-be "guittarists."
> Is the locus of publication perhaps indicative of a "customer base" for the
> guittar inclusive of Scotland and the Irish Plantation, both prodigious
> exporters of their children to the American colonies during the period c. 1760,
> particularly to those portions of the Southeast where "git-tars" are still
> played today.

That's what our thesis is at the moment. With tutors for six-string
guitars published by two musicians in Edinburgh in 1759 and 1760 it must
have been a lively market.

DK

David Kilpatrick

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
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There are fleeting references to the instruments and the books in
various music/Scots reference works, and unless you scoured the shelves
of James Thin in the last ten years (when there has been a massive
renaissance in research here) you might not yet have seen these. What's
happening here is the realisation that if there were tutors - and I have
known that at least one book existed from 1759 for several years, but
never known anything about it - there must have been instruments. Rob
MacKillop's CD is quite brilliant. He notes down all the sources, and
many of the tunings. There are MSS of music from all over Scotland held
in the National Library.

Just remember that guitar was 'outwith' official music history until the
current decade, so 'real' musicians just ignored these if they found
them. They were a curiosity. Dundee University has been one of the big
influences in reviving real scholarship about guitar/cittern/lute music,
and Edinburgh in properly tackling vernacular folk song and music.

Rob tells me he was up in Dundee last week researching the Dundee
Guitar, Mandolin and Banjo Orchestra of the 1890s - now that's twenty
years before Martin made the guitar 'compete' with those other
notoriously loud instruments. I look forward to his findings. DK

JOHNPEARSE wrote:
>
> This thread is most interesting. I had never encountered a steel-strung
> Scottish branch of the guitar family.
> However, it should not really be a surprise since most of the Northen European
> plucked or struck cordophones - laangeleiks, kanteles, vleers, laangespils,
> etc. - were (and are) wire-strung...as are the majority of cordophones in Asia.
>

clipped

Bob Clayton

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
to
>
>
>The song 'Cam Ye O'er Frae France' is a prime example of the lampooning:
>of Madame Schulemberg - "The Goose" Count Konigsmark "The Blade' and
>the Earl of Mar 'Bobbing John' as well as George himself 'Geordie
>Whelps'. The story goes that George who spoke no English had to have
>the whole thing explained to him in German - which must have taken some
>time and effort and which must have lost a bit in translation.

And the Thames River wasn't pronounced "Tems" in those days, but that's the
German pronunciation (or close to it -- my guess is that it'd have two
syllables, "Tem-es") of George I.

Or so I heard.

Bob C.

Quality music since 1963.

Ronan Toomey

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Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
to
On Thu, 13 Jan 2000 19:41:45 +0000, ChrisRockcliffe
<chrisro...@scripto99.demon.co.uk> wrote:

I be brief...bit of a hangover today.

<snip>


>
>I remember that thread and was impressed with the knowledge of gaelic
>from you two. The silly arguments which go on in the celtic and folk
>NG's sometimes about this are hysterical in more than one sense.
>

I would have preferred to have even more knowledge of my own native
language having had to study it for 12 years at school. Unfortunately
Irish has suffered badly in the past thirty years from very dated
teaching methods. If it was taught in the same manner as French,
Spanish etc there would be a lot more people here able to speak it
with fluency. I can nearly speak better French than Irish.

<snip>


>
>The supression of specific words and sentiments - in poems, songs and
>theatre - although they could be upheld in law - were more of a
>deterrent than a reality.

Of course. But it did lead to a lot of very strange songs written
about little jugs etc.


<snip>


>
>There are many young Irish who want to shed the images of the Irish past
>and bring in the new. I find it sad that some young Irish feel this
>way, but there are as many who feel the opposite and love Irish music
>and culture. The last time I was in Dublin was 20 years ago and from
>what I've read and deduced from Irish friends and musicians, Dublin and
>Ireland as a whole has changed enormously. For many youngsters I'm sure
>the musical traditions and what we might call the 'Riverdance
>phonemenon' represent everything they hate about their mother country.
>My recommendation would be to access the folk and Celtic groups and ask.

Historically, mass emmigration from this country (pop. 7 million in
1840s down to 3.5 million in late 1980, although rising again) is
probably accountable for a certain amount of the popularity of Irish
and Celtic music abroad. But it is fair to say that Irish traditions
and music are becoming more popular again. Strangely, Riverdance
caused no end of controversy here amongst the more die-hard
traditionalists. Arm movements were never part of Irish dancing until
Riverdance.

<snip>


>
>Being in the old git category, I'm not a fan of Oasis myself, so I may
>have been one of those po-faced individuals. The change in mood just
>burst the 'musical bubble' that folk were enjoying. Traditional music
>creates an aura of ancient - almost spritual magic - something in which
>an Oasis song - juxtaposed particularly in the environment you describe
>- fits very uncomfortably. The wrong groove at the wrong time maybe.

But to me, the idea that different musical tastes can live side by
side is more appealing than the utter condemnation of one particular
form in preference to another. The two young guys that did the Oasis
number may well have left that pub thinking that the attitude shown
towards them was typical of any or all traditional music fans.
Misguided though that thought may be, it is incidents like this than
can cause hatred of old traditions.

>or the song. Can anyone remember or shed any light on this video?

Fraid I'm not much of an Oasis fan myself

<snip more name errors by me<G>>

>This one made me laugh Ronan... had you been at the old 'Water of Life'
>again when you posted here?

Probably. Apologies for another name mix-up by me.

<snip>

>
>> Beir bua agus beannacht,
>> RÛn·n.

Interesting. The fadas on the o and a in my name have got mangled.
Must check this.


>
>Please explain this one... or would you have to kill me afterwards yet
>again?
>

Best wishes but it translates literally as Have gifts and blessings.
Dosent really translate directly to English.

Orsino

unread,
Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
to
> The change-over from lute to guitar as the dominant instrument largely
> happened in Charles II's reign and Corbettas role was very significant.
>
Impressive post Chris. You only missed out two periods of history - the
dinosaur era and the cavemen.

Orsino

unread,
Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
to
> The Northumbrian Jacobites played a leading role in the 1715 rebellion
> but were almost non-existent 30 years later. James Radcliffe 3rd Earl
> of Derwentwater was the most prominent - being a maternal grandson of
> Charles II. His son Charles in turn supported the '45.
>
My mother is from the Banff area of Scotland and so I struggle a bit with
all this talk of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion as the Scots, ie my ancestors,
were butchered all the way back as they retreated from Culloden.


ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/14/00
to

Graham,

We will be covering the Romano-Celtic guitar in future threads :-)

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
Bob Clayton wrote:

> And the Thames River wasn't pronounced "Tems" in those days, but that's the
> German pronunciation (or close to it -- my guess is that it'd have two
> syllables, "Tem-es") of George I.
>
> Or so I heard.

First I've heard about that... but the river was a bit of a disgrace in
those days and was probably called 'that bloody stinking open sewer' on
any hot day!...
...or whatever that is in German :-)

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
David Kilpatrick wrote:
>
> Chris - right - Charles II for the oak leaf, not BPC.

I didn't know you'd got this bit wrong 'til you said this, because you'd
already made the connection with the Stuart claimants. This is why the
Oak Apple Day persisted in the North. People in England went on talking
about the Stuart claim right up until Victorian times.

> You could get set upon pretty badly if you did not wear the oak leaf in
> Harrington, which was within sight of Scotland.

As far as I'm aware it was also a tradition in Rothbury and Hexham
areas, also in Warkworth where James Lord Derwentwater had amassed his
first 200 Jacobite horesemen. Alnwick, seat of the Earls and Dukes of
Northumberland just a few miles away was a different story.



> I wasn't born in Scotland but grew up looking at Galloway hills and
> wondering whether you could walk across the Solway at low tide, and
> being told horror stories about the quicksands (an effective way of
> preventing children from trying to do so).

David, your own moves from Cumberland to Yorkshire and then to the
borders is very interesting mix of roots. There is a high point near
Haydon Bridge or just to its west where - on a good day - you can see
both the North Sea Tyne estuary and the Solway Firth into the Irish
Sea. I imagined Emperor Hadrian sitting on his horse up there saying,
"Right lads, we're building a bloody great wall from.... over
there.......to over here!... so get cracking!

> > The story goes..."the Earl retired for the night in an unusually sullen
> > manner. But unable to sleep, he arose and stole silently to beneath Anna
> > Maria's window and - accompanying himself on the guitar - composed the
> > following serenade"
>
> Have ye got the tune?

Somehow I just knew you were going to ask that. No I don't, but if it
was an impromptu lyric - or a hurredly hatched song - as the story
suggests, then it was probably an impromptu tune on the guitar as well.
Why don't you write one for it - a border style tune?


>
> (continues to the earl's son, below)
>
> > The Earl's life and death is commemorated in 'Derwentwaters Lament', a
> > Jacobite pipe and fiddle tune, as well as a song. The complete set of
> > clothes and hat that he wore at his execution - with blood stains
> > visible on them are still on display in the area.
>
> You mention Lord Nithsdale as one of the executed Lords. He wasn't -
> although he should have been. His wife engineered one of the classic
> escape stories of all time, and he walked out of the Tower of London
> dressed in women's clothing brought in by a servant.

I know the story, but didn't want to go into it here. Some people may
consider a lot of this stuff off-topic anyway. The reason for
mentioning the Derwentwaters was their guitar playing abilities and the
guitar heritage stemming almost without doubt from Charles II (yes him
again) playing and patronage. (pertinent IMO to this thread).

Incidently, the idea that Nithsdale - one of England's most dangerous
captured Jacobite 'terrorists' - could simply escape from the Tower of
London 'dressed as a woman' is nonsense in my opinion - although this is
what was actually done. He was no doubt 'allowed' - like a few very
priviledged others before him - 'to escape' - with orders from above.
Exactly why remains a secret and a mystery.

The Derwentwaters - two of the many illegitimate offspring of Charles II
- were both in Hanoverian eyes 'Stuart to their last drop of blood' -
and
weren't so lucky. The major hangers-on were hanged also.

The six of 1716 were told by the Lord Chancellor:
"You will return to the Tower from whence you came,
from then you must be drawn to the place of execution;
there you must be hanged by the neck but not 'til you be dead;
for you must be cut down alive;
then your bowels must be taken out and burnt before your faces;
then your heads must be severed from your bodies and your bodies divided
each into four quarters;
and these must be at the King's disposal.
And God Almighty be merciful to your souls!".

Nithsdale 'escaped' and only Derwentwater and Kenmore were allowed to be
beheaded publicly in front of a crowd of some 10,000 people a month or
two later.

> Now on the pipe and fiddle tune one I do have music, and the words,
> under two titles:
> Derwentwater's Lament and Lord Ellenwater's Farewell (the titles are
> concurrent).

(song snipped)

This following balled is that which I know as 'Derwentwater's
Farewell'. While imprisoned in the Tower the 26 year-old James
Radcliffe, Lord Derwentwater was supposed to have been brought a guitar
on which to amuse himself while waiting execution by the axe. He is
reputed to have composed his lament there. But the 'mock antique'
balled idea you mention is truer than often realised and which devalues
the Jacobite history immensely IMO. It is well known that he wrote
numerous long and sentimental letters to his wife and loved ones and
these have survived. The version I know reads:

DERWENTWATER'S FAREWELL

Farewell to pleasant Dilston Hall, my father's ancient seat,
A stranger must now call thee his, which gars my heart to greet
Farewell each friendly well known face my heart has held so dear,
My tenants now must leave their lands or hold their lives in fear,

No more along the banks of Tyne I'll rove in autumn grey,
No more I'll hear at early dawn the lav'rocks wake the day;
And who shall deck the hawthorne bower where my fond children strayed?
And who, when shall bid it flower, shall sit beneath the shade?

And fare thee well George Collingwood, since fate has put us down,
If thou and I have lost our lives, our King has lost his crown;
But when the head that wears the crown shall be laid low like mine,
Some honest hearts may then lament fo Radcliffe's fallen line.

Farewell farewell my lady dear. ill ill thou councell'dst me,
I never more may see the babe that smiles upon your knee;
Then fare ye well brave Widdrington and Forster ever true;
Dear Shaftesbury and Errington receive my last adieu.

And fare thee well my bonny grey steed that carried me aye so free,
I wish I'd been asleep in bed last time I mounted thee;
The warning bell now bids me cease, my trouble's nearly oer,
Yon sun that rises from the sea shall rise on me no more.

And when the head that wears a crown shall be laid low like mine,
some honest hearts may then lament for Radcliffe's fallen line
farewell to pleasant Dilston Hall my father's ancient seat
A stranger now must call thee his, which gars my heart to greet.

I have the tune too if you don't have it...

For years it was believed to have been genuine. But the truth about this
lament is that it was a superb forgery that had everyone fooled. It was
written 80 years later by scholar Robert Surtees of Durham and who in
1807 sent it and others to Sir Walter Scott for inclusion in his
'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border'. Scott believed it to be genuine as
the wording matched the style of the poems and letters of Radcliffe
written prior to his execution. Surtees must have been playing a cruel
joke on the over-enthusiastic Scott.

The bit that was strange is that the lovely young Anna Maria gets the
blame for his political acts - which should have been the giveaway.
Scott passed it on to James Hogg. Separating the nonesense from the
facts and true history when it comes to things Jacobite is a real can of
worms thanks to the meddlesome 'academics' and 'historic fiction'
writers.

> For some reason very few Northumbrian pipers play it.

The first Duke of Northumberland Sir Hugh Smithson (of Stanwick
Yorkshire) encouraged the Northumbrian pipes very seriously - and his
descendants still does so at Alnwick - but took no part in the Jacobite
cause after marrying the Percy heiress in 1740. For that, he was
granted the Dukedom in 1766 the same year that Derwentwater's Castle was
destroyed on the orders of the King. Jacobite songs have been
discouraged by that dynasty.

His success in raising sturdy sheep in the Cheviots is what launched the
Highland Clearances - a superb irony I've always thought. My own family
on my mother's side are descended from the first Duke's brother.

A little more OT but American readers of this might be interested to
know that Sir Hugh's son the 2nd Duke fought as a General against the
Americans in the War of Independance. His son, when 3rd Duke, suffered
the indignity of his father's illegitimate son, scientist James
Smithson, handing over his accumulated fortune of over $500,000 to the
US Government to form the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

It wassuch a sum that the Duke's name was dragged into it in discussions
between William IV' the UK Government and the US Congress at the time.
My sister has inherited many relics of that particular James Smithson
because although the Duke disowned him, his cousins maintained contact.

> > The words on the Langley Cross are rather spooky and read:
> >
> > "When a green oak leaf shall turn to red
> > The last Earl shall die in his gory bed
> > The fox and the owl shall inhabit his halls
> > The bat and the spider shall cling to his walls
> > His lands from his house the strong arm shall sever
> > And the name of his race be extinguished forever"
>
> Probably written by the same hand that produced the ballad? Once again,

> all the signs of a good literary pastiche - (interesting para snipped)

The Cross' inscription is the much later work of historian C.J. Bates,
who bought the remnants of Langley Castle and who installed the cross to
the Jacobite Derwentwaters' memory in 1883.


>
> In real 18th c northern poetry the names of animals were hardly ever
> used directly, or their 'old' names or local names were used. Foxes tend
> to be tod or reynard, owls are hoolits or howlets, and bats and spiders
> hardly get a look in...

Exactly, it's late Victorian!

> > The place Langley Castle is reckoned to be seriously haunted and
> > personally I wouldn't want to be anywhere near there at night. :-)
>
> I must go there and see some of this stuff.

Go on the 24th Feb if you like scary things... you might even hear a
guitar being played... Aye, ye be a braver man than I, Kilpatrick!

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
JOHNPEARSE wrote:
>
> This thread is most interesting. I had never encountered a steel-strung
> Scottish branch of the guitar family.
> However, it should not really be a surprise since most of the Northen European
> plucked or struck cordophones - laangeleiks, kanteles, vleers, laangespils,
> etc. - were (and are) wire-strung...as are the majority of cordophones in Asia.

Blimey there's a new angle... I've never even heard of some of these.

> The wire-string tradition probably originated in Asia, in fact, and travelled
> westwards and southwards along the trade-routes.
> Remember, at the same time as the Crusaders "adopted" the silk or gut-strung
> oud - which developed into the lute - they also "adopted" the wire-strung
> Saracen Q'anoun, which became the English psaltery...so wire stringing of
> musical instruments in Europe goes back a very long way.
> The winding-on of a softer wire to add mass, and, thereby make possible the
> playing of lower registers is probably linked to the development of the larger,
> mechanically plucked or struck psalteries that finally became the clavichords,
> virginals, harpsichords and from whence we get the pianos of today.
> Looked at from this perspective, a wire-strung memeber of the guitar genus
> existing in Scotland is not at all unlikely.

> What IS surprsing, to me, is that no-one seems to have heard of it until now.

This last thought is where I'm coming from too...

But I remember back in the very early 70's when Planxty started playing
Irish bouzoukis and other stringed instruments... I'd never seen them
before myself in Irish music prior to that, although I understand they'd
been around in the background of Irish music for some time.

I like to keep an open mind and I share David's ideas about the fact
that some wire-strung folk instruments may have not made it into the
history books about music. It is amazing how in so many music history
books only music which comes into the classical realm gets a mention.

We have little or no mention of the the early harp; the lute of Henry
VIII's period is mentioned briefly; the virginal playing of Elizabeth I;
but after that, the history turns to the viol and the first 16th century
acceptance of the violin, the wider development of the orchestra and its
instruments in general - without mentioning the guitar in any era shape
or form.

One such history of music book I have - written by John Russell, Fellow
of the Royal College Of Music - doesn't mention the guitar at ALL until
he gets to the Beatles in the 1960's!

Guitar strings - whether gut or wire - didn't come in neat little
inexpensive packs. Strings by all acounts - say for a lute - were very
expensive to replace and broke with alarming regularity. One 16th
century nobleman - complaining to the then lute composer John Dowland,
said that he could keep a horse for a year on the money his lute cost
him in new strings!

Thanks for the input on string stuff though John - very welcome!

I'm sure David will find out more... and we'll get to know about it.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


David Kilpatrick

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
There are two theories about final 'es' and 'is' syllables in older
English and Scottish speech. In Scotland, the common plural form of 'is'
or 'ys' persisted longer, but around Chaucher's time both languages
shared it in written form. So: we say 'birds', they wrote 'birdes', the
Scots wrote 'birdis' and just occasionally managed to write 'birdys'
which is a good clue. Today, of course, the Scots still speak the same
way, but people think it's a kind of diminutive - so they'll say
'birdies' or 'bairnies' most often when they are speaking
affectionately, or implying small.

The two theories are a) they wrote it, but didn't say it b) they wrote
it that way and said it (surprised?)

So the Thames might once have been 'Thamis' or Tem-es but so would other
words, and plurals, so it's not as much a change in our word as our
whole way of speech.

One thing we can be sure of is that this final syllable wasn't very
powerful - the metre of early poetry sometimes needs the 'is' to be
pronounsed, sometimes it can be dispensed with, but it's never an
emphasised sound. DK

David Kilpatrick

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
I have been taken to task, gently, by Rob MacKillop for bringing his
emailed information to me into a wider public forum. As it happens I
have not mentioned his precise sources, documents etc and I have
paraphrased or surmised on the basis of his info. But he is concerned
that he has two years of research left to complete, and a book to
publish at the end of it, and he doesn't want more snippets of unsorted
information about Scottish and Irish steel string guitar escaping right now.

Those who have followed this NG will know that my mentions of Scottish
guitar predate my correspondence with Rob a long way, and that I brought
his research into this mainly because it supported things I had
suspected from other sources, and added some important facts -
principally the six-string, wire strung, the tunings, and the 1760-ish date.

I will respect Rob's request, but should I locate any other sources of
information in the libraries of any of the historic houses round here, I
may just break a lifetime's habit of laziness and go and look for
myself. DK

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
David Kilpatrick wrote:

(snipped)


> The two theories are a) they wrote it, but didn't say it b) they wrote
> it that way and said it (surprised?)
>
> So the Thames might once have been 'Thamis' or Tem-es but so would other
> words, and plurals, so it's not as much a change in our word as our
> whole way of speech.
>
> One thing we can be sure of is that this final syllable wasn't very
> powerful - the metre of early poetry sometimes needs the 'is' to be
> pronounsed, sometimes it can be dispensed with, but it's never an
> emphasised sound. DK
>

> > Bob Clayton wrote:
> >
> > > And the Thames River wasn't pronounced "Tems" in those days, but that's the
> > > German pronunciation (or close to it -- my guess is that it'd have two
> > > syllables, "Tem-es") of George I.
> > >
> > > Or so I heard.

Little OT this one... but here goes... The Celic name for London was
Londinion. The Romans liked to keep things simple and just changed it
to the 'latinised' Londinium. The Celtic name for the Thames is
believed to have been 'Tamesa' and the Romans - again for simplicity -
used 'Temesis'. Just how it was pronounced down the centuies is a
matter of debate by etymologists and historians. I think its likely
that the pronunciation just became abbreviated over time with the final
syllable 'is' - as David said - dropped.

As for the spelling. 'Temesis' became 'Thamesis'. The 'h' was added
probably in the early c.17th, by antiquarians - in an attempt to make
the name look more classical in appearance. In 1616 we had the huge,
famous and wonderful Visscher engraving of the Thames and - which in its
captions - used this new spelling in all its Romano-classical glory
'Thamesis Fluvius'.

The Dutchman Visscher made hundreds of drawings and then after several
years work produced the final engraving in his Amsterdam studio. The
detail and accuracy was astounding - even showing the rotting staked
heads of the Gunpowder plotters on the Southwark side of the old London
Bridge. (Not the one in Arizona btw, but its predecessor) You can buy
Visscher's engraving in printed sections and I believe they total about
25 feet long when joined up.

The spelling with the 'h' seems to have stuck with us.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
David Kilpatrick wrote:
>
> I have been taken to task, gently, by Rob MacKillop for bringing his
> emailed information to me into a wider public forum. As it happens I
> have not mentioned his precise sources, documents etc and I have
> paraphrased or surmised on the basis of his info. But he is concerned
> that he has two years of research left to complete, and a book to
> publish at the end of it, and he doesn't want more snippets of unsorted
> information about Scottish and Irish steel string guitar escaping right now.

Bit surpised about this reaction David. I would have thought that
discussion in this forum might just have been really valuable to his
cause by 'raising the profile'. Whatever book is in preparation, it's
hardly likely to be in the 'best seller' category. But maybe you have
been 'stealing his thunder' so to speak.

> Those who have followed this NG will know that my mentions of Scottish
> guitar predate my correspondence with Rob a long way, and that I brought
> his research into this mainly because it supported things I had
> suspected from other sources, and added some important facts -
> principally the six-string, wire strung, the tunings, and the 1760-ish date.

Rob has hinted at this in his website, so it's natural to ask questions
- is it not?

> I will respect Rob's request, but should I locate any other sources of
> information in the libraries of any of the historic houses round here, I
> may just break a lifetime's habit of laziness and go and look for
> myself. DK

You seem to have a very deep interest in this, so why wait for two or
more years to find out. The sources - if they exist - must be there
somewhere in Scotland's museums and libraries.

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

ChrisRockcliffe

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to
Ronan Toomey wrote:
>
> On Thu, 13 Jan 2000 19:41:45 +0000, ChrisRockcliffe
> <chrisro...@scripto99.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> >The supression of specific words and sentiments - in poems, songs and
> >theatre - although they could be upheld in law - were more of a
> >deterrent than a reality.
>

> Of course. But it did lead to a lot of very strange songs written
> about little jugs etc.

One of the Irish euphamisms in the late Georgian period was believed to
have been 'The Bonnie Bunch Of Roses' (for England). Most people would
now consider the English song of that name to be a very patriotic
British song of the Napoleonic era.

However the version of the song I've heard sung so many times in English
folk clubs matches the words of versions found in Ireland (Dungannon Co.
Tyrone) in the early 1800's. The Irish history seems to link this song
with Irishman Robert Emmet - himself the subject of a song around that
time - 'Bold Robert Emmet'.

Emmet was a student at Trinity College Dublin from around 1787. As a
student he and others were incensed by inquisitorial examination of
their political views by the University's Chancellor (in what was the
growing Orange movement). After the failed uprising of 1798, he fled to
France where the Irish rebels were plotting another attack.

At the time of Woolfe Tone in Ireland itself, he was granted an audience
with Napoleon in 1802 (not yet then Emperor) and sought to leverage
Napoleon's planned attack on England with a separate Irish campaign.

The British spys got wind of the plot and Emmet was arrested and hanged
in 1803. Emmet's torture and confession was yet another reason why
Nelson's navy set about the job of trying to destroy the French and
Spanish Fleets - and which eventually occurred at Trafalgar.

The Irish version of 'Bonny Bunch Of Roses' has in the final two verses:

Oh son don't speak so venturesome, for in England are the Hearts of Oak.
There is England, Ireland, Scotland - their unity never broke.
Oh son think thy father, on the Isle of St Helena his body lies low
And you may soon follow after him - so beware the bonny bunch of roses
Oh!

Now do believe me dearest mother now I lie on my dying bed,
If I'd lived I would have been cleverer but now I drop my youthfull
head.
But whilst our bodies lie mouldering and weeping willows o'er our bodies
grow,
The deeds of great Napoleon shall sing the Bonny Bunch Of Roses Oh!

It's wonderfully ambiguous... Those young Irish then believed that
English opression could be stemmed by Napoleon - who after conquering
Moscow - would return to conquer England. It must have been written
after Moscow but before Waterloo at the time Britain was again at War
with America.

(snip)

> Historically, mass emmigration from this country (pop. 7 million in
> 1840s down to 3.5 million in late 1980, although rising again) is
> probably accountable for a certain amount of the popularity of Irish
> and Celtic music abroad.

It reminds me of a story... When I was about 15 years old, my father
took me to see the great Alex Campbell Folk Group in concert at
Newcastle City Hall. Campbell's humour was not unlike Connolly's -
could be near the bone at times too. He said "De yous people know that
the entire population of Scotland is only five million... aye.... all
that bloody land up there... and only five million people....
... Mind ye... Ah've been doin' ma bloody best to put it right!

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe


Robert Newton

unread,
Jan 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/15/00
to

Great explanation, gentlemen. Here in Connecticut we have the Thames River
that runs through New London into Long Island Sound. We can instantly
recognize a tourist because he'll pronounce it Tems -- we Yankees call it
the Thames (rhymes with names).

JOHNPEARSE

unread,
Jan 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/16/00
to
Chris, your mention of the "Irish" bouzouki prompts me to admit responsibility
for its introduction, albeit unwittingly.
Back in the late fifities and early sixties I was teaching guitar at the
English Folk Dance and Song Society HQ on Regents Park Road in London's Camden
Town. At that time I was obsessed with Greek music and was gigging with a
pretty cheap bouzouki that I'd picked up in Pireus. One night it got thoroughly
trashed during a fight at a local pub and I took it to luthier John Bailey, who
was a regular at the EFDSS and had repaired it on many prior occasions. He
pronounced it not repairable and offered to build me a replacement. Since he
was not able to attempt a coopered bowl-back, I lent him an old Preston English
cittern to use as a model for the body of the instrument.
In due time the bouzouki was finished and I started gigging with it. I found
the sound somewhat too sweet for rembetica and the intonation was rather
suspect further up the neck, so, after I obtained a pukka Greek bouzouki the
following year - a Yianacou - I hung the Bailey on the wall as a decoration.
At that time, my house was the scene of constant partying. Whether or not I was
in town, there always seemed to be a wild shindig taking place, judging by the
constant complaints from the neighbours- and the monotonous regularity of
visits from tall gentlemen, clad in blue, with firm requests to keep the noise
down.
On one one such evening, Johnny Moynihan, from the Irish group Sweeney's Men,
took down the Bailey from the wall and started to join in the musical revelry.
He liked the instrument so much that, at evening's end, I gave it to him.
About a year later I heard from John Bailey that he'd had dozens of requests
from other Irish musicians wanting him to build flat-back bouzoukis. This he
did...and the rest, as they say...is history!
John Pearse.

David Kilpatrick

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Jan 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/16/00
to
Rob MacKillop confirmed to me that the 20 extant 18th century Irish
steel string 'guittars' are cittern (bouzouki) shaped. The bouzouki I
play is normally described as an Irish bouzouki, and is based by
Freshwater on the type of design which John describes. I don't know very
much about Greek or Balkan instruments, but I do visit music shops and
luthiers when travelling, and I have encountered flat-back bouzoukis in
Greece, Yugoslavia, Crete and Italy.

In Italy, the instrument is considered to be a kind of mandolin and the
construction (flat-back, or slightly curved flat back) is northern
Italian as opposed to the 'Sicilian' mandolin with the multiple staved
bowl back. In fact, this divide appears to be a general one - Rumanian,
Bulgarian, Polish, Czech, German and euro-Russian instruments follow a
violin (or box!) type construction, while southern Italian,
mediterranean coastal, Greek, Turkish instruments seem to prefer the
stave (boat-like) construction. My Greek bouzouki is a 19-stave shop
branded model from Saloniki; cheap tourist instruments have as few as
seven staves, professional models ($3000) can use up to 35 staves with
intermediate strips of contrasting wood. I found a workshop where these
were being made up in the mountains but I speak no Greek. The luthier's
daughter was guarding the door, and spoke no English, and he was working
on a whole stack of instruments of different kinds, but just about to
shut up shop as the light was failing. I did not manage to make myself
understood, and just had to walk away. I wanted to handle the wood and
ask him what it all was.

Last week I looked at a new MUSIKALIA Italian 'bouzouki' selling for
$400; this is a flatback type, with a workmanship not all that
impressive, strung as an octave mandolin. It is impossible to say
whether this is a traditional Italian design, or a commercial response
to demand for 'Irish bouzouki' instruments.

Whether or not JP reintroduced the instrument, there's no doubt that
dozens of variants of cittern like instruments strung with double
courses were in use in Ireland two or three centuries ago - and in
England and Scotland. What is definitely new is the way the 20th century
Irish long-scale cittern (a better description than bouzouki, as the
Irish bands hardly ever use bouzouki tuning) is played.

The Greek bouzouki has been used by many leading bands (de Danaan,
Furies etc) at different times but suffers from a tuning difficulty - it
has the same scale length as a baritone guitar, and is tuned like the
top four strings of a twelve-string guitar dropped one full tone
(CFBbD). It won't take the tension of tuning up to guitar pitch, so a
capo on the 2nd is the standard way for guitarists to play it. In Greek
music, most of the fingerwork is done very high up the neck and they
just don't use the lower positions much, but nor do they use capos much
either - they have incredible mobility with three fingers while the
first finger does a barre. I bought some 'real' not tourist Greek folk
CDs and a tutor, and if John can play this stuff, HELL! It's easy enough
to mandolin-pick those single-line Zorba melodies, but the fast
crosspicking Turkish derived stuff with barre and rapid fingerings would
challenge any 'western' player. Didn't even try, much to shame...

DK

ChrisRockcliffe

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Jan 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/16/00
to
JOHNPEARSE wrote:
>
> Chris, your mention of the "Irish" bouzouki prompts me to admit responsibility
> for its introduction, albeit unwittingly.

John,
I can well believe that - and it was your own BBC TV series which got me
more interested in guitar way back in er... schtumty tum (damn you're
making me feel old!)

> Back in the late fifties and early sixties I was teaching guitar at the


> English Folk Dance and Song Society HQ on Regents Park Road in London's Camden
> Town.

Sharps Club - which has been going for about 11 years now - is the EFDSS
singer's night on a Tuesday in that same location. You'd be surprised
at how many times I've heard your name mentioned there. You've been in
the states too long John; younger folk here now have to ask who you
were/are!!.

(interesting bouzouki history snipped)

> On one one such evening, Johnny Moynihan, from the Irish group Sweeney's Men,
> took down the Bailey from the wall and started to join in the musical revelry.
> He liked the instrument so much that, at evening's end, I gave it to him.
> About a year later I heard from John Bailey that he'd had dozens of requests
> from other Irish musicians wanting him to build flat-back bouzoukis. This he
> did...and the rest, as they say...is history!

That's very interesting...

The dominant sound of Planxty's first album is the Irish bouzouki,
mandola and mandolin playing of Donnal Lunny and Andy Irvine. I don't
know the music of 'Sweeney's Men' - and therefore Johnny Moynihan. But
Moynihan did join Planxty a couple of years later - replacing Lunny,
whilst Paul Brady replaced Christy Moore. They played around Ireland
but it's a pity that no commercial recordings came out of this 2nd
line-up. Moynihan then left Planxty to join De Dahnan (s). Planxty's
effect on me personally was to rekindle my entire interest in
traditional British and Irish music.

When I heard Planxty's first album, it had a profound effect on me -
almost as much as the 'Circle' album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band a
couple of years previous. I'd managed to get hold of an imported review
copy of it from Virgin Records - (back in the days when Richard Branson
could still be seen in that first shop!) At the time, I was into other
imported things... 30's Western Swing, Dan Hicks, Commander Cody, Doug
Sahm, Asleep At The Wheel, Poco etc on the one hand and Jazz rock and
godknows what else on the other.

A friend played Planxty's version of 'Si Bheag Si Mhor', which starts
out just on Uileann pipes and then adds a guitar counterpoint and
Bodhran. I'd forgotten then just how beautiful instrumental Irish music
could be made to sound. I think it was Andy Irvine who said that the
Irish music scene was fairly incestuous then and I've no doubt that what
you say is true. Johnny Moynihan could well have been a formative
influence on those guys... with them getting 'Irish' bouzouki's of their
own and kindling their interest (particularly Irvine) in Eastern
European music. This whole thread of course relates back to David's
interest in the geneaology of both Irish and Scottish steel-stringed
instruments - whether citterns, guittars or other string hybrids.

Leaving stringed instruments on the wall can lead to some interesting
happenings. I was at a bluegrass gathering this summer in London, at
which there were banjo players - Bob Peck and Pete Stanley, Ced Therose
on dobro and Canadian fiddler Bob Windquist. At the previous one we had
Bill Keith too!. Well you just don't miss opportunities like that!

Caspar, my host, had this old 3-string mountain dulcimer hanging high on
the wall in the corner... God knows how long it had been up there...
Towards the end of the session, English banjo/guitar player Pete Stanley
climbs up and takes it down, scrapes all the fluff off it and then
starts trying to tweak the stiff friction pegs and the dirty old strings
back into life. No-one was expecting much from it... Casper comes in
and says jokingly... "Darn it Pete!, that thar's a precious antique
orneemunt that wus handed down to me bah ma great-grandpappy!"

I can't recall having seen anyone playing one of these before - although
Wade Hampton Miller here in RMMGA is of couse a player and afficionado.
In a few minutes, Pete had got it dusted and sorted and proceeded to
make the most incredible music on this thing - singing and playing stuff
like 'Sally Goden' 'Old Joe Clark' and other old-timey tunes with others
joining in on fiddle, mando' and guitars.... we had great fun. The old
dulcimer in fact had been just hanging there dead for nearly 20 years
and Pete breathed it back into life!"

Gan canny,
Chris Rockcliffe

JOHNPEARSE

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Jan 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/17/00