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Fisher’s Hornpipe

(J. Fishar)

This hornpipe, known in Gaelic as Cranniciuil (Ui) Fishuir, is known to have existed from the 18th century and has been attributed to several composers, several different countries and several styles which have been said to have come from Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, the Shetland Islands and the United States.

There is little disagreement that the piece, which became popular very quickly, was known and published in England dating from the mid-1700s although the composers have come under much speculation.  They have been named as Fisher/Fishar and the ones that have been earmarked to have written the piece include Johann Christian Fischer, James A. Fishar and J.W. Fisher.

Johann Christian Fischer, who was a German classical composer and acquaintance of Mozart, has been said to be the original composer and it is known that the piece was published in England in the later 1700s under the name of J. Fishar (possibly/probably Fischer).

James A Fishar is another possible.  It is known that during the 1770s he worked at Covent Garden as a ballet master, music director and dancer and thought to have been the J. Fishar who published Sixteen Cotillions, Sixteen Minuets and Twelve Hornpipes in 1778 where it was included as “Hornpipe #1”.

J.W. Fisher is the third possibility.  He was a fiddler active in England in the 18th century.

The tune is known to have appeared in print in the 1780s with the title “Lord Howe’s Hornpipe” when it was published in Longman and Broderip’s 5th Selection of the Most Admired Dances, Reels, Minuets and Cotillions.  It also appeared as “Danc’d by Aldridge” in Scotland in 1780 in McGlashen’s Collection of Scot’s Measures and came out in print in America in 1783 when it was copied by John Greenwood for his book on German flute, in Rhode Island in 1788 in a Collection by John Griffith and in 1796 when it was published in Philadelphia in An Evening Amusement for German Flute and Violin.

The tune has been a popular favourite on both sides of the Atlantic in the UK, Europe, the United States and Canada and known and published by many other names.  Some of the other titles include:

The Blacksmith’s Hornpipe
This version was published in Ireland in Old Irish Folk Music and Song by Joyce in 1909.

Blanchard’s Hornpipe
This one appeared in Scotland and Ireland in the 19th century when it was published in Cork in 1818 as part of a fiddler’s collection and in Scotland in 1887 in MacDonald’s The Skye Collections.

China Orange Hornpipe
This version is said to have been written with notation in the late 1830s by the musician John Moore who hailed from Shropshire in England.

Egg Hornpipe
The story goes that when some professional dancers who danced the hornpipe on stage practiced to this tune they put eggs down so they could practice moving in and around them without any breakages.  Joshua Gibbons of Lincolnshire wrote down a notated version of the tune in a manuscript sometime in the 1820s and gave it the name “Egg Hornpipe”.  In the late 1990s it appeared in print in Lincolnshire Collections Vol. 1: The Joshua Gibbons Manuscript and in 1999 it was included on the album Rig-a-Jig-Jig: Dance Music of the South of England.

The First of May
Also known as “Rickett’s Hornpipe”, this version was in honour of John Bill Ricketts who immigrated from Scotland to England and then to the United States in 1792.  He was an extremely successful circus promoter who danced the hornpipe while standing on the back of horses in America until there was a fire at his base in Philadelphia just before Christmas in 1799.  In the 19th century he took on the dancer John Durang who produced shows for him.

Fisherman’s Lilt
This one is also called “The Kerryman’s Daughter”, among many other names, and appears as the initial tune within the medley described as “The Bungee Jumpers” which was recorded by Sharon Shannon.

Kelly’s Hornpipe
This version was notated in Ireland sometime in the mid-1900s by the piper Willie Clancy.  It was published in 1993 in Mitchell’s Dance Music of Willie Clancy.

O’Dwyer’s Hornpipe
O’Dwyer’s Hornpipe was one of several tunes that appeared in 1898 in Belfast’s Feis Ceoil when it was brought in by the Irish piper Philip Goodman from Louth.  It appeared in The Darley & McCall Collection of Traditional Irish Music by Darley & McCall and in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland in 1850.

Peckhover Walk Hornpipe
This version that appeared in Helperby, Yorkshire, England had its source listed on a manuscript by the fiddler Lawrence Leadley in the mid 1800s.  It was published in 1994 in The Fiddler of Helperby.

Sailor’s Hornpipe
This tune that goes under several names including “Fisher’s Hornpipe” possibly first came to public attention when it was written in 1821 on a manuscript by the fiddler John Burks whose birthplace is unknown.   It has been published in several collections, described as having a melody akin to “Manchester Hornpipe” and its style has been said to be English, Irish, from The Shetland Islands and other parts of Scotland.

Wigs on the Green
This version is supposed to be based on what is said when there is an impending fight according to the Irish music collector P.W. Joyce.  The phrase has been used in the context “There will be wigs on the green” when there was a disagreement in Ireland and in Scotland the phrase “There’ll be bonnets on the green” means the same thing.

Y Dynwr
Also known as “The Thresher”, this is a version from Wales from the Tro Llaw Collection which was written for the Welsh Harp.

Paul Buskirk recordings
Stoneway Records 1138-A (DJ Copy)