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Cecil Sharp’s chance encounter with two workmen, whom he heard whistling Morris tunes in Hammersmith, had far-reaching consequences. William Charles Stagg was one of the workmen. He was the eldest son of the Lower Swell fiddler William Hathaway (see below) and had danced morris at Stow-on-the-Wold. Stagg gave Sharp information as to how to find Morris musicians in Gloucestershire and later copied 18 tunes which Sharp collected from his father, and two others, possibly with a view to using them with Mary Neal’s Espérance Club dancers. Stagg gave his tunebook to Helen Kennedy and the manuscript was copied: the original is now lost. Our copy was given to us by Peter Kennedy.
Sharp’s interview with Stagg sent him to Gloucestershire on his next collecting trip, in March 1907. The day after meeting John Mason at Stow-on-the-Wold he visited William Hathaway at 52 Burton Street, Cheltenham and noted many of the tunes used by the Lower Swell Morris Dancers, some of which he published in Folk Airs.
Paul Burgess, ‘The Mystery Of The Whistling Sewermen: How Cecil Sharp Discovered Gloucestershire Morris Dancing’, Folk Music Journal, 8, 2002, 178-94.
Highland Mary Wm Hathaway (or perhaps Cecil Sharp) called this tune Country Gardens, and it is named as such in the copy of Stagg’s ms, which gives Highland Mary (the widespread name for the tune) in brackets. John Mason had no name for this tune, so Sharp suggested the name Country Gardens
On 01.08.07 WH played for CJS a version of the usual Country Gardens tune, named as such (no 1375); in the Stagg ms the same tune is called Morning Star.
“Highland” Mary Campbell (1763-86) was one of Robert Burns’ loves, who inspired some of his poetry, particularly a song, ‘The Highland Lassie, O’. It seems they exchanged vows of marriage, upon which she returned to the West Highlands to arrange matters among her friends for their projected change of life. She returned to Greenock, “where she had scarce landed when she was seized with a malignant fever, which hurried my dear girl to the grave in a few days”.