CJ Sharp met 72-year old John Mason in Stow-on-the-Wold Workhouse. Mason had played fiddle for the Sherborne Morris set (and possibly others) and, as well as providing Sharp with a number of tunes, he volunteered the address of William Hathaway in Cheltenham, the location of Sherborne Morris’s George Simpson near Didcot and gave other leads towards participants in the Longborough, Bledington and Oddington morris sets. Many of the tunes which Mason described as “Morris Dance” are not generally known as such. Mason came from Icomb and as well as fiddle played clarinet, flute and concertina. He was visited by Mary Neal and Clive Carey shortly before he died and they noted several of the tunes he had previously played for Sharp.
Jockey to the Fair
“This is a jig generally danced by two men together.”
The oldest occurrence of this tune in print is reported to be in T. Straight’s 24 Favourite Dances for the Year 1779, under the title “General Action”. Skillern (Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1780), 1780 missed first place by just one year. He called it by the name we know.
The Traditional Tune Archive gives a list of printed sources. It was also published in Riley’s second Sett (sic) of Cotillions, New York, 1824. Many morris villages had the tune, usually as a solo dance (“jig” in morris parlance), though in Abingdon and Brackley it is used for a set dance. Search this website for the Gloucestershire versions. For others, see the Morris Ring.
The tune is used in Ireland for traditional solo “set dances”, which resemble clog dancing.
The tune is associated with a song. For a nice version, see Archer Goode. The 14 bars, which occur in the 2nd strain (B music) of many versions of the tune, are also a feature of the song.
note by Charles Menteith