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Alternative title: Highland Mary

Source: Copy of C. Sharp ms no. 1256 in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library
Performer: Mason, John
Place Collected: Stow-on-the-Wold
Date collected: 1909 (18 Aug)
Collector: Sharp, Cecil

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.

Highland Mary “Untitled” Cecil Sharp noted “Handkerchief dance or stick dance (no name)”. He later added “Country Gardens ?” and “see Country Gardens 1272”. The latter is a reference to the same tune which he noted from William Hathaway, to which either he or WH gave the name Country Gardens. However, the usual name of the tune is Highland Mary.

“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”.