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This article describes two Devonshire fiddlers that Baring-Gould met: William Andrew and Peter Isaacs.
Published in the newsletter of the Sabine Baring-Gould Appreciation Society No 26, Feb 1998
Baring-Gould knew at least two fiddlers. Peter Isaacs was introduced to him by Miss Bertha Bidder of Stoke Fleming. Isaacs earned his living by repairing saddles and harness on the farms of
The other, and even more interesting fiddler was William Andrews of Sheepstor. Baring-Gould first visited Andrews in 1890 with his musician colleague Henry Fleetwood Sheppard. On this occasion they were not very successful in obtaining anything of interest from him. Baring-Gould went back, though, in 1892 with his other collaborator Frederick Bussell. This time the magic worked and Baring-Gould writes: ‘his shyness was broken down and we spent two hours with him, noting down his old airs. We might have got more but the Rector kindly came in and insisted on our going to tea with him. We could not refuse and then had to hasten to catch our train to return and, as we passed, more than an hour after having left the old man, we heard him still fiddling’.
Baring-Gould recognised that the old man had a valuable store of old tunes. Andrews explained how, when he had played for dances in the farm houses of the area, all the young folk sang as they danced and the ‘burden’ or refrain served to mark the turns in the dance. Baring-Gould was therefore puzzled that he wasn’t able to remember more than a few lines of any song. Andrews supplied the explanation saying that he ‘minded his viddle more than them zingers’ and so never really listened to the words of the songs that he was playing along to - a sentiment with which many present day folk musicians would be sympathetic.
In his cottage at Sheepstor the old man had a rack in the ceiling that was full of music including a number of ancient church music manuscripts as well as secular tunes. Luckily, he lent one of his manuscript tune books to Baring-Gould and from this 21 tunes were copied. These can now be found in volume 14 of the Rough Manuscript that Baring-Gould donated to Plymouth Library. This small collection is the only known record of traditional fiddle playing in
Click on the link below to download the tune for 'Adam the Poacher'
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