I learned the Great Western Clog when I was 15 from Dale Morris. I had traveled to Shamrock, Texas before my first trip to the National Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho. Dale taught me a bunch of hornpipes and reels, and this clog during the week I stayed with him. Click on his name to see what else Dale taught me. Anyway, this is the tune that I referenced (by the incorrect name) in my recording of Woodchopper’s Reel. I pulled out my Cole’s 1000 fiddle tunes, and started playing through the clogs until I found it. I do think that the A parts of both songs are pretty similar. Let me know if you agree.
At the time I went to visit Dale, I thought I was pretty good. I was winning or at least placing in the top 3 in just about every contest I entered in Colorado and Wyoming. I was on my way to the national fiddle contest. I thought I had practiced quite a bit. I thought my tunes were ready. I had NO IDEA what was in store for me when I got to Weiser.
I had NEVER seen so many good players together in my life. I would hear other kids playing the same songs as me, but different version and I wanted to pick up the new licks from them, but I heeded Dale’s advice and stuck to the versions of the tunes that I knew (good advice, but it really didn’t matter.) I got my hind end handed to me on a plate. I ended up in 56th place out of the 63 competitors in the Junior (13-18 year old) division.
I came home knowing that I had my work cut out for me, and I worked my tail off improving each of the next 3 years to 31st, 18th and 13th before going off to college, the death-knell of many contest fiddlers. Since then, I have only been back to Weiser twice (the last time was 10 years ago in 2002.)
And now it’s 2012, and I will be going back to Weiser. I have been preparing for a while now, and the Fiddle Tune a Day Project is part of my preparation. Drop me a note if you are going to be in Weiser this year. I hope to see you there!
The Great Western Clog According to Fiddler’s Companion
GREAT WESTERN (Lancashire) CLOG. AKA – “Great Western (Hornpipe).” AKA and see “Belfast Hornpipe ,” “Millicent’s Favorite,” “Royal Belfast,” “The Sweep’s Hornpipe .” Irish, Clog or Hornpipe. D Major. Standard tuning. AABBCC. Al Smitley suggests the tune may have been named for the steamship Great Western. This steamship was the first of three great early steamships built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of the principal engineers of the industrial revolution (see note for “Great Eastern”).
There are other possibilities for the name, however, for Brunel did not confine his genius to steamships but was famous as well for his tunnels, bridges and railways. He constructed one of England’s early railway lines, calling it as well the Great Western, from London to Bristol, a project begun in 1833 with the first London-to-Maidenhead broad-gauge section opening in 1838. The greatly expanded railway line is still in existence. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; pg. 117. Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1883; pg. 155. White’s Unique Collection, 1896; No. 150, pg. 27. Great Meadow Music GMM 2002, Rodney Miller & David Surette – “New Leaf” (2000).
A Word about Lancashire Clogs
Wherever people wear hard-soled shoes there is percussive dancing. Devon and East Anglia are enclaves of hard shoe stepping, the north of England is the home of step dancing in clogs.
In Lancashire clogs were used as industrial footwear. The rhythms of Lancashire clog dancing reflect the rhythms of machinery. Read More…