background notes to tunes

See also additional comments on Sally’s instruments, playing style and my tune transcriptions. “Through his many interviews with Sally, John Meredith learnt that she had the the ability to learn songs and tunes easily. A number of her songs came from goldminer Billy Page in Parkes, a friend of her father. She told John Meredith that other sources of songs and tunes were Bob Vaughan of Aberdeen, Peter Owen of Parkes, Jack Archer, an itinerant railway worker, Harry Bartlett of Parkes, Annie Shaw of Parkes, Jo Bow of Tambar Springs and also from [her stepfather] William Clegg. But the bulk of Sally’s songs and tunes were learned from her mother”.

Sally said she learned Jack’s waltz from Jack Mountford from Molong (her first husband?) and Meredith wrote that another source of music was “an old Irishman, Peter Owens, who sang and played the flute. She boarded with his daughter for some time and occasionally accompanied the old chap on her fiddle.”

Over 80 tunes recorded from Sally’s playing are listed, but she undoubtedly played many more. During the early days John Meredith was forced to be frugal with his tape recordings and so was selective with the material he recorded. Later recordings (by others) include her playing popular songs and tunes, that John may have overlooked.

“I didn’t sort of chase up the sources of her tunes so much as the songs. I don’t know why. It’s just that they were good tunes and she’d play one and probably without giving me much time she’d swing into another one.” John Meredith interviewed by Edgar Waters.

Annie Shaw’s tune

“Annie Shaw was the name of a young girl who lived next door to the Frost family at Parkes. Each Friday evening during the visit to the house by her sweetheart, Annie Shaw accompanied her young man’s violin playing on the piano. They regularly performed the waltz tune together, and Sally Sloane had no difficulty in learning it as the music floated over the side fence. The family always referred to the tune as ‘Annie Shaw’s Tune’.” Folk Songs of Australia by John Meredith and Hugh Anderson (1967), p.183.  Recorded by No Such Thing on their Dancing ’til Dawn CD and Wongawilli’s Australian Dance Tunes Volume 1.

Blackberry Blossoms

a well-known Irish reel, see  “Familiar to Irish tradition, from at least the year 1850, if not earlier, according to Bayard (1981)”  Recorded on the Undertones CD and Collector played it on a video.

Bob’s tune

Seemingly played for a particular dance figure in a polka rhythm, but which dance is unknown. Bob Vaughan lent Sally her first fiddle when he boarded at her mother’s house.

The Blackbird “I Whistle to my Blackbird”

The Irish step dance has a similar unusual bar sequence, but the B part of this tune doesn’t correspond with the usual arrangement for step dancers. Sally sometimes pauses (to catch her breath?) while lilting the tune. Meredith wrote that Sally learned the song ‘If I was a Blackbird’ from an old Irishman, Peter Owens, who sang and played the flute, and Sally sometimes accompanied him on her fiddle.

Bonnie Maggie

A popular Scottish tune called ‘Highland Laddie’ which was a regimental march often played on the highland pipes, e.g.

Boys of the Dardanelles

 A patriotic song composed in 1915. Original sheet music is at and an old 78 recording can be heard at . Paddy Godden was filmed singing a snippet of the song at

Bright Shades of Blue

see Folk Songs of Australia by John Meredith and Hugh Anderson (1967), p.136 as collected from Cyril Ticehurst of Kogarah NSW in 1955. On Meredith’s recording Sally sang this song and then played the melody as a waltz.

Charming Judy Callaghan 

The tune is an old Scottish & Irish single jig or slide called Nora Criona. TAn 1820’s London stage song called Barney Brallaghan’s Courtship has a chorus: Only say you’ll be Mistress Brallaghan; Don’t say nay, charming Judy Callaghan.

Coming Down the Mountain

this tune doesn’t seem to have been recorded from the playing of any other local or UK musicians before, although both O’Neill’s Dance Music of Ireland (1907) and Roche’s Collection of Irish Airs, Marches and Dance Tunes, Vol. 2 (1927) include close variants. Sally played the tune in D on her fiddle. She told Meredith that Bob Vaughan taught her the tune (by ear of course, as Sally didn’t read music). The tune was published in 1775 as ‘The Island of Love’ and in 1782 as ‘Cupid’s Recruiting Serjeant’  The Village Music Project also has it in Wm.Mittell’s MS, New Romney, Kent, 1799.  Australian band Collector played the tune as a reel on this video.

Devil Among the Tailors

rather a jumbled rendition of this old Scottish reel. Sally’s bowing across the strings got out of time with the rhythm of the tune.

Flowers of Edinburgh

an interesting adaption of the tune to suit the limitations of a one-row melodeon. Sally plays the B part an octave lower than the modern version.


mistakenly described as “Rory O’Moore” in the NLA’s entry for this recording. The earliest known printed appearance of the tune was in James Aird’s 1787 Collection under the title “Auld Bessy” but it’s been known by a variety of names.

Harvest Home

usually played as a hornpipe but described as a ‘breakdown’ by Meredith, i.e. a challenge between individual dancers to see who could step dance the fastest and the longest.


written in 1901 by Charles N. Daniels, under the pseudonym of Neil Moret, and inspired by the sound of train wheels as he rode to the town of Hiawatha, Kansas.  Sousa made it a popular hit in the early 1900’s. The London Regimental Band can be hear playing the tune on an Edison cylinder recording in 1903. Sally has changed the timing in the B part of the original, perhaps to suit a particular dance figure?

Impudent Barney O’Hay

a popular song which appeared in C19th broadsides as Barney O’Hea, e.g. from National Library of Scotland The sheet music by Samuel Lover published in 1863 is online here.

Irish Washerwoman

Sally fondly recalled playing this tune at the Tivoli theatre in Sydney during WWII and the soldiers went wild! – source.

I’ve Got a Bonnet 

an old nursery rhyme that begins: “I’ve got a bonnet trimmed with blue…” played as polka for dancing. Warren Fahey also recorded Sally playing this tune on button accordion in 1976.

Jack’s waltz

A contemporary of Sally’s also from Parkes NSW (Bill Cooper) recalled learning this tune as it was played on a merry-go-round in about 1909. Recorded by No Such Thing on their Dancing ’til Dawn CD;  Jane Brownlee & Alan Musgrove on their Australian Dance Tunes for Fiddle CD and Wongawilli’s Australian Dance Tunes Vol. 1. A video of Malcom Clapp playing the tune mentions that “Jack’s Waltz was collected from the playing of Sally Sloane of Lithgow, who learnt it from John (Jack) Mountford of Molong.” (Sally’s first husband?).

Kitty’s Rambles

the jig was not named by Sally but is similar to an old Irish tune:  see The Cobbler or Kitty’s Rambles This is another tune that was modified to suit the limitations of the one-row melodeon.

Larry Doolin

an old jig usually known as Mrs Caseypublished in The Hibernian Muse (London, 1787, No. 6, p. 4) and a popular tune for English morris dancing.

Learning MacPherson to Waltz

A popular broadside dated 1890 titled ‘Learning McFadden to Waltz’ has the first line: “Clarence McFadden he wanted to waltz”. A different transcription of this tune of Sally’s (from the same recording?) appears in Dave de Santi’s Australian Traditional Dance Tunebooklet, on p.15 under the title “Teaching Clarence Mc Fayden to Waltz”.

Miss McLeod’s reel

a pared-down version of this Scottish and Irish reel which still captures the essence of the tune. Sally playing melodeon with her son Lionel Sloane playing jaw harp appears on the Verandah Music CD.

Morning Star / Sally’s Reel

Irish reel published in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies (1903) as the Morning Star. See Sally played the B part an octave lower than the modern version. Recorded on the Undertones CD.

Mountain Belle

a popular schottische in the early 1900’s. Composed by C. Kinkel in 1857.

Mudgee waltz

Chris Sullivan told John Meredith that Sally had learned this tune from John’s Bushwhackers band on one of the nights she visited the Singabout sessions in Sydney. She was later recorded playing this tune in 1970 – the folk process in action!  A widely recorded tune, e.g. by Dave de Hugard on his Freedom on the Wallaby CD

Mum’s mazurka

this mazurka is popularly known as ‘Sally Sloane’s Mazurka’ among Australian folk musicians.

Mum’s no.2 mazurka

published in Folk Songs of Australia by John Meredith and Hugh Anderson (1967), page 185 – although I believe the A part was a faulty transcription. Commonly referred to nowadays as simply ‘Mum’s Mazurka’ by Australian folk musicians.

Mum’s reel

Sally lilted this tune while explaining to Warren Fahey how she would learn to play a tune note-for-note on the violin by following her mother’s lilting. The reel has similarities with ‘Jig Away the Donkey’, an old Co. Fermanagh tune.

Nicky Nick-Nack

Sally sang a song to the same melody as this jig during the recording session with John Meredith. She called it the Chandler’s Wife and it sounds like she used the ‘nicky nick nack’ to substitute for some bawdy words. Her intentionally pitched flat note is distinctive, and is a characteristic noted in the playing of some old traditional musicians.  The tune wasn’t collected elsewhere in NSW but the melody is related to The Miller of Dee which was first published in England in 1762.

Old Dan Tucker / Sally’s Reel no.2

An old-time US tune from the 1850’s called Old Dan Tucker, also known in Australia as
‘Black Man Piddled in the White Man’s Shoe’.

Over the Waves

this was a common waltz around the 1900’s,  written in 1884 by Mexican composer Juventino Rosas. Sally would’ve had many popular tunes and songs that Meredith decided not to record, mainly due to his lack of expensive blank tape stock.

Paddy Couldn’t Dance

Sally sang a ditty in jig time and then played the melody on the melodeon. Meredith named it after a line in the song: ‘Rosin the bow”, but could be mistaken for another well-known tune with the same name.

Phil the Fluter’s Ball

A popular song composed by Percy French in the 1880’s. Sally played the tune at a march tempo.

The Quaker’s Wife

A Scottish jig often called Merrily Danced the Quaker’s Wife. Sally’s version is similar to the tune found in early collections (e.g. Gow, c1797)  This version appears in Music for Australian Folk Dancing by Max Klubal (1979), p.33 as Haymaker’s Jig. Warren Fahey recorded Sally playing this tune on button accordion in 1976.

Rickett’s hornpipe

Also known as the Manchester Hornpipe. Sally played it at a tempo for step dancing, similar in style to her recorded version of Harvest Home.

Rocky Road to Dublin

the only example of a slip jig recorded from Sally’s playing. A well-known song from a 19th century broadside and the title appears in a list of tunes in a Belfast piper’s repertoire from 1898. There are two recordings of the tune attributed to Sally in the Meredith recordings but one was actually played by Mrs Gibbons.

Sally Sloane’s 2 part jig

The first part of the tune has only been collected from Sally while the second part of the tune is a version of the Connaughtman’s Rambles. See my comments about Sally mixing parts of tunes under the info for the Tenpenny Bit. Recorded on “The Next Turn” CD by Trouble in the Kitchen and the tune can be heard played by Kevin Crawford on youtube and another video.

Sally Sloane’s 3 part jig

also known as Sally Sloane’s Set Tune, Sally Sloane’s Barndance and the Trip to Cottingham. Joe Yates from Sofala NSW played the tune for figure 4 of the Lancers. It would be interesting to confirm if Sally and Joe ever played music together. The tune had apparently been forgotten in England, although it was recorded by Donegal fiddler James Byrne as The Fickle Lad. It has been found as Garcon Volage and Le Nouvelle Fantasie in tunebooks from  the 18th century. See also discussions at and Sally apparently played the tricky first part with ease on the melodeon but this passage has been simplified by other musicians over the years. Recorded by The Old Swan Band on their Swan-Upmanship CD. A related  jig was collected by Peter Ellis from Mr Semmens of Sedgwick, near Bendigo.

Sally’s Rambles

my name for Sally’s interesting version of the old Irish jig The Connaughtman’s Rambles  Her lilted version of the tune is a nice variant to the standard session version. The tune was also collected from Joe Cashmere and Tom Blackman. A flawed transcription from Tom’s playing appeared in Folk Songs of Australia by John Meredith and Hugh Anderson (1967), on p.216 and was then published in later publications as Sally Sloane’s jig.

Set Tune / “First” set tune

A common tune amongst dance musicians also collected as Stan Treacy’s first set tune and Joe Yates’ 48 bar tune for figure 5 of the Lancers. Stan was from the Crookwell area of NSW and Joe was from Sofala. Also known as the Gulgong Set Tune and Oh Joe Don’t Go Near the Water. See details at

Shamus O’Brien

Also known as Seamus O’Brien; the song was published in 1867 by William S. Hays.

Sporting Paddy

Sally’s version of the Irish reel called the Old Wheels of the World has something of the feel of a Scottish fling. She played it in modal E on her fiddle but I’ve transposed it to modal A to better suit other instruments. Recorded on the Undertones CD, see discussion on   Australian band Collector play the tune in modal G in this video.

St Patrick’s Day in the Morning

A traditional Irish set dance tune played with a 14 bar second part (i.e. the turn) to suit the dance. The Blackbird is another Irish set dance tune in Sally’s repertoire, which indicates she’d probably seen these dances performed – and may have played for the dancers.

A Starry Night for a Ramble

See Folk Songs of Australia by John Meredith and Hugh Anderson (1967), p.56 as collected from Tom Byrnes late of Springside/Springhill (near Orange NSW) in 1955. Also Bob Bolton’s comments at Warren Fahey recorded Sally playing the same tune on button accordion during his visit in 1976.

Recorded by Dave de Hugard on his Freedom on the Wallaby CD; Flowers & Frolics on their Bees on Horseback CD

It’s a starry night for a ramble
Through the flowery dell,
Over bush and bramble,
Kiss, but never tell.
Of all the games that I love best,
It fills me with delight;
I like to take a ramble
Upon a starry night.

Step Dance

described as a ‘break up’ in the notes to John Meredith’s tape recording. The tune’s A part is commonly known as the Dorset Four Hand Reel. Compare her tune with the Boscastle Breakdown recorded in England in 1943.


related to the old American tune Dandy Jim and similar to the tune played by Bruce Smith in Tenterfield NSW for figure 2 of San Toys’ quadrille.

The Stockyards was the local name given to the fifth figure of the First Set of Quadrilles.

Stockyards set tune, by Mrs Gibbons

Mrs Gibbons has recently been identified as Sally’s twin sister Bertha. Her recordings show a slightly different style of bass playing on the melodeon. Another interpretation of this tune appears in Bush Dance by Dave Johnson. Its related to the Irish jig Larry O’Gaff.

Tenpenny Bit

Sally played the A part of this tune interchangeably with the same B part she used for Up Sligo. Perhaps dance musicians were relaxed about mixing parts of different tunes, so long as the dance’s rhythm continued?

Up Sligo

Also known as The Creel of Turf – see entry at and the comments for Tenpenny Bit.

Up With the Orange, the Purple and Blue

An old Irish song in jig time known variously as Nell Flaherty’s Drake and Bold Thady Quill. Evidently Sally sang other words to this melody.


has become one of Sally’s best-known tunes since Dave Johnson included it in his seminal Bush Dance  tunebook in 1984. Recorded by The Old Swan Band on their Fortyssimo CD. Sally told Warren Fahey of an old woman at Bathurst who had a dancing class and she used to sing when teaching the varso rhythm: “There’s a flea over here and another one, there’s another one there, and another one there….” Warren recorded her playing the tune in 1976. Meredith mentioned that Sally also knew a more vulgar mnemonic for the tune: “Cock your leg up Sal Brown, Let your water run down…” Sally learned the tune from Bob Vaughan.

Varsovienna variant

The first part is from the well-known tune Shoe The Donkey, while the second part is from Sally’s other varsovienna.

What Would You do if the Kettle Boiled Over

An old song in jig time. The tune is commonly known as The Frost Is All Over and is usually played in the key of D major.

With My Shillelagh Under My Arm

A popular song composed by Billy O’Brien & Raymond Wallace around 1938.