Rigby’s Encyclopaedia of the Herring

aka The Herripedia


A jig from 1750, The Herring Buss, is found and played for you by the excellent English concertina player Rob Harbron


In conversation with Rob Harbron, now officially English Concertina Player to the Herripedia, the existence of a tune, apparently The Herring Buss was mentioned. He searched The Traditional Tune Archive at www.tunearch.org and there it was, published in John Hinton’s The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, November 1750. A jig. Hurrah!

It’s never just a question of playing the dots with traditional tunes from old manuscripts. You have to get the feel of it and work out how make it your own. That’s the nature of the tradition. Rob Harbron did this for your education and delight: click on the link below to see him play the tune.

The traditional approach to naming traditional tunes did not always involve structural or evocative associations between melody and title. Whatever was exercising the audiences mind at the time would do: grabbing public attention was all.

In and around 1750 there was a lot of herring buss promotion going on. A herring buss was a kind of Dutch factory ship, catching, gutting and salting herring at sea, producing the high quality product that dominated the vast European market. From James III onwards, the Stuart kings had tried create a herring buss fleet. James VI & I, Charles I, Charles II and even James II had lamentably failed in the task. Now it was the Hanoverians’ turn.

The Society of the Free British Fishery had been established in 1749. The Act for the Encouragement of the British White Herring Fishery had been passed in 1750. England’s Herring Poet John Lockman had been appointed Secretary to the Society and was busy promoting the herring with pamphlets such as The Vast Importance of the Herring Fishery, &c to these Kingdoms (1750), backed up the following year with his poem, The Shetland Herring and Peruvian Goldmine, dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales, who had become Governor to the Society.

At the centre of Hogarth’s Beer Street, a couple of fishwives are looking at A New Ballad on the Herring Fishery by Lockman, probably that one. Lockman frequented the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, giving away herrings with copies of his poems. It’s a context in which you can imagine a fiddle player lifting his bow and announcing, This one’s called The Herring Buss. Laughter. The passing crowd stops. Job done.

From The Traditional Tune Archive at https://tunearch.org/