The Fiery Clockface

At one of Michael’s summer sessions, Noah and Janet remembered this tune from pre-Covid-Isis Farmhouse Pub sessions and apparently it goes well with Jump at the Sun. It’s a nice simple tune with lots of life and known as a “fling” from Northumberland. Research on thesession.org website led me to Roly Veitch’s website on Tyneside folk music and history where he attributes the Fiery Clockface to Bobby Nunn.

Roly writes that:

Robert (Bobby) Nunn 1808 – 1853
Bobby was a slater by trade but lost his sight following a fall from a roof. Thereafter he used his abilities as a musician to earn a living. He played the fiddle, sang and wrote songs. He was a regular at pubs, clubs around Tyneside. Apparently many songs were rather coarse, full of innuendo – much to the delight of audiences (men and women) with the benefit of a few drinks inside them. His songs include The Pitman and the Blackin, The Newcastle Lad, Drucken Bella Roy ’O and a classic – the surreal Fiery Clock Fyece, a tale of an illusion caused by drink whilst passing St Nicholas Cathedral.”

There are words for this tune but they are even harder to understand than Soor Milk Cairt:
Listen here
and read them here

Laurel Swift gave a lovely demonstration (both slow and fast) in 2013

and made a learn-by-ear tutorial in 2021

Another good fiddle version

And on the melodeon

And if you ever need evidence of how a tune in a large crowd will ring out, even if you’re not sure of the notes, have a listen to the scratch orchestra from Sidmouth Folk Festival, 2012

The pdf is here