Mrs Baker, Rilla Mill June 1980
Old Cornwall Society Magazine, April 1929 (tune)
Bottrel, Traditions and hearthside stories of West Cornwall (1870:146) Mrs Baker provided the basic step and the pattern of this dance, the rest is really a matter of reaching a logical mathematical conclusion. It is important to recognise, however, that in order for the progression to take place the sixteen steps of the reel must cover additional ground which is the equivalent of two steps. The dancer who is not progressing on one place (e.g. 'C' the first time through) should take up the slack by completing the last loop of the reel in order to reach his place rather going direct and turning on the spot to face into the reel. Mrs Baker was uncertain about the tune but seemed to feel that the music and words provided in the Old Cornwall Society magazine of 1929 by a Mr W Arthur Pascoe fitted adequately. She remembered the dance being done by men on North Cornwall farms when she was a child in the twenties.
An excerpt from Bottrel's Traditions and Hearthside stories of West Cornwall also gives us an insight into this dance: "The sport of wrestling in the Plen an Guare (see Feast Day Dances), which was given up to the boys for the games at quoits, were kept up from daylight till dark night, when all went home for a hasty meal and on to take the girls to the public house, where the fiddle and fife in every room put life into the legs of the dancers; but they seldom found fiddles enough, and many a merry jig and three handed reel was kept going by the tune being sung…" DANCE NOTATIONS Formation
Three people standing in a line, 'A', 'B' and 'C'
Step forward onto right foot, hop on this foot and at the same time bring the left leg forward with the knee straight so that the heel of this left foot strikes the ground level with the toe of the right foot. Repeat, stepping forward with the left foot this time. Bars The dance begins with 'A' and 'B' facing each other, 'C' facing 'B's' back. 1 16
Reel of three ('A' and 'B' passing each other right shoulders), to finish with 'A' in centre facing 'C'. Unlike the 4 Hand Reel, this reel requires wide sweeping loops. 17 20
'A' turns to face 'B' and sets. 21 24
'A' turns to face 'C' and sets. The reel begins again from this position ('A' and 'C' passing right shoulders), this time 'C' will finish in the middle. In order to complete the pattern the dance must be done six times during which each dancer will have done the dance from each position twice. TUNE/SONG The tune suggested to use for this dance is Three Hand Reel, the tune which was originally collected in association with the dance. The words for the song to this dance as communicated by Mr Pascoe's were introduced by: "But the best time of all wus when Mester Tervenen tooked down he`s ol` fiddle from the shilf an ` wayy we scampered in a dree handed reel,singin`so well as dancin` to the music, though the words es fullish…" followed by these song lyrics: Some say the Devil's dead
And Buried in Fowey Harbour
Some say he's alive again
And `prenticed to a barber Tra la la la la… When Tom's father died
Tom and I we took a ride
Down to the riverside
And Back again for dinner Tra la la la la… The words sung to the song highlighted in Bottrel`s 'Traditions and Hearthside stories of West Cornwall' were as follows: Here's to the Devil
With his wooden spade and shovel,
Dagging tin by the bushel
With his tail cocked up. Botterl suggests that some of the song lyrics for the three hand reel were from 'Mal brooks is gone to the wars'. He also adds that "The end to another old catch to which they shook their heel and toe was: A guinea will sink and a note will float
Better a guinea than a one pound note" It is difficult to trace `Mal Brooks has gone to War` but it seems likely to be `Malbrouck s`n vaten dguère` a song from the Channel Islands also very popular in Normandy and throughout France. The same or similar tune became popular in Britain associated with `For he`s a jolly good fellow` and `We won`t go home till morning`. It is interesting that in Cornwall it should appear as a direct translation of the Channel Island French.