The Sailor's Hornpipe

Album: Celtic Standards (1850)


  • Originally in triple time, this famous folk melody appears to have started as a dance performed to the accompaniment of the hornpipe, a Celtic instrument. "The Sailor's Hornpipe" or "The Sailors' Hornpipe" is also known by many variant names including the "College Hornpipe," and of course has numerous different arrangements. The nautical connection did not develop until about the end of the Seventeenth and beginning of the Eighteenth Centuries when it found its way into the repertoire of sailors. Also about this time, its time signature was changed to 4/4 or 2/4 time.
  • Early printed editions date from 1787-8 by J.Dale of London; manuscript versions can be dated from a few years earlier.
  • A contemporary recording is included on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, but arguably the best known version, in Britain at any rate, is as the theme music for the long-running children's TV series Blue Peter. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3
  • Mike Oldfield is a big fan of the tune. He told The Daily Mail: "The first really difficult thing I learnt to play it was The Sailor's Hornpipe on this mandolin, which I bought when I was 16 for a tenner in Reading where I grew up. I was in a folk group called Kevin Ayers And The Whole World at the time, and that tune always got the audience jumping and clapping, so It ended up as the last piece of music on Tubular Bells. I love the mandolin's stringy folky sound so much that I've used that tune on every album I've made since."


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