Lasses of Portsmouth

Lasses of Portsmouth score

Thompson’s Compleat Collection of 200 Fashionable Country Dances. Vol. 4, 1780

Listen to the Lasses of Portsmouth as a mp3 or midi Arr. Roland Clarke.

Country dance: Triple minor longways.

A1 1-2 1st couple turn by the right hand.
3-4 1st couple cast off on own side into second place while 2nd couple move up.
5-8 1st and 3rd couples circle left.
A2 1-2 1st couple turn by the right hand.
3-4 1st couple cast up to the top while 2nd couple move down.
5-8 1st and 2nd couples circle left.
B1 1-4 1st couple lead down the middle through the 3rd couple and cast up to second place.  2nd couple move up on bars 1 & 2.
5-8 1st couple lead up through the top and cast off into second place.
B2 1-8 1st couple and 2nd couple rights and lefts.

Portsmouth 1787

Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, has been a significant harbour for centuries.  Captain Cook arrived there aboard Endeavour in 1775 after successfully circumnavigating the world.  It was Britain’s premier naval port.  From here, the majority of shipping to Australia set sail, starting in 1787  with Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet as they went to establish the colony at Botany Bay; it was thus the last place many convicts, sailors, settlers and soldiers set foot on English soil.

Lasses of Portsmouth

Lasses of Portsmouth from Thompson’s Compleat Collection of 200 Fashionable Country Dances. Vol. 4, 1780

A number of English country dances devised in the 18th century commemorate the importance of the town: –  The Lasses of Portsmouth, Portsmouth,  Portsmouth Review, Portsmouth Harbour, Trip to Portsmouth, Express from Portsmouth, Portsmouth Rout.  Such dances would have held special memories for many on the other side of the world.

Portsmouth Point by Thomas Rowlandson circa 1800

Portsmouth Point by Thomas Rowlandson circa 1800.
Note the fiddler, with scampering dog,  playing for a dancing couple.   Rowlandson frequently included images of music and dance as part of daily life.

Just before first light on 13 May 1787, in the seventeenth year of the reign of King George III, a fleet of small wooden sailing vessels weighed anchor in the morning mist of rural England and dropped quietly down Solent Water.

The First Fleet of 1787 was the greatest migratory voyage attempted by man.  It travelled further than any other migratory passage, it carried more people, and it went to a land about which the voyagers’ ignorance was total.
What is more, it was successful
All eleven ships…arrived at Botany Bay within three days of each other after eight months at sea.  Only 48 people died during the voyage, an amazing achievement in an age of malnutrition, appalling living conditions, medical ignorance, and low value on human life.
For the government in Britain and for the commander Captain Phillip, the achievements of the First Fleet was unparallelled.  It was a magnificent feat of seamanship, navigation and organisation.

“Sailing Home. A pictorial record of the First Fleet re-enactment voyage.”
Photographs: Malcolm Clarke, Text: David Iggulden
Angus and Robertson Publishers, North Ryde, Australia, 1988

 Sources

Colonial Music Institute. Dance Figures Index:English Country Dances, 1650-1833
Compiled by Robert M. Keller. http://www.danceandmusicindexes.org/DFIE/index.htm

Iggulden, David [Text],  Clarke, Malcolm [Photographs]
Sailing Home. A pictorial record of the First Fleet re-enactment voyage.
Angus and Robertson Publishers, North Ryde, Australia, 1988

Porter, W.S., Heffer, Marjorie & Heffer, Arthur B.  The Apted Book of Country Dances.  Twenty-four Country Dances from the last years of the eighteenth century, with tunes and instructions.  English Folk Dance and Song Society, Great Britain, 1966.

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