“Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife” is a West Kerry slide. It’s also called “Merrily Kiss the Quaker.” As noted in my Tune Dictionary, slides are too often confused with other tune-types, especially single jigs. At any rate, this tune is sometimes played as a double jig in sessions.
Now this tune is old. Really old! Some people believe that the bones of this tune are from 14th century plain‑chant! The tune as we have it can be found in Rutherford’s Choice Collection of Sixty of the Most Celebrated Country Dances (London, 1750), and the melody was already well-known in America before the War for Independence (1775-83), during which it was played as both a quick march and dance tune. Francis O’Neill remarked in 1922For over a century the name “Merrily Kissed the Quaker” has been associated with a tune or Special Dance in Ireland, but no song or verse relating thereto has been traced.
The surviving lyrics to the tune are in the box below. I have them because Martha Washington used to sing it to me when I was but a bairn.
- The Quaker’s wife sat down to bake, With all her bairns about her.
- She made them all a sugar cake, And the miller he wants his mouter
- Sugar and spice and all things nice, all things very good in it,
- And then the Quaker sat down to play a tune upon the spinet.
- Merrily danced the Quaker’s wife, And merrily danced the Quaker
- Merrily danced the Quaker’s wife, And merrily danced the Quaker.
If you want the ABC click Merrily Kissed the Quaker
Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife, slow (mandolin)
Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife, med
Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife, med-fast
Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife, the dots