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The Wallering Coble


The Wallering Coble MS.jpeg
The Wallering Coble
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A coble is a broad, flat-bottomed, high bowed boat peculiar to the North East coast of Britain.  They were traditionally rowed, but in more modern times might be fitted with a motor.  The flat bottoms enabled them to be beached easily at the end of a day's fishing, but also made them difficult to keep upright at sea if you weren't practised in controlling them.  Cobles were built by hand, generally without plans, and no two cobles were exactly alike.  Although the skill of building - and sailing - these vessels is disappearing, there are efforts being made by people such as Peter Weightman of the North East Maritime Trust↗̱ to restore old boats and educate people in how to use them. 

Due to their wide bases, cobles were also ideal for conversion into houseboats (see below right).

"Wallering" is a dialect word meaning "floundering".  This is reflected in the unsettled and aimless nature of the melody.  

cobles-at-the-snooks_large Bowes Museum
Rudolph the Russian Rugmaker's Houseboat



Halifax Manuscript

Tune Type

Uncertain.  Were this to have been written in 9/8 with a ♩♪  rhythm, this could be characterised as a slip jig.  3/4 is the wrong time signature for a jig or a hornpipe (and it lacks the characteristic three crotchet ending to the phrases that would indicate the latter).  Triple time hornpipes were usually in 3/2 rather than 3/4 and tended not to be dotted.  It could be a hop jig, which would have a similar bouncing feel as a jig but in 3/4 rather than 9/8. Much debate about this piece has occurred on folk music internet forums such as↗̱.


Snookish characteristics: 

Ends on the Subdominant (C, or Fa) [purple circles]

Other comments

No Tempo is indicated


The spirals above bars 4 and 8 also appear in the Songtime book, although not in relation to one of the NSP pieces.  Instead, it has been added as an annotation to Hickory Dickory Dock: 


"Slower and slower" has been crossed out and replaced with a spiral.  The prevailing theory is that this means the piece is to be continued at the same speed, with the singer repeating "Tick tock! Tick tock!" ad libitum, or at least for a number of times agreed with the accompanist.  In the case of The Wallering Coble, this does indeed evoke an image of a boat bobbing aimlessly in the sea...

We are grateful to Nashville-based fiddle player Sarah Wilfong Joblin for this interpretation (SS015a), which includes the repeats:

The Wallering CobleSarah Wilfong Joblin
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