The Sailor's Hornpipe (also known as The College
Hornpipe and Jack's the Lad) is a traditional hornpipe
The hornpipe is any of several dance forms played and
danced in Britain and elsewhere from the late 17th
century until the present day. It is said that hornpipe
as a dance began around the 16th century on English
sailing vessels. Movements were those familiar to
sailors of that time: "looking out to sea" with the
right hand to the forehead, then the left, lurching as
in heavy weather, and giving the occasional rhythmic
tug to their breeches both fore and aft.
The usual tune for this dance was first printed as the
"College Hornpipe" in 1797 or 1798 by J. Dale of
London. It was found in manuscript collections before
then for instance the fine syncopated version in the
William Vickers manuscript, written on Tyneside, dated
1770. The dance imitates the life of a sailor and their
duties aboard ship. Due to the small space that the
dance required, and no need for a partner, the dance
was popular on-board ship.
Accompaniment may have been the music of a tin whistle
or, from the 19th century, a squeezebox. Samuel Pepys
referred to it in his diary as "The Jig of the Ship"
and Captain Cook, who took a piper on at least one
voyage, is noted to have ordered his men to dance the
hornpipe in order to keep them in good health. The
dance on-ship became less common when fiddlers ceased
to be included in ships' crew members.
Although likely originally written for folk
instruments, I created this arrangement for Flute Trio
(Flutes (2) or Piccolo/Flute & Alto Flute).