The John Buttrey Manuscript is a massive hand-written book of over 1,000 military and social tunes compiled for the use of a British fife and drum band in the late 1700s and early 1800s. (Complete list of tunes here.)

“Because of its size and the sheer number of tunes l found it to be a very useful “rosetta stone” for identifying and dating untitled melodies” –  Ian Bell musician and past curator of Port Dover Harbour Museum

The Buttrey Manuscript is a good representation of the sorts of music that would have been heard in a garrison town like York between about 1784 and 1820 where the musicians who played for the soldiers’ parade were often the same ones playing for the Saturday night dance and the Sunday morning church service. There are duty tunes, marches, jigs and reels and song tunes – along with harmony parts for hundreds of the pieces. In the margins and end pages are some wonderful pen and ink and watercolour sketches of various subjects and scenes. Although the book is primarily written out for the fife it also contains a fingering chart for the fiddle on one page.

John Buttrey joined the 34th Regiment in Lincolnshire, England in 1797 as a drummer at the age of 13. He served in Africa and India and was discharged when he returned to England in 1814. There are sketches in the book of “The Battle of The Nile” and “The Battle of St. Kitts”, battles which took place before John Buttrey became a fifer and where the 34th did not serve. This manuscript may therefore have been passed to John Buttrey from another regiment. John emigrated to Canada in 1849 where the manuscript passed to his son Francis Buttrey (b.1820), to his grandson Alfred Buttrey (1851-1923), to his great-granddaughter Beatrice Buttrey, to her daughter Gladys Cameron, to her daughter Sandra Cameron of Georgetown, Ontario and soon to the City of Toronto archives.

[Requests for copies of the National Archives microfiche of this manuscript were granted to Fort Henry in 1980; Fort George in 1981; Colonial Williamsburg in 1985; and Fort York in 1987; as well as other museums and groups in England. It is with great pleasure that I am now able to make this music available to all who wish to review or use it via this website.]


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