England lays claim to `Auld Lang Syne' tune traced

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The Independent Online
ROBERT BURNS wrote the words to the New Year anthem Auld Lang Syne, but the music was by the 18th century English composer William Shield, according to new evidence.

Shield, who was born in 1748 in Swalwell, south of the Tyne, wrote an operatic piece called Rosina, the story of a country girl. The original score turned up in Gateshead public library, and was passed to a local musical director who found the melody near the end.

Chris Stewart, of the BBC's Look North television programme, who made the discovery, said a letter that Burns wrote in 1788 revealed he had taken his lead for Auld Lang Syne from a "man's singing".

Gateshead council now wants Auld Lang Syne recognised as a local tune in time for the millennium celebrations. Sid Henderson, the council's chairman of libraries and arts, said: "Come New Year's Eve 2000, millions of people across the globe will be singing along to the tune [Shield] wrote."

Mr Stewart said: "It's certainly controversial and could help put Gateshead on the musical map, even though the claim to fame won't go down too well north of the border."