The Rook manuscript was compiled in 1840 and contains over 1260 tunes from a wide variety of contemporary 19thC and earlier 18thC sources as well as a significant number of otherwise unknown pieces. The cover sheet also indicated that Rook was a multi-instrumentalist playing fiddle, flute, smallpipes, and other instruments. The manuscript has some intriguing links both to the very early years of the Northumbrian Smallpipes and the less well documented musical traditions of Cumberland.
The manuscript has been shared amongst trad musicians for almost 40 years however the original is now considered lost. The content of the manuscript is only known from a photocopy (with 1 missing page) – however nothing was known about John Rook himself nor why someone in rural Cumberland appeared to be playing the, then newly invented, smallpipes.
Much research has already been carried out – and John Rook has been found! (although the manuscript is still lost). John Rook was born, and grew up, in North Shields and moved to Cumberland in 1833 following the death of his grandfather. Perhaps the most significant discovery has been that of two of Rook’s own journals – including one from 1833 which details his relocation to Waverton and provides great detail on his musical activity.