Monday, June 19, 2017

The Jacobite Trail

Patrick Wamsley sent me this a while back, but the link was to a place holder, and I wanted to wait for the full site to go up.

Historic Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland, The National Trust for Scotland, and other organizations have pooled their resources to create "On the trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites", following the path of the '45 rebellion.

Discover 26 of Scotland’s famous Jacobite sites, some of the country’s best historic places and a major exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland (23 June – 12 November 2017) all in one accessible trail.

Check out the map of sites on the trail!

It looks like a lot of fun, especially for those traveling to Scotland this year!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cape Breton Fiddling Article in the NYT!

From John Blanck:

Hi Pete, today's NY Times has an article about Scottish/Cape Breton fiddle music in Nova Scotia, and wasn't sure if it was appropriate to reference in the newsletter or send around by email.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Habbie's Howe Decoded

This last month, Elke taught tunes from the 6th Gow Collection. One of them was called "Habbies Howe".

Smartphones were whipped out to figure out what the tune refers to, but we couldn't zero in on it.

Patrick Wamsley has found a blog on hiking a site by that name, and here's a relevant quote:

Habbie's Howe is the setting for much of Allan Ramsay's 'Gentle Shepherd', and there is an excerpt from it carved into a stone panel 200m or so [5] from the bottom of the steps. It refers to the 'flowerie howm' on the opposite bank, as well as features such as Peggy's Pool with its waterfall. Look out for Sandy Cave [6].

Mystery solved!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Notes from the March Meeting

We covered Aird's 4th collection in the last meeting, and Patrick Wamsley wrote in with some additional information about several of the tunes.

Patrick writes:

1) Pibroch of Donald Dhu
Gaelic name = Piobaireachd Dhomhnaill Dhuibh

This song is often misinterpreted.  Some think that "Black Donald" is Donald Balloch of Clan Donald when he was actually the Cameron Chief who defected to the royal army . . . . After the battle, Donald Balloch ravaged the Cameron lands in revenge for their treachery . . . . 
Also see

Pete here with some additional information about "Black Donald's March". Most piobaireachds today are played very slowly, especially in the first variation (the ùrlar, or "ground"). There are a class of them, "marches" (in the older sense of "martial music", not necessarily "for parade quickstep") that seem to have originally been breezier in tempo, similar to what we'd think of a march today. The McIntyre's march appears to be one such piobaireachd (known in its reduced form today as "High Road to Gairloch", but originally as "Gabhaidh sinn an ràthad mòr"), and Piobaireachd Domhnaill Dhuibh may be another. Here's a Pipes/Drums article that shows how it appeared in the early piping sources.

Patrick continues:

2) A Trip to Inchcomb

Inchcolm Island is by far the most beautiful of all of the island in the Firth of Forth.  Take a free virtual tour of Inchcolm Island here:

3) The Gobby O

Here's a version of this tune entitled "Jefferson and Liberty"

The lyrics are full of old-fashioned blood and thunder: "No lordling here with gorging jaws/Shall wring from industry its food/No fiery bigot's holy laws,/Lay waste our fields and streets in blood." 

You can't ask for much more than opposition to fiery bigots in a campaign ditty. And it culminates in a bellow of Biblical proportions: "Let foes to freedom dread the name/But should they touch the sacred tree/Twice fifty thousand swords would flame/For Jefferson and Liberty."

All of the lyrics can be seen here:

4) Little Man of the Cave

Bodachan a gharaidh
Cho friogadach 's cho frogodach
Bodachan a gharaidh
Cho frogodach 'sa bha e riamh.

Alternate version of the tune:

5) What Can the Matter Be

Old version = "Johnny bydes lang at the fair."

The oldest recovered American text of "Seven Old Ladies Locked in the Lavatory" is in "The One, The Only Baker House Super-Duper Extra Crude Song Book", which was probably compiled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology around 1955.
Also see

Thanks, Patrick, for the fun info!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gaelic Songs of Scotland

Patrick Wamsley shared this link to a UK government source for Gaelic songs for primary schools.

Check it out!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DC-Area Scottish Jam is Back!

Greetings, all,

After a hiatus, we’re relaunching the DC-Area Scottish Jam Session launches anew at a new location, John Strongbow's Tavern (, located at 710 King St. in Alexandria. John Strongbow’s is a Medieval and Renaissance themed pub that opened up in conjunction with Medieval Madness.

The jam will take place from 2 PM - 5 PM this coming Sunday, 1/25/2015, and if all is successful, will repeat on the 4th Sunday of every month.

So come on out, bring your instruments, and play Scottish tunes on Rabbie Burns’ birthday!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Ewe Wi' The Crookit' Horn

One of the great tunes in the Strathspey repertoire is The Ewe wi' the Crookit' Horn, in Gaelic as A' Chaora Chrom, for the words in the accompanying song "'S galain aig a' chaora chrom (and the crooked-horned ewe has a gallon)"

What is this mystical beast, an ewe with a crooked horn? Well, it's a still. An illicit one, of course. 

And now it's easier than ever to envision, since a reenactor's sutler, Goose Bay Workshops, has begun producing a reproduction of an 18th century still:

The picture shows the still (right) and the condenser worm (left). When in use, the still would sit on a 3- or 4-legged trivet over a fire, which might look like this:

With the trivet as the legs, the handle as the head, and the vat as the body, you have your ewe; and the crookit' horn is the condensing tube from which the magical "water of life" emerges.

I'll drink to that!