Dalkeith at War

Like Scotland's military history in general, Dalkeith's is a saga of disaster and incompetence. The Lothians were the scene of Scotland's bloodiest victory at the Battle of Roslin, and also of its greatest defeat, at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, after which crowds of fugitives fled to Dalkeith, being cut down by the invading English army on their way. There is no music for the first; the second is marked by Depairte, depairte, a setting of a poem by Alexander Scott. It is a monologue for the Maister of Erskyn, the lover of the widowed Queen Marie of Guise. The music is probably French, and may have been used for a song in Ane Satyr of the Thrie Estaitis in 1540. Scott's words need trimming to fit, since there are only four syllables of music for the first line. I've taken this direct from the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568, only expanding a few abbreviations. Scott himself was more likely from Dalkeith than anywhere else, given that he wrote a long poem about the town which is obviously based on local knowledge.

Dalkeith is known from documents older than this, but it entered geography with this invasion: a set of battle maps from an English pamphlet about it (in a style much like the instant book-of-the-war paperbacks sold on airport bookstalls at the present day) are probably the earliest to include the town. The major Scottish account of the war, Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland, includes a remarkable transcription of the calls used by the English sailors as they were coming in to land, but unfortunately no music from either side.

Scotland's most painless defeat was at the hands of General George Monck, who invaded in 1650 to neutralize the threat of Charles II to the English Protectorate; there were few fatalities or reprisals. Monck lived at Dalkeith Palace until 1652, succeeded by John Lilburne, then returned in 1654 after a period running the Navy. Monck and Lilburne were the military (and in many matters civil) governors of Scotland, so the palace then saw its moment of greatest power, as the seat of the country's real government. The Lord Monk's March was published by John Playford; it's a splendid tune but not very march-like. (The collection it comes from is sometimes dated 1657, while Monk was in Dalkeith, but another tune in it can only have been given its title after the Restoration in 1660). General Monk's March, still used as a Morris dance tune in England, is more martial; this version comes from a much later source, an 18th century manuscript. Probably both tunes commemorate Monck's march on England at the end of his stay, after he decided to back the restoration of Charles II, a decision he reached at Dalkeith at the instigation of his Royalist brother. Monck's return was celebrated in songs like The Loyall Subject's Joy, reprinted in the Roxburghe Ballads; its tune was named as Sound a Charge, but must have been the same as the tune known later as Samuel Hall or Ye Jacobites by Name.

For George, our Generall, sing for joy, sing for joy;
Let us pray both great and small, sing for joy.
That faithfull he may stand, for the good of Fair England,
Then we will fight with heart and hand, sing for joy.

British soldiering in the late 17th and 18th centuries was stratified by class. Working-class men went to the regular army or "militia"; they could be sent anywhere, and these forces are marked by little music - they didn't parade, they were just sent overseas to kill or be killed (or more likely die of tropical disease). Above them were the "fencibles", middle-class part-time soldiers who could not be sent out of the country. Many of these units were raised by local landowners. Even more elite were the Volunteers and Yeomanry, infantry and cavalry units respectively, which only saw service in their home county. They were officially a kind of Home Guard, but Britain never faced a real threat of invasion. In practice Fencibles, Volunteers and Yeomanry were used for domestic repression, culminating in the Massacre of Tranent in 1797 and the Peterloo Massacre of 1820. The more elite a force was, the less fighting it did, the more splendid was its uniform, and the more music was written for it.

The Duke of Buccleuch raised his fencibles for the American war in 1778. Their most notable action was in helping to gun down Highland soldiers in the Leith mutiny of 1779, and their even more notable inaction was during the Edinburgh anti-Catholic riots of the same year, when the new Catholic chapel was looted and burnt down by a mob. Henry Mackenzie wrote in his Anecdotes and Egotisms:

I walked along the line of the Buccleugh Fencibles, who were bid from the Castle as a guard to prevent further mischief, but who interfered very little to prevent the destruction of the Chapel. I overheard some of their talk which, as far as I could make it out, seemed to imply rather a Presbyterian feeling of satisfaction at the destruction of that "Temple of the Devil" as they called it.

Typically, The Duke of Buccleuch and his Fencibles is a flamboyant reel, published in 1788 by Joshua Campbell; the point of being a Fencible or Volunteer was the social life, of which dancing was a large part. The Duke of Buccleugh's March, published by Aird in 1801, is far more businesslike, and must have been intended for a fife band. By then the regiment had briefly seen real service, in Ireland during the 1798 rebellion.

The Dalkeith Volunteers, raised for the war with France at the end of the 18th century, seem never to have done any fighting at all, and the Mozartian Dalkeith Volunteers March, published in a collection for the piano by Alexander Gibb in 1798, is not much of a rallying cry, though it is perfectly playable on the fife. By the end of the Napoleonic War the split between real military music and its salon versions was complete; writing marches became a popular occupation for lady composers, none of whose music seems to have got beyond the ballroom. The Duke of Buccleugh's March, by Nathaniel Gow, is from his Select Collection of 1815; no army could ever have marched to it. The Earl of Dalkeith's March, from the same collection, is yet another piece of recycling, this time admitted in the score; it's Papageno's aria from Mozart's Magic Flute.

The Free Gardeners' Battle Song is my title for an unnamed song of Peter Forbes, written during the Napoleonic War for a procession in Dalkeith of the Free Gardeners, the largest of the societies set up in imitation of the Masons. All the anti-French songs of the period were fairly silly, and this one, to the tune of Johnnie Cope, is no more or less silly than the average. In 1812 when it was printed, there was a nationwide panic about the threat of a French invasion, which might have been reinforced in Dalkeith by the great fire of that year, reminding people of what such an invasion might mean.

Next chapter: The Palace and the Scotts of Buccleuch
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Music of Dalkeith
Copyright © 2001, Jack Campin