More than most of Europe, the history of the Scottish gentry and aristocracy is tied up with its houses. Names of houses and personal names were not often formally identified, but in practice compounds like "the Dundases of Arniston" or "the Napiers of Merchiston" lasted for centuries and had the social implications of a "von" or a "de" on the Continent. When a musician dedicated a new dance tune to a house, the family that owned it was meant. By the middle of the 16th century, there were about 100 such great houses within half a day's ride of Edinburgh; most of these families came to own a house or flat in the city as well. The chapter title is an aphorism of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe's, referring to the scandals he uncovered in the genealogies of the great; he was always delighted to find that a noble's father was not who he ought to have been. Thomas Carlyle, writing at about the same time, was blunter:
the nobles of the country have maintained a quite despicable behaviour, from the days of Wallace downwards - a selfish, ferocious, famishing, unprincipled set of hyenas, from whom at no time, and in no way, has the country derived any benefit whatever.
It can often be difficult to identify which member of a family a tune was dedicated to, since each family had a few first names, particularly for boys, which were reused over and over again for generations, sometimes to the present day. Dicks were called William (really), Montgomeries were called Hugh or Alexander, Dundases were called Robert, Hopes and Napiers were called John or Charles, Scotts were called James or Walter. And a tune written for one person could be reprinted a generation later, perhaps with the name changed to fit somebody of the current generation or just because the publisher got it wrong. You need to look at the genealogical small print.
Holyrood Abbey is one of the oldest buildings still above ground in Edinburgh. It predates any idea of a royal palace in Scotland by centuries; the earlier Scottish kings had no fixed residence and Scotland's capital was wherever they happened to be. This changed in the reign of James IV, who tried to emulate the increasingly settled courts of England and continental Europe. The palace of Holyrood was built beside the abbey on his orders in 1501. There are two tunes named after Holyrood House. The country dance Holyrood House comes from David Muir of the New Cavendish Dance Band, but he seems to have been unsure about whether he wrote it himself from scratch or adapted something older; Angus Fitchet claimed an almost identical tune, Waverley Steps, as his own composition.
James IV was devoted to music, of many different genres from high art music in the international style through to the earthiest folk performances, and paid his musicians well. He died at the battle of Flodden in 1513. James IVth's March, or the King shall enjoy his own again is from a manuscript of Lady John Scott (1811-1900), born Alicia Anne Spottiswoode; she gives no hint of why she titled it that way, and it is really a English Royalist song of the 1640s by Martin Parker. King James Vth's March is from the same manuscript, and raises similar questions; it can't be earlier than the 18th century. James V died young and achieved little; some of his poetry has survived, but his place in popular memory is chiefly as the "Gudeman of Ballangeich", the false identity as an impoverished farmer that he adopted when travelling the country incognito. Or not so incognito; his subjects often saw through the disguise straight off and shouted "There goes the King of Scotland!" after him.
Both palace and abbey were set on fire by Henry VIII of England in 1544. The resident of Holyrood most tourists get to hear about was the next one, Mary Queen of Scots, whose few years there provided its most dramatic stories. Darnley's Prayer, an extraordinary display of whimpering masochistic self-abasement, is also by Lady John Scott; she published the text, but not the lugubriously apt hymn-like tune, which comes from a manuscript in which it isn't clear whether she is claiming to have written it. Scott's best-known work is the song Annie Laurie, though in a situation better suited to women's achievement she might have done far more than compose a few songs. (As well as being intellectually gifted she was a strong athlete, once winning a bet that a woman could run 15 miles in three hours). The event it depicts is the attempt of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary and self-styled King, to reconcile himself with the Queen after helping to murder her friend and secretary David Rizzio at Holyrood in 1566. An apparent reconciliation took place, but while lying ill in the Canongate a few months later, Darnley was strangled and his house then blown to rubble around him in a gigantic explosion that threw his corpse into the garden next door; this murder might have been arranged by Mary's next husband the Earl of Bothwell. Rizzio's place in Scottish music is both secure and totally mythical; a tradition grew up in the 18th century, invented by James Thomson and enlarged on by James Oswald, of attributing some the best-known pieces of the Scottish traditional repertoire to him. While Rizzio must have been a talented player in Italian idioms, there is no known music definitely by him and no evidence that he knew anything at all about the Scots tradition, still less enough to compose tunes in it. There's an English ballad about Bothwell in Child's collection, but without a tune.
The Beggar's Meal Pokes, a not-very-interesting version of a tune later known as A-Begging We Will Go, was improbably credited to King James VI by Oswald in the Caledonian Pocket Companion. As far as I'm concerned he's welcome to it. Few departures from Edinburgh can ever have been less lamented than his in 1603, when he went to London to take up the kingship of England. He had spent most of his Scottish reign strongarming enormous sums of money out of the Edinburgh citizenry, and his threat to raze the city to the ground in 1596 (an event described later) did nothing for his popularity. The artistic elite regretted losing his patronage. Everybody else must have heaved a sigh of relief that the Londoners were going to get squeezed instead.
Holyrood caught fire again when used as a barracks by Cromwell in 1650. It was rebuilt to its present form for Charles II in 1670, but he never saw it. James VII stayed there when he was Duke of Albany and York, outraging most of the people of Edinburgh by building himself a Catholic chapel. The Duke of Albany's Tune is from Playford's Apollo's Banquet of 1687. It became known as Cumbernauld House in the 18th century and was used in the Scots Musical Museum for a song When winding Forth adorns the vale. In the Revolution of 1688 that deposed James, Holyrood was sacked by a mob from the city, assisted by the Town Guard. They scattered the bones of David II, James II and James V and destroyed all the images in the new chapel.
The next member of the royal family to use it was Charles Edward Stuart, in 1745 during his brief occupation of Edinburgh. Danced by Prince Charles and Lady Nellie Wemyss at Holyrood 1745 is from a manuscript of Lady John Scott's, not exactly a snappy title. Lady Scott seems to have been taken in by a local or family myth; she probably got the tune and story from Lady Louisa Charteris, a member of the Wemyss family who included the tune in a manuscript made for her own use. In correspondence with Lady Scott in 1846, C.K. Sharpe pointed out that Nellie Wemyss was a small child at the time and could not possibly have danced with the Prince; that for other reasons it was unlikely that anyone else in the Wemyss family would have done; and that besides, the tune was much older. It had been used for the Jacobite song The Bob of Dunblane about the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715; the Jacobites got it from a song of which only a fragment was ever written down in 1710:
"Lassie, lend me your braw hemp heckle,
And I'll lend you my thrippling-kame".
"My heckle is broken, it cannot be gotten,
And we'll gae dance the Bob of Dunblane."
Twa gaed to the wood, to the wood, to the wood
Twa gaed to the wood, three cam hame;
An it be na weel bobbit, weel bobbit, weel bobbit,
An it be na weel bobbit, we'll bob it again.
Scott had written to Sharpe about going to a ball dressed as someone who might have been at Holyrood with the Prince, preferably Flora Macdonald. Sharpe's response was typically generous to someone asking an interesting question: he suggested an alternative character, since Flora Macdonald was nowhere near Edinburgh when Charles was occupying it, and offered the use of period clothing from his private museum. This tune was first put into print by Daniel Dow as Lord Breadalbine's March; Burns used it for his song Merry hae I been teethin a heckle. An earlier variant, also called The Bob of Dumblain, was used for an anti-religious satirical ballad opera on Scots tunes by Joseph Mitchell, The Highland Fair, produced in London in 1731. His lyrics to it went:
Look at the Hive, but touch not a Hornet,
For the whole Posse will sting you to Death,
All sorts of Clerical Drones, ever born yet,
Rise, if 'gainst one you freely vent Breath.
'Twere safer, by far, to merit a Halter,
To steal, rob or plunder, turn Traitor, or kill;
For then you might fly to that Refuge, the Altar,
Where you'd be safe as a Thief in a Mill.
There are Gaelic traditions about this tune going back to the early 17th century, its oldest name being A mhathan a' ghlinne so (Wives of this glen), under which title it is said to have been played at a massacre of the Campbells by the Macdonalds at Lagganmore in 1645 and at the retaliatory Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. As Bodach nam Briogais a nise gar fagail (The old men with the breeks are retreating) it is said to have been composed by Findlay MacIvor, piper to Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy, after a battle with the Sinclairs of Caithness in 1681. Its later history saw it used as a reveille for the battle of Quatre Bras, before Waterloo, and as the tune for Walter Scott's Hail to the Chief.
Lady Scott's deception was a typical piece of Scottish musical folklore. Very few songs relating to the 1745 Rebellion were composed, adapted, or performed at the time, the bulk being after-the-fact romanticizations; in the case of the Skye Boat Song, more than a hundred years after the fact. There seems to be only one original Jacobite tune of the '45 from the entire Lowlands, James Oswald's air for Smollett's The Tears of Scotland, and even that is only a protest against Cumberland's brutality with not a flicker of support for the Stuarts themselves. The Highlands have more, particularly the laments published by Simon Fraser in 1816, but even for these we only have Fraser's word for it that they have the significance he gives them. The main musical achievement of Charles Edward Stuart and his allies was the burial of unpretentious older love songs and folk satires beneath middens of self-important rhetoric. As this example shows, even in the eighteenth century there was already the beginnings of a value system that saw sex in song as demanding censorship while military violence was just fine. This tune was reprinted near the end of the 19th century in Logan's Inverness Collection with the title mutated into The Last Measure Danced by Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald. Perhaps in another hundred years it'll be The Last Dance of Elvis and Princess Di on the Aliens' Launchpad.
I have included an earlier piece dedicated to the same woman, Lady Nelly Weems Reel from the flute manuscript of Captain Hugh Montgomerie of Mauchline, compiled in Quebec during the Seven Years War.
In 1758, an enterprising architect tried to restore Holyrood Abbey; the original roof had been slate but the restorers tried flagstones instead, far heavier than the structure could stand. In 1768 it collapsed; in the ensuing confusion, souvenir hunters stole the body of James V and the heads of Queen Margaret and Lord Darnley. In the decades after Charles Stuart's occupation the palace was unused and increasingly decrepit; it was restored to use by the military commander Lord Adam Gordon, who lived there from the 1790s, and later by his successor Lord Moira.
For centuries Holyrood and its surrounding parks had the status of a debtor's sanctuary; a whole satellite town of Edinburgh bankrupts grew up there, none of them able to leave it except on Sundays, when they were immune from arrest. The next member of royalty to stay at Holyrood needed a residence with that status. The Comte d'Artois, brother of the claimant to the French throne "Louis XVIII", arrived in January 1796. The Scots Chronicle published a grandiloquently impassioned poem on his behalf in March:
O Scotia! take me to thy arms-
Thy friendly arms O stretch to me!
My native land has lost her charms-
From Gallia's shore I come to thee:
From Gallia's once dear sprightly shore
I fly to thee, her ancient friend;
Oh! ope the hospitable door-
Wilt thou a royal head defend?
The purple stream and deluged plains,
So late the terror of mine eyes,
My wounded breast the shock retains,
And every throb of pleasure dies.
Can Scotia hear my mournful tale,
And Scotia not afford relief?
Oh! let the voice of woe prevail-
Thy tenderness will soothe my grief.
He was generally known as "Monsieur" during his stay. Monsieur the Count D'Artois's Reel is from Robert Mackintosh's third book, published in the same year. The Compte d'Artois's Favorite, a jig by Nathaniel Gow, was probably written for Monsieur's arrival too; it was published in a music sheet around 1797. As an opponent of the revolutionary regime, the Count was warmly welcomed by the elite, and Lord Adam Gordon lent him a suite of apartments and a nearby cottage for his mistress; his wife never joined him. But despite his personal wealth, army of hangers-on, fashionable status and an enormous pension from the British Government, he was permanently insolvent and imprisoned in Holyrood by his debts; except on Sundays, his son the Duc d'Angoulême had to represent him at social gatherings. Le Duc d' Angouleme's Strathspey is also from Robert Mackintosh's collection.
The Count left for London in 1803, paid a return visit sometime around 1810, and came back as "Charles X" in 1830, intending to stay. But times had changed. He was again welcomed by the Edinburgh tradesmen for showering them with money that wasn't his own to spend, but the British Government now recognized his rival Louis Philippe as King of France, and finally threw Charles out for scheming against him in 1832. An overwrought poem of 1839 about Holyrood by Victor Hugo, like a French imitation of Walter Scott, was inspired by what the Duc told him about it. On July 6 1798, "S.A.R. Monsieur" visited Dalkeith Palace, where one of the Scott of Buccleuch family's eccentric hobbies left us the information that he weighed 13st 5lb 10oz; they recorded the heights and weights of all the family and visitors, and "Monsieur" was one of the heaviest people ever to call in.
Lady Nairne moved into Holyrood in 1806. In a letter written years later, she described what she found:
The chambers were hung with very fine old tapestry whereon were depicted immense human forms with the heads of toads. One of these chambers was my bedroom when I visited the Palace, and I confess to my eerie suggestions as I looked at them.
The coincidence with The Paddo's Song, set at the nearby Wells of Wearie, is chilling. The Queensberrys, described later in this chapter, were the archetypal family of the Gothic novel; but somebody at Holyrood (most likely James VII when he was Duke of York, since he collected tapestries), seems to have been the original for H.P. Lovecraft's were-frog horror story The Shadow over Innsmouth. Nairne and her husband were evicted at short notice for King George IV's visit in 1822; she already had Jacobite sympathies from her family background, but from then on it was personal.
The Prince of Wales Welcome to Holyrood Palace is by Hugh Mackay (1801-1864), the brother of Queen Victoria's first piper Angus Mackay, and himself Pipe-Major of the 71st Regiment and later the Stirlingshire Militia. It comes from Alexander Glen's 1860 collection. The prince was the future Edward VII.
In the next century, Holyrood sounded to a very different kind of music. Writing in 1938 about the deputation of Hunger Marchers that arrived in Edinburgh from the Fife mines and the Clyde shipyards in 1933, Harry McShane told how the marchers went down the Royal Mile, ignored police efforts to deflect them, and strode through the palace gates:
The walls and grounds of the Royal Palace at Holyrood - that innermost sanctuary of all the Royal parasites in Scotland's history - echo the tramp of the first legions of the masses. The walls and ground of Holyrood that heard the music of Rizzio, and Mary Queen of Scots, hear the song of that murdered Irish leader, "The Rebel Song", and then the thunderous battle cry of the world's workers, "The Internationale".
His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh's Hornpipe is another tune by Hugh Mackay, from David Glen's Collection. The Duke of Edinburgh is a strathspey for the pipes by Willie Ross, from the second book of his collection.
The Duchess of Edinburgh is a pipe march of the 1870s by Duncan Ferguson of Killin. I've taken it from Donald McPhee's collection.
The Royal Hunt was written by Jim MacLean in 1963 to celebrate a current, albeit part-time, resident of Holyrood. The Duke of Edinburgh (president of the World Wildlife Fund) was a hunter of Assyrian destructiveness even then. I have seen this given two different tunes and have included both. The tune used when it was published in a folk magazine in 1964 is probably Irish, commonly known as Bonaparte Crossing the Alps; it was first printed as a nameless march in Kerr's Merry Melodies of the 1880s. It is a member of a larger tune family known to musicologists as Dives and Lazarus which is most likely English in origin. MacLean probably knew it from the song Hot Asphalt, about the misfortunes of an Irish roadmender in Scotland. The other tune, suggested by Morris Blythman in a manuscript collection of Scottish political songs from the 1950s and 1960s, is Ghost Riders in the Sky, for which he added an obvious chorus.
The placename "Drumsheugh" has several meanings. Also spelt "Drumselch" - "forested ridge" - it referred to the open moor to the north and east of the city that existed in the time of David I, including the Royal Park around Holyrood; later, under the different etymology "Meldrum's haugh", it referred to the smaller area between Haymarket and Corstorphine, which belonged to the Earls of Moray and contained their Edinburgh residence of the same name. Drumshugh, published by Robert Bremner, must refer to this house, which was demolished in the last phase of construction of the New Town; it was near what is now the corner of Great Stuart Street and Randolph Crescent. However, there were three other houses in the area that at some time or other were called Drumsheugh. One was occupied by Lady Jean Douglas during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, and she sheltered one of Charles Edward Stuart's senior officers there after Culloden. She had two children very late in life, and the Duke of Hamilton disputed whether they were really hers, in order to get hold of an inheritance; the resulting legal case, the Douglas Cause, dragged on for years. When it was settled in favour of Lady Douglas's son Archibald in 1769, Edinburgh erupted in celebrations of the usual style: "illuminations", as part of which the supporters of the Douglases either stayed at home and lit up their houses or roamed the streets to hurl stones through the darkened windows of people siding with the Duke of Hamilton. The army was called in to patrol the city for two days. Another Drumsheugh house, converted into a girls' school in 1809, was the setting for the lesbian-libel case of 1811 detailed, and I mean detailed, in Lillian Faderman's long and sententious book Scotch Verdict.
The Queensberry family was the elite of one of the branches of the Douglases, who, within 200 years of the events epitomized in their curse on Edinburgh, had moved there into the centre of its political life. Queensbury's Scots Measure is given here as it appears in Margaret Sinkler's manuscript of tunes for the treble viol from 1710 - it was later known as The Cardin' o't, and was adapted by Burns. Queensberry House was built in 1647 for Charles Maitland, brother of the Duke of Lauderdale, using masons from the countryside, which led to a violent dispute, one of many involving rival groups of master masons and their workers in the late 17th century; the Canongate masons attacked them and confiscated their tools. Lauderdale was a psychopathic despot, but Bishop Burnet's description makes Maitland sound even worse:
The Earl of Lauderdale had for many years treated his brother, the Lord Hatton, with as much contempt as he deserved; for he was both weak and violent, insolent and corrupt.
The first Duke of Queensberry bought the house after the Revolution of 1688, having opportunistically waited to see which side would win before deciding to move back to Edinburgh; from then until the Union of 1707, the house was one of the grandest mansions in the city. At the time of the debates leading to the Act of Union, the house contained, along with the rest of the family, the enormously big, strong and gluttonous mad idiot James Lord Drumlanrig, grandson of the first Earl of Queensberry. The rest of the family, including James's minder, went to attend the debates; attracted by the cooking smells in the kitchen, he spitted, roasted and partly devoured the kitchen boy, paralleling what the Earl was doing to Scotland at the time. Forty years later, another Lord Drumlanrig shot himself after failing to marry the girl he wanted. One of the Queensberry family's friends was Horace Walpole, whose The Castle of Otranto influenced much Gothic fiction; the familiar horror-movie theme of the murderously insane aristocrat kept locked in the castle attic by the rest of his family probably comes from the foot of the Canongate. Queensberry House is a setting intended for the flute, from a manuscript of the mid-18th century. Drumlenrick's Ayr is, unfortunately for a good story, not dedicated to either the killer or the suicide; it comes from the Blaikie lute tablature manuscript of 1692, when the title was held by the third Earl of Queensberry, who ordered the building of Drumlanrig Castle near Dumfries. The site was once used as a camp by the Romans; it is still the country seat of the Queensberrys, in the centre of a 110,000 acre estate, the largest single block of privately owned land in Britain. The elaborate building, finished in 1689 and architecturally similar to George Heriot's School in Edinburgh, was often visited by Burns a hundred years later. The earl, his family, and his palace were cursed at the time in a polemic by Robert Ker of Gilmerton:
I came some further on my way
A fair palace I did espy!
I said, what way was this foundation laid,
By the oppression of some lairds;
The superstructure was carried on,
By shedding of the blood of men!
And then the capestone its put on,
And this does make men sigh and groan.
Altho' that house should reach the sky,
God's judgement will make some men cry...
The earl himself only spent one night in it, fell ill, decided he didn't want to live so far out of reach of a doctor, and eventually moved to Queensberry House, which he had made officially part of the Dukedom of Queensberry, though the rest of it is 40 miles away. There were legal reasons why he had to live on his estate and political reasons why he had to be in Edinburgh; this dodge let him be in two places at once. Like the other great families of the Canongate, the Douglas Earls of Queensberry made London their main residence after the Union, and built a "Queensberry House" in London in 1721; that one was demolished in 1790. They and their relatives, like Lady Jean Douglas, used the Edinburgh house less and less often; it was turned into flats later in the century. The family sold it to William Aitchison in 1801; he got more than his purchase price by stripping it of its fittings, and Earl Moira got the army to buy the remaining shell as a barracks in 1803. It was then used for Napoleonic War pensioners, as a fever hospital during the epidemic of 1818-19, for the first-ever Highland Show (complete with cattle) in 1822, as emergency accommodation for 1000 people made homeless by the great High Street fire of 1824, as a poorhouse from 1833, and a night refuge and soup kitchen from 1840. It continued as a poorhouse of Dickensian horror until the 1950s, became a slightly more civilized old people's home in subsequent decades, and as I write it is being swallowed up in construction work for the new Scottish Parliament.
The tune Queensberry House went through as many changes; it was called The Confederacy in David Young's compilation for the Duke of Perth in 1740, and was usually called Miss Stewart's Reel in the years before 1748, when Jacobite words were written for it as You're Welcome, Charlie Stuart. That song itself sparked a riot at an Edinburgh theatre in 1749 on the anniversary of Culloden, when army officers asked the band to play Culloden and other citizens demanded the newly-Jacobite tune instead. But the tune was appropriated by the Whigs anyway: its opening is used in The routing of the Rebels from a flute manuscript of 1752 in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Then it was depoliticized again, to become Glen Morisone's Reel by Cumming in 1780; around the same time it became a love song, O Lovely Polly Stewart, in which form it was printed in the Scots Musical Museum; and Burns used it for an impromptu piece, You're Welcome, Willie Stewart, which he cut into a pub glass with a diamond - the landlady being so unimpressed by this that she insisted Burns's friends pay for his vandalism. The ruined glass was later owned by Walter Scott. The tune has gone on evolving to the present day, with several versions found in Cape Breton.
A song collection by Thomas D'Urfey, published in London by John Walsh around 1715, contains A new Scotch Song or A Game at Pam to a tune Call'd the Queensborrow, a tune which I have not traced anywhere else. "Pam" was a card game and the song would probably have been dead funny if you understood the rules.
The Marchioness of Queensberry is from 1812, by Mr Don and published by Nathaniel Gow; the last part is a minor-key version of the German folk-song Ach, du lieber Augustin. Two later Queensberrys also committed suicide: Archibald William Douglas, the 7th Marquess, in 1858, and the manic-depressive Lord James Douglas in 1891. The line ended with Lord Alfred Douglas, the minor poet best known as Oscar Wilde's lover.
The Dukes of Buccleuch have been the biggest landowners in Midlothian for hundreds of years, and still are; their lands were enlarged further by the outright theft of the common lands of Dalkeith, the kind of expropriation carried out by many Scottish aristocrats in the years before the agricultural "improvements" of the 18th century. For about 200 years, they made a correspondingly large impact as patrons of music. Their story and that of their town is covered in my smaller companion study included with this, Music of Dalkeith.
The Napiers of Merchiston occupied their castle (now part of Napier University) for centuries. While their motto is grandiosely Nae Peer, they started out as domestic servants to royalty; the name means "keeper of the napery". The one best remembered today was the mathematician John Napier (1550-1617), inventor of logarithms and of the slide-rule-like calculating device "Napier's bones", also a historian whose work cleverly undermined James VI's claim to rule by divine right; but the family produced generations of treasurers of Scotland before him and generations of distinguished (or notoriously incompetent) military officers and imperial administrators after. Another of John Napier's inventions, from the fertile period in the 1590s before he began years of drudgery computing logarithm tables, was an early and practical mine pumping engine, doubtless put to use first in the coalmines of Midlothian. Some of his ideas lived on in legend rather than practice: in 1596 he sent the English government a list of military devices that ought to be invented for the better defence of Britain against the Spanish threat. One of them was a proposal for something like a tank; a shell of heavy armour which would protect a group of riflemen so they could roam a battlefield shooting at will. How you were supposed to move this thing around was a detail he never enlarged on. The other fantasies in this letter were the burning mirrors for setting fire to ships' sails once attributed in legend to Archimedes, a suggestion that submarines might be worth inventing, and shells that travel in zig-zag lines:
a piece of artillery, which shot, passeth not lineally through the army, destroying only those that stand in the random thereof, but superficially ranging abroad, within the whole appointed place, and not departing forth of the place, till it hath executed his whole strength, by destroying all those that be within the bounds of the said place.
The tank and zig-zag artillery were described in Sir Thomas Urquhart's weird book of 1652, The Jewel, as if they had been constructed:
upon a wager, he gave proof upon a large plaine in Scotland, to the destruction of a great many herds of cattel, and flocks of sheep, whereof some were distant from other half a mile, and some a whole mile...
and tops this by saying that when asked on his deathbed to reveal the secret, Napier said
that for the ruine and overthrow of man, there were too many devices already framed, which, if he could make to be fewer, he would with all his might endeavour to do; and that therefore seeing the malice and rancor rooted in the heart of mankind will not suffer them to diminish, by any new conceit of his, the number of them should never be increased.
Urquhart was not a man to let facts get in the way of a good story. But all the folklore about John Napier is along the same lines: it makes him out to be either a B-movie mad scientist, or the prototype for the inventor in Wallace and Gromit, or else a kind of Wizard of Id in the service of James VI. A contemporary of his, from a different branch of the family, was thought to use her talents in other directions. Barbara Napier of Wrightshouses (the area now occupied by the block of buildings including the Barclay Church and the Golf Tavern in Bruntsfield) was accused in 1590 of being one of the witches involved in the North Berwick conspiracy against James VI. When about to be burnt, she claimed to be pregnant. The sentence was delayed, and eventually she was released. Unfortunately none of the more colourful members of the Napier family attracted any music, and those who did are unidentifiable. Miss Napier's Minuet is by Daniel Dow, from the 1750s. Miss Napier of Merchiston Hall is a jig of the late 1790s by Robert Mackintosh (c.1745-1807); the hall might not mean the castle in Edinburgh, since a branch of the family in Stirling named its residence "Merchiston" as well (so did a branch in Hampshire even later). Miss Napier's Reel is from John Pringle's first collection of dance tunes, from 1801.
The Baird family is a good example of how much music could be associated with even a relatively minor and little-known line of the gentry, and is also an example of how far the history of Scottish music is women's history. (In a followup to this work, I intend to look at the music of Scottish women composers more systematically). The Bairds' family seat was at Saughtonhall, a few miles west of the city centre and now built up with early 20th century villas. "Hall" does not refer to a building, but is a corruption of "haugh", a plateau - it had that name long before there was any house on the site. The main building was greatly expanded from its 17th century core. It was later turned into a lunatic asylum at the beginning of the 19th century. Later it was taken over by the city council, who abandoned it to vandals to be set on fire, as they did to most of the former great houses they had charge of in the twentieth century. There is now no trace of it. The asylum later moved to Mavisbank House near Loanhead, which in turn fell derelict and is now near to disintegration.
Robert Baird bought the lands of Saughtonhall in present-day Gorgie for his family in 1660 and bought a baronetcy of Nova Scotia. His eldest son and heir's claim to fame was murdering a friend in the High Street in a drunken brawl in 1708; he eventually got a royal pardon. His brother William inherited the title, and married the daughter of Colonel James Gardiner, who had been killed at the Battle of Prestonpans. Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Baronet of Minto (1722-1777), late in his life to become Lord of the Admiralty and Treasurer of the Navy, wrote the lament Colonel Gardener, using the traditional tune Sawnie's Pipe. This song was still current a few decades later when it was reprinted in the Scots Musical Museum.
The next few generations followed Gardiner into the army. William's son Sir James Baird (d.1830) fought against the Americans in the War of Independence and became greatly respected in his time as a military adviser to the fanatical vigilantes of the Yeomanry movement, described later in this book. The dull jig Colonel Baird was first published in Niel Gow's Fourth Collection. It was written by Mrs Oswald of Auchincruive, born Mary Ramsay, the heiress of a slave trader from Jamaica who married Richard Oswald, a slaver from the West of Scotland. I have included her best-known tune, the Lament for Captain Cook, which I've taken from a flute adaptation of Nathaniel Gow's Vocal Melodies of Scotland; the original was in E flat. Calling it a vocal melody suggests she had a text for it, but I have not traced one; the tune was used by Burns for his song Thou lingering star with lessening ray. Mrs Oswald is best known for her funeral. She died in London in 1788 and her body was sent back to Ayrshire for burial, with the funeral cortege arriving in Sanquhar at the same as Burns did on a business trip, which forced him to go twelve miles through the snow to find other accommodation. He retaliated by writing a ferocious satirical elegy on her, which he tried and failed to keep anonymous.
The strathspey Sir James Baird is from The Beauties of Niel Gow. Sir James Baird's Strathspey, from Niel Gow's first collection of 1784, is one of the few Scottish tunes in F sharp minor, and is very similar to one in the same key published as sheet music by Alexander Campbell a few years later, Miss Maclaine of Torloisk's Strathspey. Sir James Baird's New Strathspey was written by Robert Mackintosh in 1796.
Henrietta Baird was born Henrietta Johnstone of Hilton, descended from the Lord Provost of Edinburgh at the time of the Union (the mobs of the city tried their best to kill him at the time). She married Sir James in 1781. Her sister Lucy married Richard Oswald's nephew, also Richard Oswald of Auchincruive. Lucy was also a composer like her aunt-in-law, so tunes attributed to "Mrs Oswald of Auchincruive" could be by either of them; Lucy was more imaginative. One of her tunes is Miss L. Johnston's Compliments to Neil Gow published in Gow's 1784 collection; it's a good tune but the fact that she subscribed to the collection may also have helped get it in print. Their aunt Alicia Johnston had married William Baird of Newbyth, from another branch of the Baird family, and another sister, Hester, married William and Alicia's son Robert Baird of Newbyth; there are several tunes for one or another generation of Bairds of Newbyth. Another sister, Sophia ("Aunt Sophy" to everyone in later life), was deliberately brought up illiterate by her father as an experiment. She went on to become one of the most individual characters of Enlightenment Edinburgh, moving in elite circles while speaking like a peasant and dressed in masculine clothes; Henry Cockburn describes her in Memorials of his Time. She is the source for a song of the women mineworkers of Duddingston which I have included here. The jig Aunt Soph is from the manuscripts of Lady John Scott. It has never been published; Scott didn't name a composer, and it sounds as if it might be a renamed old traditional tune, perhaps only known because Sophy remembered it. She seems likely to be the dedicatee of Miss Johnston's Reel by Mrs Robertson of Ladykirk, one of the best of the Scottish women composers of the period, published by the Gows in 1809. Henrietta was the dedicatee of The Lees of Luncartie or Lady Baird's Delight published by Niel Gow in 1784; Lady Baird's Delight which I have taken from J. Chrichton Donaldson's flute manuscript of 1853-1855, seems to be something else entirely, and since nobody was naming tunes "Delights" in the 1850s I can't explain it. She is certainly the dedicatee of Lady Baird's Strathspey, first published by Aird in the 1790s and reprinted in a different key by Lowe in the 1840s, and Lady Baird's New Reel composed by Robert Mackintosh to go with her husband's new strathspey. Miss Johnston of Hillton's Strathpey and Miss Johnston of Hillton's Reel from Niel Gow's 1784 collection are most likely for Lucy or Hester, as Henrietta was already married and Sophy was unmarriageable.
James and Henrietta had three daughters. Nathaniel Gow's Miss Baird of Saughtonhall's Hornpipe was published in 1792, when all the daughters were still children: it resembles such children's songs as Go to Berwick Johnnie or the Northumbrian Dance to thy Daddy. It is listed in the index to The Beauties of Niel Gow as Mrs Baird of Saughtonhall; Nathaniel seems to have changed his mind about who it was for. Such triple time hornpipes were once common in Scotland, as in England, but were abandoned here. Miss Baird of Saughtonhall, also published by Nathaniel Gow, is from 1809. It's by Mrs Robertson of Ladykirk. The date suggests it may have marked one of the daughters' coming-out. The strathspey Miss Baird, published by William Shepherd shortly after 1800, is one of my favourite tunes. Miss Alicia Baird's Reel, named for Sir James's third daughter, was published by Nathaniel Gow in 1814. The second daughter, Henrietta, composed music herself. Two of her tunes are Miss Janet Dalrymple's Strathspey and Miss Anne Dalrymple's Reel, both published by Nathaniel Gow. These have never been reprinted, and since the sheet is so rare I've given the full piano score. Most of the substantial amount of music written by Scottish women in this period was in flat keys like this and meant for harp or piano, as were many other pieces now generally regarded as fiddle music - the title pages of all the major collections of the time list harp, harpsichord or piano as intended instruments, often as the primary instrument, and there is no reason to suppose the composers and publishers were kidding. A more accessible piece of Henrietta's in a more fiddle-friendly key is The 8th of December, published in the Gows' Fifth Collection.
The report and prospectus for Saughton Hall lunatic asylum for 1840 gives a fascinating insight into perceptions of insanity at the time. It was private and "exclusively designed for the reception of Patients of the higher ranks"; 100 professional and merchant class patients had been admitted between 1824 and 1840. Most were between 20 and 30, the next commonest age group 30-40; this suggests that, then as now, schizophrenia was the main problem. But the "assigned causes of mental alienation" went like this:
M F Disappointment 2 2 Exclusive attention to religion 2 3 Doctrines of the "Rowites" - 3 Doctrines of "Revivals" of religion 2 - Pride 3 3 Vanity 10 1 Grief and loss of relatives 2 7 Terror - 1 Love 1 4 Self-reproach 1 3 Speculation 1 - No obvious cause 1 - Over-study 5 - Sedentary habits 2 - Embarrassed affairs 3 - Dissipation 6 - Excessive early indulgence 1 - Climate and Coup de Soleil 3 - Gradual, and combined with palsy 2 1 Great fatigue 1 - Over-attention to business 7 0 Not ascertained 5 11
Dalry House was formerly the home of the Chiesly family, who were involved in two sensationally melodramatic incidents. The first was in 1689. John Chiesly was involved in a legal dispute with his wife; the Lord President of the Court of Session, Lockhart of Carnwath, awarded her a small amount of alimony. Chiesly retaliated by shooting Lockhart dead in the street. He was hanged at the Gallowlee (now the site of the headquarters of the Edinburgh social work department) after preliminary torture and having the hand that held the gun cut off. His daughter Rachel married the Jacobite lawyer James Erskine, Lord Grange. After a marriage that seems to have been one long screaming row, she threatened to betray one of her husband's conspiracies to the Government in 1730. Erskine had her kidnapped and imprisoned for the rest of her life in St Kilda and Skye. She died alcoholic and insane in 1749. Dalry House was published by the Gows in their Third Repository; it is based on the much older Mount your Baggage. At the time it was published, the house was in the hands of the Walker family, who progressively sold off their land for the Union Canal, the railway line to Glasgow, and workers' housing. By the time they left in 1870 the house was surrounded by a hellish slum of their own making. It became a training centre for Episcopalian priests, then an old people's day centre; the council closed it in 2002 to save money and turned it into offices for charities.
The Dream was quoted in a manuscript of C.K. Sharpe's as being Lord Grange's favourite song, and later published in his Ballad Book without naming him explicitly. It probably predates the kidnapping and seems in some Freudian way to be saying something about his attitudes to women. Sharpe was related to him and is not likely to have made it up. Sharpe gave the tune two names: Gramachree and The Maid in Bedlam. They're alternate names for the same melody, possibly Irish in origin but first published by James Oswald in his Caledonian Pocket Companion as Will You Go To Flanders? I've taken it from an early 19th century flute arrangement of Nathaniel Gow's Vocal Melodies of Scotland.
The Clerks of Penicuik were an influential family for 200 years. Sir John Clerk of Penicuik (1676-1755), whose wealth came in part from the Midlothian coal mines, was influential in several of the arts, and was the first to import English and Italian ideas into Scottish landscape gardening, using his estate at Penicuik to show these off. His interest in architecture led him to be accepted as a Mason at a time when the organization was still almost exclusively for those who worked manually with stone. He was a talented musician who studied with Corelli in Italy, composed violin sonatas in the Italian idiom, and was also one of the most dedicated hypochondriacs of all time, with a library of 391 medical books to inspire his worries. The Miller was credited to him by Yair in 1751. Clerk's earlier output contains nothing like it, but it's a good song in a traditional style whoever created it.
His son Sir James Clerk had the ancient family house demolished and an elaborately Palladian mansion built in its place in 1761. The strathspey The Road to Clerk-Seat or the Temple of Beauty is from Andrew Shirrefs' Forty Pieces of Original Music of 1781. Ossian's Hall, named after the mansion's dining room with scenes from Ossian painted on the ceiling, is by Daniel Dow, dedicated to Sir James Clerk of Penicuik. This version is taken from a magazine publication of the time, and was frequently reprinted later (often spelt "Oshian"). Both are energetic tunes that would respond well to be being played in a Cape Breton style. The house burnt to a shell in 1899. Macpherson's Ossian poems were first published in 1760, and inspired another Oshian's Hall of the same period, at Dunkeld Hermitage in Perthshire; it fell into ruins and was demolished in the early twentieth century.
A later Sir John Clerk, Baronet of Penicuik (d.1798) is credited with getting Lothian Road built in a single day in 1785 by an army of labourers, as a flamboyant demonstration of what could be done by sheer force of will, demolishing anything that stood in the way so that one poor dairywoman came back from selling her produce to find her cottage, byre and dairy gone. Sir John Clerk of Eldin (1728-1812), like the rest of the family a mine owner, was a talented artist who combined his knowledge of mining and art by doing superb geological illustrations for James Hutton; he was most famous in his time for claiming to have invented a naval tactic that was coincidentally employed successfully in battle by an officer who had never heard of him. His son, also John Clerk of Eldin (1752-1832) was one of the most effective lawyers of the day. Always eccentric (he used to receive clients with cats sitting on his shoulder) he was well on the way to senility when appointed as a judge; once when disturbed by noisy cats outside his window, he first read the Riot Act to them and then fired a pistol at random into the dark. At the auction of his picture collection after his death, the floor of the auction room, a badly-built house in Picardy Place, collapsed, with the potential buyers crashing into the basement and two killed. It seems possible, from the reputation the family had for insanity in old age, that they had the familial form of Alzheimer's disease.
Sir George Clerk of Pennycuick, from one of the Gows' collections, is named after Sir George Clerk (1787-1867), who became 6th Baronet of Penicuik at the age of 11 and succeeded Henry Dundas as Conservative MP for Midlothian at 24. The original intention was that he would just keep the seat warm for another Dundas to take over eventually, but Clerk had other ideas; he served from 1811 to 1832 and 1835 to 1837 and had a number of Cabinet posts managing the economy, also finding time to be Chairman of the Royal Academy of Music in London. He is viciously attacked in George Clerk's Last Speech & Dying Words upon the Scaffold, using the centuries'-old genre of the condemned criminal's last confession. A note by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe on the National Library of Scotland's copy of this anonymous broadside says it was written by Willison Glass, an Edinburgh poet of the early 19th century who never signed his name to anything this memorable; there were many reasons to hate Clerk's guts, but why Glass in particular was so angry remains a mystery. St Stephen's Hall was the Houses of Parliament of the time. Castlereagh was an English politician who had committed suicide by cutting his throat in a fit of psychotic depression on George IV's birthday in 1822, a few days before the King arrived in Scotland; among other delusions he believed he was going to be arrested for buggery like a recently disgraced bishop. The tune specified is The Miller of Drone, published by John Pringle in 1801, but perhaps by Nathaniel Gow; Sir George Clerk of Pennycuick is a later and related tune which fits a great deal better, so I think the author simply got the tunes confused. I've included both, and also an entirely unrelated jig called The Miller of Dron from the Macfarlan manuscript which has far too many notes for the text.
The younger Gows composed three other tunes for Sir George and his family. Pennycuick House is by Neil Gow Junior, published posthumously. Sir George Clerk of Pennycuick's Reel and Miss Clerk of Penny-Cuick's Reel are from music sheets; they are credited to "A.G.", that is, Andrew Gow.
A branch of the family descended from Sir George Clerk-Maxwell (1715-1784), commissioner of the customs, artist and an innovative factory manager, produced the sharpest mind of nineteenth-century Scotland, the physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), whose major work on electromagnetism was written near Edinburgh during a few years of semi-retirement. His Rigid Body Sings, to the tune of Comin' through the Rye, is a half-serious attempt at fusing the imagery of physics with Scottish love song; if it doesn't have quite the pizazz of Donne's analogous fusions, well, Donne would never have come up with the kinetic theory of gases or the electromagnetic theory of light.
The original words associated with Pinkie House had been lost by the time it was first published in Orpheus Caledonius in 1735. This rather simpler version is from a mid-18th century manuscript of keyboard adaptations of Scots tunes. The house is a very large and much-extended one in Musselburgh; an inscription on the small original part says (in Latin) "Alexander, Lord Seton, built this house in 1613, not as he would have wished, but according to the measure of his means and estate". A sentiment most of Scotland might have echoed at any time, though coming from the Chancellor of Scotland, the most powerful man in the kingdom after the king himself, that plea of poverty is not very convincing. For a while the house belonged to the Hope family; Sir John Hope, the 11th Baronet, was forced out of it when he was bankrupted trying to operate a leased mine which flooded, and fled to Frankfurt to avoid his debts, letting out the house. Since 1951 Pinkie House has been part of Loretto School.
The Hopes were among the wealthiest families in Scotland from the seventeenth century onwards. Their home near South Queensferry, Hopetoun House, was built on the site of Abercorn Castle, a former seat of the Douglases flattened by the artillery of James II in the fifteenth century. Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall was Lord Advocate to James VI and Charles I; at this point the criminal justice system of Scotland amounted to little more than a private security firm for the Stuart family. Hope wrote the most celebrated Scots legal text of the age, his Major Practicks, which from my limited legal knowledge seems to amount to a restatement at great length of two basic precepts:
His principles shine through in the witchcraft trial he prosecuted against Isobel Young of West Barns in 1629, when he argued that defence evidence was inadmissible purely on the grounds that it contradicted the prosecution. His eldest son John was knighted and became Lord of Session in 1632; Sir John Hope's Currant is from the Skene Manuscript, and is dedicated to him. This dedication was an afterthought; the crossed-out original title from 1625 was "Currant Royal". "Currant" is an alternate spelling of "courant", a common dance form in art music until Bach's time.
Sir James Hope of Hopetoun (1614-1661) got the family into the mining business, like so many of the other great families of the Lothians; he took over the lead mines at Leadhills in 1638. Sir William Hope (1660-1724) was a noted dancer, and the author of a 1686 treatise on fencing, The Scots Fencing-Master. Sir William Hope's Scotch-measure and My Lady Hopes Scotch-measure come from Henry Playford's A Collection of Original Scotch-Tunes published in London in 1700. Sir William Hope died from a fever after becoming overheated while dancing the minuet The Louvre at an assembly. I have taken this from Robert Bremner's Delightful Companion for the German Flute, probably published in the 1750s; it remained one of the most popular dances in Scotland throughout the 18th century. The reel Hopetoun House was also published by Bremner. The occasion for it would have been the remodelling of the house by the Adams, ordered by John the 2nd Earl of Hopetoun (1704-1781). He was one of the richest men in Britain, and had 18 children by three wives; one daughter married Lord Drumlanrig, who shot himself on his honeymoon. The reconstruction made Hopetoun the biggest of all the great houses of Scotland. This reel was, and is, well-known as Sweet Molly in Scotland, and under a vast number of alternative names in Ireland, but Bremner's publication is the earliest record of it. The Countess of Hopeton's Allemand comes from McGlashan's second collection of the early 1780s.
The Hopes did their best to make life difficult for historians, and next to impossible for anyone trying to identify a tune's dedicatee, by reusing first names over and over again and by marrying each other. There are several tunes dedicated to a Sir John Hope; most would be for the soldier (1765-1823) who fought under Sir John Moore at the battle of Corunna, but another was the botanist (1725-1786) who introduced the Linnaean system into Britain and set up the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. Anne Hope (1768-1818), one of the six daughters of James Hope, 3rd Earl of Hopetoun (who later called himself Hope Johnstone), married William Hope, (who later rehyphenated himself as Admiral Sir William Johnstone-Hope) in 1792; the strathspey Lady Ann Hope, from The Beauties of Niel Gow, published by Nathaniel Gow in 1819, must be dedicated to her. The soldier Charles Edward Hope Vere (1828-1900), known to pipers as the dedicatee of a famous march by Hugh Mackay, was descended from John 2nd Earl of Hopetoun; he was also related by marriage to John the 4th Earl of Hopetoun who in 1798 married as his first wife Elizabeth, the 5th daughter of the Hon Charles Hope-Vere, who was the third son of Charles, 1st Earl of Hopetoun. Lord President Charles Hope, sheriff of Orkney, married Lady Charlotte Hope, daughter of the Earl of Hopetoun; I think Lady Hope of Pinkie's Strathspey, from the Gows' sixth collection, is dedicated to her. Miss Hope of Pinkie House's Strathspey is from their fifth collection. Lady Harriot Hope is the dedicatee of a reel first published by Aird in the early 1780s; I've given both Aird's version (in D) and the more elaborate one in F from the first volume of the Gows' Complete Repository. The 6/8 march Hopetoun House is from David Glen's collection, dating from around 1900; he doesn't name the composer.
The ruthlessness, corruption and power of Henry Dundas (1742-1811) may never have resulted in anybody dedicating a tune to him with affection or even sycophancy. He was the culminating figure of a long dynasty whose wealth and power was built on the coal mines around the family seat at Arniston and on their position in the Scottish legal elite. They owned the Arniston lands from 1571. Their splendid Arniston House was built there between 1720 and 1750; it later incorporated bits of old Edinburgh architecture, part of the frontage of the old Parliament House demolished in 1808 and a 17th century gateway from Nicolson Street. Arniston House is an Irish-sounding jig, in C minor and probably intended mainly for the harp or piano, by Nathaniel Gow.
The Dundases occupied every high office of the Scottish legal system. Henry - whose nicknames included "King Harry the Ninth" and "the Manager of Scotland" - was described like this in 1800, in one of Laing's manuscripts:
He is now in Scotland and with the power of giving away every office in the Court of Session, all in the Customs and Excise and everything in the patronage of the Crown... The Advocate of Scotland is under his absolute direction, and he uses him, and all the other Crown lawyers as the instruments of executing vengeance and destroys all of those familys who do not directly swear alledgieance to his government...
One set of satires against him were published by James Tytler in May 1792 in his Historical Register, in effect a party organ of the Scottish Friends of the People. No author is named but I suspect that Tytler wrote them himself, as he seems to have been the most talented writer in the organization. This version of Wha Wants Me? is a later one, from a anonymous songsheet printed in time for the 1792 King's Birthday riot; it was reprinted in Twopence Worth of Hogs Bristles, by a Grunter, a booklet of radical Whig songs against Pitt, Burke and Dundas. Again, I think Tytler is the most likely author. It's less laden with the names of 18th century politicians than his first attempt. Its tune is My Daddy is a Cankered Carle, or Low Down in the Broom, the air now used for Burns's My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. I've taken it from Robert Chambers' Songs of Scotland Prior to Burns. If anything, the bizarre incongruity between Burns' familiar words and this satire has heightened its effect over the 200 years since it was written. The background to the "Wha wants me?" tag is a parliamentary debate in which another MP commented on Dundas's opportunistic party-switching:
Mr Courtenay in Parliament said [Dundas's] good nature and civility called to his mind the old man in Edinburgh, who used to go about with a pail and great-coat, calling out - 'Wha wants me?'. The honourable Secretary, upon every change of administration, had imitated the old man, by calling out 'Wha wants me?'
The song caught on and was sung in the streets of Edinburgh for months in 1792-3 after the riot. Dundas himself was only amused by it; he seems to have been impervious to insult. His personality is epitomized by a debate in Parliament in 1775 about a bill to punish the New England colonies for insubordination by restricting their trade. Thomas Townshend objected that it made no distinction between innocent and guilty but would starve all alike; Dundas replied that
as to the famine which was so pathetically lamented, he was afraid it would not be produced by this Act.
His later career was largely devoted to the management of India, in which he had a free hand to cause all the famines he wanted. He was finally impeached in 1806 for official misconduct, and that ended his career, but no charges ever stuck. His acquittal was celebrated in a sycophantic song Health to Lord Melville by Sir Walter Scott, which must be one of the few songs ever to deprecate low taxes:
And then our revenue - Lord knows how they view'd it,
While each petty statesman talk'd lofty and big;
But the beer tax was weak, as if Whitbread had brew'd it,
And the pig-iron duty a shame to a pig.
In vain is their vaunting,
Too surely there's wanting,
What judgment, experience, and steadiness give;
Drink about merrily, -
Health to sage MELVILLE, and long may he live!
More colourfully, the acquittal was marked by the bouncy country dance The Manager's Last Kick by Cahusac, with laconic dancing instructions:
Hey on your own sides then contrary sides, down the middle up again, Allemande & swing corners.
For this kind of tune it's common to do a da capo to the first section after each of the second and third, but I don't know if that fits the dance.
The Dundas dynasty dominated the legal scene, and hence the state, for generations. Henry Dundas's father Robert Dundas (1685-1753) was Lord President of the Court of Session; so was Robert Dundas (1713-1787). Henry Dundas's half-brother, also called Robert (1758-1819) was the public prosecutor in the trial of Muir, Skirving and Palmer in 1792 and was the candidate who deposed Henry Erskine over the Seditious Writings Bill; his later city residence was one of the grandest buildings in the New Town and is now the Royal Bank of Scotland's headquarters in St Andrew Square, facing the massive pillar with Henry Dundas's statue on top. Henry Dundas's son Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville (1771-1851) followed in his father's foorsteps by becoming MP for Midlothian and Edinburgh. Several other members of the Dundas family did get music dedicated to them: one set of words for Bonny Christy, by Allan Ramsay, were in praise of Dame Christian Dundas, the wife of Sir Charles Erskine of Alva. It was an adaptation of a traditional song now lost. Ramsay's song seems not to have been very popular, but the tune was, and survives in many notated instrumental versions; it occurs in almost every 18th century Scottish collection for the flute.
Mr Dundass's Minuet and Lady Ann Dundass's Minuet come from Gillespie's manuscript of 1768. There is no hint as to which Dundases they were for. The first tune also appears in a flute manuscript of the same period, and Lady Dundass's Minuet is another version of it in Gillespie's manuscript, transposed into E flat - presumably this was for Lady Dundas herself to play on the harp. Miss Dundas's Reel by Daniel Dow, Mrs Dundas of Arniston's Reel by Niel Gow's son William Gow (c.1751-1791), Miss Charlotte Dundas and Miss Dundas of Melville's Strathspey by Nathaniel Gow's collaborator William Shepherd, Miss Dundas of Arniston's Reel by Nathaniel Gow, and the two tunes from George Jenkins's collection of 1793, Lady Charlotte Dundas's Strathspey and Miss Charlotte Dundas's Reel, again show the usual pattern: there are many more tunes dedicated to the women of the Scottish gentry than to its men. Davie's Caledonian Repository tried to redress the balance by renaming Mrs Dundas of Arniston's Reel as Mr Dundas of Arniston. Mrs Dundas would have had a right not to be pleased: she had subscribed to the book her tune was first printed in, which was often a good way to get a tune named after you.
Arniston Castle is a pipe tune first published by Alexander Glen in 1860; later versions of it, as played now, extend it to four parts by adding another tune on the front, J.D. McCallum, Esqr.'s Strathspey by Pipe-Major Paton of the 79th Cameron Highlanders. This extended form has become one of the most popular pieces for piping competitions, but I've given the original two-part tune, whose composer seems to be unknown. The change of name from "Arniston House" is significant. As Scotland emerged from the chaos of the Middle Ages, its gentry and aristocracy were only too pleased to abandon the inconveniences of fortified living; instead of "Castle", their new residences were proudly named "House" or "Hall". But the antiquarian romanticism of Walter Scott's novels made castles fashionable again. So Scotland acquired hundreds of architectural fantasies in the "Scots Baronial" style; but sometimes, as at Arniston, a house could become a castle by sheer wishful thinking, without reinforcement by a single brick.
Jane, Duchess of Gordon was one of the most influential British women of the late 18th century. She was born and brought up in Edinburgh as Jane (or Jean, or Jenny, or Janet, or Jeanie) Maxwell of Monreith (or Monrieth, or Monrith); her father was a landowner in Galloway. A famous anecdote in Robert Chambers' Traditions of Edinburgh describes her in her teens riding along the High Street on a pig, commandeered from one of the last herds of them allowed to run free in the city centre. She was beautiful and intelligent enough to get away with such unconventionality. The strathspey Miss Maxwell of Monrieth's Farewell to the West Lowland Fencibles and Miss Maxwell of Monrieth's Reel are both from a collection published in 1796 by Hugh Montgomerie, 12th earl of Eglinton (1739-1819). Miss Jean Maxwell of Monreith's Reel is by John French, published posthumously in 1801.
In 1767 she married Alexander the fourth Duke of Gordon. An anonymous preface to a collection of her letters published in 1864 described the match:
"The Duke was a man of easy habits, and does not appear to have been gifted with abilities beyond mediocrity. He interfered little in politics, his time being principally occupied in rural affairs and field sports, with an occasional trifling with the Muses, as is evidenced by his well-known song of "Cauld kail in Aberdeen".
Not much like his younger brother George, who was to lead the Gordon Riots of 1780. But the Duke's money and position gave Jane an entry into the political world of London which she used to the utmost:
Her house in Pall Mall [...] was the nightly scene of gatherings of the Pitt administration, where the policy and tactics of the party were freely canvassed and discussed; and here she exercised the power achieved by her rank, her influence and her beauty in playing the part of Tory "whipper-in," and in fixing the destinies of her daughters.
The only other woman to reach a comparable position was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Many tunes were written for Jane when she was at the height of her influence. The strathspey The Duchess of Gordon is by Daniel Dow, and is unusual for its time in being in E major. I've taken it from the third book of the Gows' Repository. William Marshall was employed by the Duke of Gordon, and accordingly wrote music dedicated to every member of the family. The Dutchess of Gordon's Reel (in fact a strathspey) is from his small first collection of 1780. The Dutches of Gordon's Strathspey is from Niel Gow's first collection of 1784; she and the Duke subscribed to its publication by buying six copies each, and she was later the dedicatee of the Gows' first Repository. Jane adopted a cottage at Kinrara near Aviemore as her summer residence, and Marshall's slow air Kinrara and its companion dance version Kinrara Strathspey were published as a single sheet with three other tunes in 1800. She was a successful recruiter for the army on these visits to the North-East of Scotland, and the Rymour Club's Transactions of the early twentieth century recorded from tradition a fragment of a version of Over the Hills and Far Away that she is said to have sung on recruiting drives there:
Awa wi' yer parry-marry meal an' kale;
Yer sour sung sowens an' ill-brewn ale;
Yer stinkin' fie an' yer bread fired raw;
'List, bonny laddies, an' come awa.
Oot to the barn, an' oot to the byre,
Yer maisters think ye never sud tire;
Leave the callin' o' low degree,
'List, bonnie laddies, an' come wi' me.
But her world fell apart soon after 1800. With Henry Dundas's disgrace in 1805-6, Jane's political career was finished. The Duke took a mistress, fell heavily into debt, and left the Duchess only a pittance to live on for the few remaining years of her life as she moved from one English hotel room to another. The letters in that 1864 collection were written in 1805, and most are to her lawyer; she shows all the charm of a cornered rattlesnake in trying to get her husband or his money back, and preferably both. Despite the wealth and influence of her children, she died in near-poverty and almost friendless in 1812.
Kinrara was plagiarized by the Gows as The Countess of Dalkeith's Strathspey within months of publication, and that title stuck despite Marshall reprinting it with a complaining footnote. Marshall died in 1833, and The Dutchess of Gordon's Reel was reprinted in his posthumous collection. But since Jane was somebody the Gordon family didn't talk about any more, it was retitled Linlithgow Loch, or Provost Dawson's Favorite. There is no tune explicitly dedicated to Jane in either of Marshall's collections from the 19th century. Three years later the fifth and last Duke died; the Gordon and Huntly titles became extinct.
The Lament on the Death of Jane Duchess of Gordon is a fine but little-known piece from William Morrison's A Collection of Highland Music. The composer, "D. MacDonald", was probably Donald MacDonald, compiler of the first large piobaireachd anthology The Ancient Martial Music of Caledonia. It has some similarities to Nathaniel Gow's tremendous F minor slow strathspey Mr Ronald Crawford. This lament must have been a purely personal statement, since by then there was no chance of private gain from dedicating anything to her memory.
Less conspicuous than the great houses of the gentry, but equally revealing about their power and the way they used it, are the many old stone doocots (dovecots, pigeon lofts) dotted around Midlothian. These provided doos (pigeons) for the tables of the gentry while feeding off the fields of their tenant farmers. Laws dating from 1617 specified how closely they could be spaced, so that a landowner's doos wouldn't poach on a neighbouring laird's territory; no-one owning less than a minimum area of land was permitted a doocot. The conditions were complicated enough that one lawyer of around 1800 was fond of springing "Wha may hae doos?" as a trick question on candidates for the Scottish Bar.
While Midlothian doocots didn't reach the scale of some found elsewhere in Europe (the extreme was the monastic economy of Byzantine Cappadocia, where millions of birds laid fields waste for hundreds of square miles to feed the monks) these airborne rent collectors were often deeply resented by tenant farmers. They took direct action often enough - ripping the roof off the doocot so that hawks could deal with the doos - that dovecot-breaking was made a specific crime, with a death sentence for the third offence.
So Lady Nairne's song The Twa Doos, written in the early 19th century when the laws of doo-owning were repealed, is not the innocent piece of folksy silliness it looks like. It's a landowner's lament for the passing of a particularly subtle and selfish means of exploitation.
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Embro, Embro Copyright © 2001, Jack Campin