An English visitor to Edinburgh in 1634, Sir W. Brereton, was not impressed:
the city is placed in a dainty, healthful and pure air and doubtless was a most healthful place to live in, were not the inhabitants most sluttish, nasty and slothful people.
The people of Edinburgh are an ethnic mix whose first documented element was the Welsh-speaking Gododdin, overwhelmed by the Saxons after the Battle of Catraeth in 600AD. The Welsh coexisted with the Romans for about 300 years, though Roman immigration seems to have been minimal. Late in the Dark Ages the Norse arrived in force; then under Malcolm II and Margaret at the end of the 11th century, an influx of Gaels and English; Flemish during the early Middle Ages, drawn by the developing opportunities of North Sea trade; French soldiers and courtiers towards the end of the Middle Ages; a flood of economic refugees from the enclosures of the Scottish Lowlands in the mid-18th century; and from then on a steady stream of immigrants, often associated with particular trades, from all over Europe and beyond: weavers from Picardy, policemen from the Highlands, navvies from Ireland, ice-cream sellers from Italy, miners from Lithuania, restaurateurs from China and Hong Kong, soldiers and airmen from Poland, retail traders from the Indian subcontinent, students from Norway, Germany and North America, young tourists from Australia who forgot to go home, refugees from Chile, Bosnia and Afghanistan. Jews began to arrive late in the eighteenth century, along with every schismatic Christian sect in existence; the sea trade of Leith and mass migration for large construction works meant that whole groups of believers arrived at once, and one of the first things each group did was start a church for themselves and try to convert the locals. The English have always been the largest immigrant group, with the Highlanders next. They all learnt to be as sluttish, nasty and slothful as the natives within a generation.
Musicians were as mixed as the rest. From as far back as we have records of musicians in Edinburgh, they have been drawn from all over Scotland, England and continental Europe. The music here is all devoted to the concerns of Edinburgh, but it should not be forgotten that Edinburgh has always been receptive to music whose concerns are elsewhere, from the French court singers and street performers of James IV's time to the African drummers busking in Princes Street today. Even the music of enemy nations could be fashionable, like that of the English around 1700, the Americans around 1780 or the French during the Napoleonic Wars.
There are tunes celebrating the women of most localities in Scotland. The Lasses of Edinburgh is taken from Margarte Sinkler's viola da gamba manuscript of 1709; The Lowthian Lasses is an instrumental tune taken from the Brysson/Sharpe manuscript of the 1790s; and The Lothian Lassie a song adapted by Burns. The Girls of Edinburgh comes from G. Walker's Collection of Favorite Dances, published in London in 1812. The Lasses o' Edinburgh is from a small album of broadsides now in Edinburgh University Library, probably assembled in the 1830s. No tune is suggested for it but the metre is a common one. Implicitly, it gives a good description of the confined role of young middle-class women at the time, expected to find fulfilment in a lifetime of keeping their hair tidy and their clothes clean and mended. The Ladies of Edinburgh is from James Porteous's collection of the 1820s.
Leith's contemporary image has been shaped by its colonization by middle-class immigrants from elsewhere in Edinburgh and far beyond, with their associated culture of wine bars and fashionable restaurants.. Against this, Irvine Welsh's 1989 novel Trainspotting fed the reverse of the same stereotype by depicting the indigenous Leithers as heroin-addicted AIDS-ridden small-time criminals. William McGonagall's literal-minded precision extended to social geography as well, and is more like the Leith I know:
They are very affable in temper and void of pride,
And I hope God will always for them provide;
May he shower his blessings upon them by land and sea,
Because they have always been very kind to me.
Lads of Leith is a popular 18th century jig I have given in two forms, a four-part one from Dan Wright's Aria di Camera and a two-part one from the Macfarlan Manuscript, compiled by David Young in the early 1740s. The tune was later used by Burns for his song She's fair and fause.
A note in the Brysson/Sharpe manuscript, perhaps by William Stenhouse, says the reel Let The Corry Lads Alane is "corrupted from a very ancient tune called The Poor People of Currie in the possession of Mr S", but that ancient tune is now untraceable. Currie is an old village on the south-western edge of Edinburgh. According to the Statistical Account of Scotland, compiled at around the same time as Brysson's manuscript, the main industry of Currie at the time was smuggling, as it was on the main road to Ayrshire and the smuggling ports of the West Coast. So the lads of Currie were most likely wanting the excisemen to leave them alone. But Pete Seeger's Little Boxes would fit the present-day village better.
The Bonny Lass of Fisherrow is a reel by Daniel Dow, in a version published by Nathaniel Gow. Bonny Kate of Edinburgh is a song from seventeenth century England; Bonne Kate of Edane is a version of it adapted into a Scots idiom, from John Young's Collection of Original Scots Tunes for the Violin.
Until the construction of the New Town, the Canongate was the preferred residence of the wealthier classes of Edinburgh. The Lasses o' the Cannogate was first published, without its tune, by C.K. Sharpe in his Ballad Book; he collected it from Miss Campbell of Monzie. Hamish Henderson took down The Lassies in the Coogate from the singing of Jeannie Robertson, and guessed that the older song might have had the same tune. It's a variant of the Van Diemen's Land type, extremely common across the British Isles; its obviousness might explain why Sharpe didn't write it down, but then it's also a likely candidate to have replaced an older and more specific tune, so we can't know much more about it than that it fits. I have seen a different tune for The Lasses o' the Cannogate in the papers of Lady John Scott, a friend of Sharpe's, but I can't now find my copy of it.
The tune of Up and War them A', Willie is best known in a witty Jacobite commentary on the inconclusive Battle of Sheriffmuir; the satirist probably got the idea from a Border song about a horse race that goes to the same tune, John Paterson's Mare, called The Black and the Grey in Northumbria. Edinburgh turned it against the Jacobites, playing it on the bells of St Giles in honour of the arrival of William, Duke of Cumberland in 1746. It was later adopted by the Royal Scots regiment for their "Half Hour Dress" signal call. It is also a precursor of the tune Nae Luck Aboot the Hoose. This local song from the east of Edinburgh was quoted by William Stenhouse (1773-1827) in his notes on Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, and seems to be the original, or what remains of it. Stenhouse didn't know who Willie was and neither do I.
Tibby Fowler is said to be have been sung about Isobel Fowler of Burncastle, who married Robert, the son of the conspirator Logan of Restalrig, after a dramatic elopement pursued by two other suitors early in the 17th century. They later lived in Leith. At least part of the song must have been composed in Lanarkshire; no singer from around Edinburgh would have picked "Tintock-tap" (Tinto) as the hill to put her on when "Arthur's Seat" scans just as well. I've given several versions of the tune: the earliest one, Owin at her from Margaret Sinkler's viola da gamba manuscript of 1709, Tibbie Fouller in the Glen, or Iosobell fouller in ye mountTibby Fowler o the Glen, a strathspey from Malcolm Keith's collection of 1811, and the reel Tibbie Fowler of the Glen from David Young's manuscript of the late 1730s compiled for the Duke of Perth, and the setting in the Scots Musical Museum. The words come from an 18th century broadside; early versions of the text are all quite similar.
It's surprising that there are not more songs about the Logans of Restalrig. Scotland's original "neighbours from hell", they terrorized the area between Edinburgh, Newhaven and Fisherrow for most of the 16th century until King James VI implicated Logan, eight years dead, as having taken part in the Gowrie Conspiracy, an attempt to kidnap or kill him. Either following or parodying the ancient Scots legal requirement that the accused must be present at a criminal trial, James had Logan's bones dug up and put in the dock. The sentence delivered over the skeleton stripped the Logans of their aristocratic status and most of their wealth and power; its original wording was intended to make the whole family wandering beggars. For the villagers living near them, not before time.
John Law of Lauriston must have been by a long way the most-satirized Scot in history. He was born in 1671, the son of a wealthy goldsmith who owned 180 acres of land near Cramond. As a young man he was a talented mathematician and a superb tennis player, but his other interests were not as innocuous; Lockhart of Carnwath said he was "nicely expert in all manner of debaucheries". The worst was gambling; he went bankrupt, and his mother had to mortgage the family estate to bail him out. He then moved to London, killed another young rake in 1694 in a duel over a prostitute, was sentenced to death, broke out of prison, and fled the country. A "wanted" notice in the newspapers after the escape with a wildly misleading description may have been planted by Law himself.
He decided on a career in economics, and went to Amsterdam to study how the Dutch capitalist system worked; the Dutch Republic was then one of the most successful trading states in Europe, and few outsiders had attempted to understand it. Law concluded that the trick was to print as much money as could be put into circulation. Inspired to put this into practice, he went to France aiming for a job in the state treasury, only to be told that as a Protestant he should get out of the country within 24 hours or die. His next try was back in Scotland in 1700, where the Parliament, still reeling from the collapse of the Darien scheme, specifically banned anything like his proposals; so after a few years he moved to Italy (with another man's wife) and made a fortune gambling.
With the change of regime from Louis XIV to the Regency, he was now accepted in France, and worked his way up into a position where he first ran the Bank of Paris, took over management of the new French colony of Louisiana as a private company, and finally converted to Catholicism so as to get the plum job of controller-general of the treasury, managing the whole country's economy. At this point he was convincing enough that Lord Stair wrote back to Britain from Paris that he was
a man of very good sense and who has a head for calculations of all kinds to an extent beyond any body.
Law could now print as much money as he liked, backed with promises that Louisiana would outdo both Peru and Mexico in wealth. The result was a few years of wildly inflationary economic boom. People flooded into Paris from the countryside to speculate on the new schemes; fortunes were made overnight. Early in 1720 the Edinburgh council rewarded their local hero with the freedom of the city, sent in a gold box worth £300 which was doubtless more appreciated than the piece of paper inside. An Edinburgh Jacobite of the time put her hopes in Law as the restorer of King James, in A Poem on the Great Mr Law, done by a Lady:
But whence this LAW, whom all Mankind admires,
Who the whole world with Emulation fires?
What People, or what Country, is so proud,
Can boast, they have produc'd so bless'd a Good?
A Blessing He to all that are distress'd,
Friend to the Friendless, Stay to the Oppress'd [...]
O glorious LAW, whose God-like Projects can
Retrieve the lowest miseries of Man;
Complete thy fame, by laying down sych Schemes,
As shall re---re our K---, and break our Chains:
Thus when our K--- and Freedom is regain'd,
We'll boast by our own LAW it was obtain'd.
Then, in May, the inevitable crash started the French state on a slide into bankruptcy deepening week by week for months. The critical moment came in July, when a crush of Parisians trying to cash in their bonds caused 20 deaths by suffocation. A week later, another Paris mob smashed a carriage to splinters when told Law was in it. By the time Law's world fell apart, Stair had changed his tune and pictured him as acting like Nixon after Watergate:
Law's head is so heated that he does not sleep at nights, and has formal fits of frenzy. He gets out of bed almost every night, and runs stark-staring mad about the room making a terrible noise - sometimes singing and dancing, at other times swearing, staring, and stamping, quite out of himself. Some nights ago his wife, who had come into the room for the noise he made, was forced to ring the bell for people to come to her assistance. The officer of Law's guard was the first that came, and found Law in his shirt, who had set two chairs in the middle of the room, and was dancing round them quite out of his wits.
There had not been an economic disaster on this scale in Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire. Law fled into exile under a false passport rather than be lynched, with his personal fortune of 10,000,000 livres reduced to 800. Incredibly, he got an offer in December from Czar Peter to manage the treasury of Russia, and turned it down. He had obtained an English pardon for the duel, but left Britain again, dying in poverty in Venice in 1729. There seem to be no commemorative plaques to him in his native city and he never gets a mention in lists of Scots who made good abroad. I wonder why?
The four songs Contre l'Édit le Peuple Crie, Tu Peux à Pleines Mains Répandre (both of which use the same weirdly liturgical-sounding tune, Petit Fronde), Si Tu Veux Reformer l'État and the best of them, the devastatingly pointed Lundi, Je Pris des Actions are from French broadsides of the time. All were reprinted in Pierre Vernier and France Vernillat's Histoire de France par les Chansons, a collection which tries to do for the whole of France what I have done for one city. There must have been enough more from around Europe to fill several books; Law's family preserved a huge scrapbook of satires against him in Dutch which has survived to the present day, and Holland was only peripherally affected by his ideas. The French pronunciation of the name was often "Lass", from the alternative Scots form of it at the time, "Laws"; that was how Voltaire said it and how it might be sung here. The reference to the workhouse in Lundi, Je Pris des Actions is even more sarcastic than it looks: Law had promised regular donations to one as long as he lived, but in the useless paper money. Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) owed his political power under a previous Regency to his affair with the Queen-Regent. The translations are my own.
Law's idea caught on: the English swindle of the South Sea Bubble was inspired by the French system, and was satirized in England by songs written or reprinted by Tom D'Urfey. Scots were among its victims; My Useless Scrip, from the Macfarlan Manuscript, must relate to it.
Duncan Forbes (1685-1747) was the de facto ruler of Scotland for the second quarter of the 18th century. His father owned the estates of Ferintosh and Culloden in Inverness-shire; these were ravaged by the Jacobites in 1689, and in compensation he was allowed to distil whisky at Ferintosh duty-free. The result was that Ferintosh was not only the first whisky to reach the wealthier classes and be marketed on a large scale; it stayed by far the leading brand for decades, and Forbes came into a fortune. The strathspey Ferintosh, attributed to Captain Simon Fraser (1773-1852), is from his collection of 1816, one of the first major anthologies of Highland music. It may have nothing very specific to do with Edinburgh, but Edinburgh surely drank most of the product just as one of its citizens made most of the profits.
Forbes's ability to negotiate with insurrectionists took him to the heights of power; first by mediating after the 1715 Jacobite rising, then in dealing with the aftermath of the Shawfield Riots of 1725 in Glasgow, and finally when he was made Lord Advocate in 1737 after the Porteous Riots. These diplomatic tactics failed in the face of the 1745 rising, but he kept trying, despite the Duke of Cumberland, even after Culloden. One of his earlier measures to encourage Scottish agriculture, in the post-Union period when the whole Scottish economy was in deep depression, was to try to impose a prohibitive tax on tea; the idea was that this would persuade people to go back to drinking beer and thereby create a larger market for domestically-grown malt. He was not the only one to perceive tea as a drug problem; Alexander Pennecuik's A Lecture to the Ladies of 1726 accused the women of Edinburgh of continuing where the sin of Eve left off:
Was't not enough to taste the damning Tree,
But you must guzzle down that cursed Tea;
A Plant which in the Devil's Garden grew,
By which a second Time he poisons you.
But Forbes made his proposal so complicated, by creating an income or wealth qualification for those permitted to drink tea, that the whole idea became a joke.
Lord Forbes' March is a fiddle version from the Macfarlan Manuscript of a small piobaireachd whose bagpipe original is lost. It has a six-bar theme, followed by a series of eight-bar variations and a two-bar coda which seems meant to segue into a repeat of the theme, extending it to eight bars so that the true meaning of the variations is only clear at the end. The title means only that the theme is a march; the piece would sound dull played at a uniform march tempo throughout. The slow strathspey Lord President Forbes is also from Fraser's 1816 collection; he said it relates to the attempt by Fraser of Lovat to have Forbes kidnapped during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Presumably it derives from a now-lost Gaelic song about the incident. Forbes was one of the best and most dedicated golfers of his time; he would even play on Leith Links in the snow.
Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) was the most influential literary figure in Scotland in his time. He is little read now, but was both a pioneer in the collection and exploitation of folksong who made possible the later achievements of Fergusson, Burns and Scott, and a determined impresario continually pushing back the limits of religiously-inspired censorship in both print and performance. His son (1713-1784), of the same name, was one of the most celebrated painters of his time in Scotland. The jig Allan Ramsay, which could relate to either of them, was published by Nathaniel Gow; it's a renaming of Mrs Tulloh's Jig by Malcolm Macdonald, who played the cello in Niel Gow's band.
James Boswell (1740-1795), the biographer of Samuel Johnson, had an estate at Auchinleck in Ayrshire but was born and brought up in Edinburgh, and spent much of his life there. In 1600 one of his ancestors, also James Boswell, was the first non-stoneworker known to have been initiated into the masons' mysteries, and so was one of the founders of the later elitist Masonic movement; the biographer's son Sir Alexander Boswell (1755-1822), was more noted in Scotland in his time than his father, both as a lawyer and as a poet, before getting himself killed over a political slanging match in one of Britain's last duels, described elsewhere in this collection. Mr James Boswell's Jig is from French's posthumous collection of 1801; it was printed in 12/8 but there seems no particular reason not to treat it as an ordinary 6/8 jig. Mr Boswell of Auchinleck's Reel, from the same collection, is presumably for Alexander. Shelah O'Neal is Alexander Boswell's own surprisingly good tune for a fake-Irish song.
Robert Burns only stayed in Edinburgh from November 1786 to February 1788, with the summer and autumn of 1787 spent touring the rest of Scotland, but had more impact on the city's culture than all but a handful of its residents have managed in a lifetime. There were few musical or literary tributes to him until long after his death. Rabbie Burns was Born in Ayr is an Edinburgh children's song, collected by Ritchie in the 1950s. Its tune is Mairi's Wedding, with a twist. The verse is repeated, and on each repetition the last word in each line is sung twice, three times... so that the tune gets steadily longer.
The influence of Walter Scott (1771-1832), and particularly his novel The Heart of Midlothian (1818) features obliquely in many of the tunes in this book. The magnificent slow strathspey Sir Walter Scott is by William Marshall. The jig Sir Walter Scott is by Niel Gow Junior, who died in 1823 at the age of 29. Nathaniel Gow intended to publish this among Niel Junior's collected tunes soon afterwards in his memory, but they only reached print in 1849, long after Nathaniel's death. And then no-one was left to commemorate Nathaniel himself. He was by far the most productive and wide-ranging composer of the entire family, but there is not even a catalogue of his output, let alone a collected edition, and his efforts on behalf of his father and brothers left his own reputation in their shadow.
The Ettrick Shepherd was a literary nickname for the poet and novelist James Hogg (1770-1835); the tune is from John Pringle's Second Collection.
In Jacobite folklore, Jeanie Cameron was said to have commanded a unit in the Jacobite army in the 1745 rebellion (this appears to be sheer fantasy) and followed Prince Charles Stuart into exile, only to be discarded by him (which is probably true). There are conflicting stories about what happened to her, but one of them says she returned to Edinburgh, became a homeless beggar dressed in men's clothes, and died at the foot of a stair in the Canongate near the end of the century. Jeanie Cameron is a song in Ford's Vagabond Songs from the end of the 19th century, and Lady John Scott composed another generic expression of Jacobite romanticism, Jeanie Cameron's Death-Song; both are easy enough to find. Edinburgh folk tradition had produced what is probably a third song about her decades before, far more subtle and haunting.
The Luckenbooths were a line of craftsmen's and traders' stalls in the middle of the High Street near St Giles; "lucken" meant "locked", and they were enclosed booths for wealthier traders, unlike the open "Krames" nearby. They were pulled down to widen the road in 1803. The supernatural ballad As I gaed by the Luckenbooths lasted much longer, and was sung by children into the twentieth century. The ghost hunting for her lover seems to be that of Jeanie Cameron looking for her Prince; but this might be a Jacobite adaptation of something much older. The tune is taken from Alfred Moffat's Fifty Scottish Nursery Rhymes, and Moffat got it from a manuscript of the mid-19th century; it seems to be related to Colin's Cattle, also a ghost song.
Few of the great figures of the Scottish Enlightenment had tunes named after them. Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), clergyman, soldier, diplomat, and pioneer social scientist, was probably so honoured because of his social standing rather than his intellectual achievements. (He was also one of Scotland's earliest vegetarians; he stopped eating meat in 1780 after a stroke and, whatever his reasoning, it worked). Sir Adam Ferguson's Reel, from one of J. Riddell's collections of the 18th century, was reprinted in Kerr's Merry Melodies of the late 19th century under the title The Lads of Leith: it is unrelated to the older jig of that name printed here. James Kerr of Glasgow (1841-1893), whose collections have been continuously in print at affordable prices for more than a century and have done a great deal to keep Scottish music a vital tradition, continued where Gow and Marshall had left off in muddling up the names of old tunes; but he went further, taking on Irish material to muddle that up too. The tune was also published by Joseph Lowe (c.1797-1866) as Sic a wife as I hae gotten; since those words fit the opening of the second part, this was probably the song the reel derives from, but the text is now lost. Mr Adam Ferguson's Favorite Reel wa published by Daniel McLaren in 1805; it's a transposition to E minor of Lord Kelly's Reel, more usually found in G minor.
Thanks to the scepticism of his works on religion, David Hume (1711-1776) was regarded by the end of his life as Europe's leading atheist. Many believers expected his death, from a widely-publicized haemorrhaging bowel cancer, to be like that of Doctor Faustus, with all the terrors of hell. In the event, he died with his sense of humour intact to the last. Adam Smith reported him as saying a few days before the end:
I am dying as quickly as my enemies (if I have any) could wish, and as easily and cheerfully as my best friends could desire.
The tender farewell of the Baroque-influenced David Hume's Lamentation is obviously by one of his friends; it was published in F. Linley's The Shepherd's Delight of 1781. I have included the complex and idiosyncratic bass line. Its opening is based on Gilderoy.
The first attempt to fly in Scotland was in 1507, when James IV subsidized the Italian alchemist John Damian in his efforts. Damian spent most of his research funding on alcohol, tried to fly to France off the ramparts of Stirling Castle, made a soft landing in a midden, and was brutally satirized for it by William Dunbar. Given the military adventurism that led the King to build the world's biggest warship and finally got him killed at Flodden, he must have hoped to create an alchemically-powered Scottish air force. Nearly 300 years later, the first manned balloon flight in Britain was in Edinburgh, by the chemist James Tytler (1747-1805), who managed a hop of half a mile from Comely Garden (near the present-day Meadowbank Stadium) to Restalrig on 27 August 1784 in a hot air balloon. This one success was followed by a string of ignominious flops. Tytler was one of Edinburgh's most brilliant failures; always poor, he had put himself through medical school by working as a ship's surgeon on voyages to Greenland. After giving up ballooning he edited and wrote most of the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica: this made a profit of £45,000, of which he got 12 guineas. He founded several radical magazines, and joined the quasi-republican Friends of the People in 1792. In a dispute within the organization about whether to adopt parliamentary tactics, he wrote in a pamphlet for the extra-parliamentary side:
you must consider the House of Commons as your enemies. They affect to consider themselves the democratical part of the constitution. They are not; they are a vile junto of aristocrats. The majority of them are landholders; and every landholder is a despot, in the most true and literal sense of the word. He can, directly or indirectly, extort from the country what he pleases; He can raise the price of provisions, he can turn people out of their possessions; he can drive them to the utmost ends of the earth; and, in short, turn the country, at least that part of it which he possesses, into a wilderness, if he pleases. It is this monstrous power of the landholders that you have to combat; and it is the want of something to balance this power, that is the true foundation of all the grievances you labour under.
Robert Dundas of Arniston, together with Sir John Pringle, sheriff-depute of Edinburgh, immediately prosecuted him for sedition. He fled to Ireland and then to America rather than stand trial and was declared an outlaw; the better-known radical and Friend of the People, Thomas Muir of Huntershill, was arrested while on his way to the trial as Tytler's defence counsel. Tytler was not much more successful in America, finally drowning in a tidal mudflat while drunk. C.K. Sharpe thought he wrote the Directory of Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh, a consumer guide to prostitutes published in 1775, but its is hard to see how he could ever have had the money required to do the research for it. Three of Tytler's songs were published in the Scots Musical Museum. His reputation was eclipsed by that of Vincenzo Lunardi (1759-1806), who visited Britain with his much more reliable hydrogen balloon in 1784-6. After a successful and highly profitable series of flights in England, he moved on to Scotland, where his path was doubtless smoothed by his Masonic connections; he had joined the organization when a soldier in the Engineer Corps of the army at Naples. His first flight in Scotland was from Heriot's Hospital (now George Heriot's School), on 5 October 1785, with the takeoff watched by 80,000 spectators; he went 40 miles across the Forth to Ceres in Fife. He made two later flights from Edinburgh; one ended in the water near Gullane with his balloon later salvaged by fishermen, and the other hopped undramatically over Arthur's Seat in a near calm.
Lunardi had a vast following of female fans; women's clothing, including garters, was made with balloon motifs. As Burns's poem To a Louse, on Seeing one on a Lady's Bonnet at Church shows, this fashion got everywhere, including the church pew: the louse is described as sitting on the top of "Miss's fine Lunardi" - this was like an overgrown chef's hat imitating the shape of a balloon. Lunardi gave out bits of balloon to be kept in lockets, and he was besieged by Edinburgh women wanting to be taken along on rides - impossible given the limited size and lift of the balloon, though a Theatre Royal actress nearly went along on his last flight and a Mrs Chisholm from Selkirk, who happened to be riding where he touched down from his first Glasgow flight, got a tethered trip for 3 miles, using the residual buoyancy of the balloon since she was lighter than Lunardi. She must have been the first woman ever to fly solo.
Lunardi seems to have made the most of his entourage of balloon groupies; the song is quite clear about what he would have done given a balloon big enough to take a woman along. Two women were definitely unimpressed: an old lady watched him land in the Campsie Fells and said "it's a fair pity he should be a Papist", and a George Square resident - "a FEMALE MACHIAVEL of fifty", as Lunardi called her - lobbied successfully to stop him from using it for his ascent; there are enough of her spiritual descendants in Edinburgh to fill Jenners' tearoom many times over.
The anonymous slip jig Lunardi's Gone Up to the Moon is from the Brysson/Sharpe manuscript of a few years later; a simpler version of it was published for the piano by John Clarkson in 1803. It seems to me to be related to the older tune Old Sir Simon the King, which was known in England by 1630. Another version was published by Lunardi's Italian friend Domenico Corri. Corri was already established on the Edinburgh musical scene, and had introduced Lunardi to the Duke of Buccleuch, a useful contact who later patronized the publication of Lunardi's book. Corri makes it into a harpsichord rondo in 6/8. Lunardi's Balloon was printed in at least two chapbooks. The one in the National Library of Scotland is torn off at the end, so I've taken the ending from a 1799 chapbook in Glasgow University Library. It almost fits the tune of Lunardi's gone up to the Moon in places, but all three notated forms of the tune have changed beyond singability. No other report of Lunardi's first flight mention people in Fife being terrified of the balloon, but there is a similar anecdote from the West of Ireland early in this century, when an old peasant working in the fields saw one of the first airships arriving from across the Atlantic and fell on his knees whimpering "The Black Pig! The Black Pig! We're all gonna die!". The Black Pig was a creature of Irish legend that was destined to tear the country apart with its tusks.
The Balloon is by William Marshall, published by Alexander "King" McGlashan (c.1740-1797), a fiddler, composer and publisher comparable in fame to Niel Gow during his lifetime. The falling figures suggest Marshall was a wee bit worried about the landing. It was reprinted in Marshall's posthumous collection of 1845 under the title Lady John Scott, after the poet and songwriter. The Airial Flight was published by Nathaniel Gow in 1797; The Mounting of the Air Balloon is an earlier piece, published by Corri in Edinburgh for Andrew Shirrefs, a composer from Aberdeen.
The people of Edinburgh never had much patience with balloonists whose show went wrong. The veteran English balloonist Sadler tried to repeat Lunardi's act in Edinburgh in 1815, but his seven-minute flight got this satirical treatment from "Alphonsus Sneiderkins the Younger":
Now towards earth the aeronaut approaches
Loaded with hoots, with groans, and foul reproaches
From all, because his journey through the sky
Turn'd out as many yards in length as high.
His car was broke, the silk was torn to rags,
So much enraged the disappointed wags
Collected from the neighbouring towns around,
To see this aerial flight - upon the ground.
As old GUY VAUX an annual death doth meet,
The little boys, the corner of each street,
Balloons of paper start, with gay delight,
And watch their progress to the lamp-post's height,
Not for the fun, but in derision meant
Of MR SADLER's forty-ninth ascent.
These paper-bag fire-balloons got to be such a menace that the city magistrates banned them. The second tune called The Balloon, by C. Stewart, is from J. McFadyen's Select Collection of Country Dances, Waltzes etc, which was published shortly after Sadler's flop.
Charles Sharpe, Esq, of Hoddam's Favorite is probably dedicated to the father of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe; the tune is by John Anderson. C.K. Sharpe, who grew up at Hoddam Castle in Dumfries but spent most of his life in Edinburgh, was a rich, brilliant eccentric who devoted all his resources and effort to idiosyncratic researches in antiquarianism and folklore, including folk music. His published works include two anthologies of Border ballads and one of obscene satires, a history of the persecution of witches in Scotland, and other compilations or histories devoted to the more scandalous and bizarre aspects of the Kirk and the great families of Scotland, all of which I have made use of here - this raw material was indispensable to Sir Walter Scott and Robert Chambers, and has helped generations of scholars since. He was also an accomplished artist in a whimsical old-fashioned style, but never tried to make much of it. His house became the most remarkable private historical museum Scotland has ever seen. The auction sale after his death took 6 days for his objects and 8 days for his library. The objects included masses of china (then not thought worth collecting), a witch's bridle, a set of branks, a fragment of the skull of the first Duke of Queensberry, some hair of Charles I in a locket, a model of a breakwater, the Earl of Kellie's Stainer violin, a collection of ancient shoe buckles, some of the Lewis chessmen, a Druid's ring of office, a piece of Robert the Bruce's shroud, the cap worn by Mary Queen of Scots on her escape from Loch Leven Castle, a stuffed crocodile, human bones from the Battle of Otterburn, an ancient rasp from Cardinal Beaton's house, the preserved hand of a murderer, enough portraits to open a gallery and enough antique Scots furniture to fit out a coffeehouse, a church bell from Perthshire, the mummy of a cat, a fragment of Queen Mary's bed curtains, a model of a prize pig, a set of Pacific Island weapons, and "the mummy of a mermaid in a glass case, one of the most absurd get ups imaginable" as an obituarist put it. The books included The Amours of Messalina and the French King (1689), Blount's Dictionary of Hard Words (1681), Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (1653), Secret History of the Calves' Head Club (1707), A Handkercher for Parents' Wet Eyes upon the Death of Children (1630), A Just and Seasonable Reprehension of Naked Breasts and Shoulders (1678), masses of 17th and 18th century erotica, two books on cryptography, A Collection of Rump Songs (1662), Cuninghame's Warning to the City of Edinburg (1710), Reports of the Edinburgh Police Court (1829), Scott's Staggering State of the Scots Statesmen (1650), a letter from the privy council of Scotland to David Lord Scone allowing him to eat fish during Lent (1613), a letter of William Burke written the night before he was hanged (1829), Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbits (1727) and an Essay toward a General History of Whoring. Most of this vast and surreal collection is now lost without trace.
The elder Charles Sharpe of Hoddom was a good enough fiddler that he sometimes played in Nathaniel Gow's band; Gow published several pieces dedicated to him, and wrote him a very bad lament. In a letter to the elder Sharpe in 1791, Burns mentioned putting words to one of Sharpe's tunes. The only otherwise unattributed tune that Burns used around then was Kenmure's on and awa Willie, so perhaps Sharpe wrote that.
The Tax-Gatherer is by the Leith poet Robert Gilfillan (1798-1850). McCraw was a house agent and tax collector who, as Gilfillan says, had only one hand. Leith suffered deep economic depression in the early 19th century, after the war boom fizzled out. Flippantly blaming all its troubles on one tax-collector, as Gilfillan does in the last verse, was probably not very funny at the time and in rather bad taste. One of McCraw's tenants for a time was Hugh Miller (1802-1856), the geologist, travel writer and religious polemicist. Gilfillan himself succeeded McCraw in the job as Collector of Police Rates in Leith, and acquired enough of a poetic reputation to be made Grand Bard to the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The tune for this song was Bonnie Dundee (meaning the older tune of that name).
Stella Cartwright was an inspiration for the 1950s generation of Scottish writers and intellectuals who met together in Edinburgh, often in the pubs around Rose Street, as in Charles Senior's Verses on a Rose Street Muse from the early 1960s:
Whyles in the presence
o' that richtfu' queen
I grow tae sic proportions
that I can haud the Castle Rock
within my airms and touch
the tentit fingers o' ilk hand.
The Orkney poet George Mackay Brown (1921-1996) wrote an acrostic poem about her on her birthday every year until her death in 1985; she first left him for John Broom and finally died alcoholic and alone. Brown wrote of her in his posthumous autobiography:
It could almost be said that all the contemporary poets in Scotland were in love with her, at one time or another. That future Scottish literary historian will have a busy winter's work, discovering how much poetry was woven about Stella in the 1950s and 1960s. She was very beautiful. She was intelligent, but not to the extent that it becomes a strain or a pose. She liked art and music and literature, but not sufficiently to make a kind of religion of it, as happens so often nowadays (for everyone must give allegiance to some 'reality' outside the cave of shadows that is oneself). What emanated from her was a kind of radiance, a rich essence on which poets and artists feed to sustain themselves. It is a rare mysterious innate quality, that cannot be acquired...
Rose Street was a dangerous environment for her. She drank, to begin with, because she loved people, and a little whisky put glancing edges on stories and talk and poetry. She drank, in the end, to dull the pain of life. She was so loved by so many in those taverns that her glass was rarely empty for long. Alcohol, that at first is a place of laughter and heightened sensation, becomes in the end a prison.
In Davie Robertson's song she became The Star of the Bar. The tune (which I have taken from the way I've heard it sung around Edinburgh by several people) is adapted from Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon, with the rhythm varying considerably from verse to verse.
Few songs of immigrant groups in Edinburgh have been recorded. There are, however, a few songs about these groups; mostly hostile ones. The greatest perceived threat was from the Episcopalian or Catholic English oligarchy of the 17th and 18th centuries; the tradition of satire against them and their religions goes back to Charles I's time and continues today at the Hearts end of any football ground. While modern anti-Catholicism is identified with anti-Irish racism, this was not the case until the nineteenth century, and has never reached the intensity found in the West of Scotland; the most extreme conflict between Scots and Irish in Edinburgh was a riot at Musselburgh Races in 1823 between Irish racegoers on one side and bakers of Edinburgh and Leith and colliers of Musselburgh on the other, with several people on each side beaten senseless or pushed into the Esk. In music, William Burke alone must have got more opprobrium than all the rest of his countrymen together, but none of the ballads I've found portray him as a typical Irishman.
Violence against the Italian community approached the level of pogrom on "Italian Night" after Italy entered the war in 1940, when Italian-owned shops were smashed up and looted by a mob. The mob made a point of attacking known fascists, like the chipshop proprietor in Stockbridge who used to serve behind the counter in full Blackshirt uniform, though the innocent undoubtedly suffered too. But the lasting portrayal of Italians in the popular mind was no more menacing than this children's song collected by Ritchie in the 1950s (tune: La donna è mobile):
I know Antonio
He sells ice-cream-io
In our back green-io
Threepence a cone-io.
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Embro, Embro Copyright © 2001, Jack Campin