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The two pieces called A new Strathspey Reel are from James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion of 1743-48, and are the earliest known tunes described as strathspeys. Strathspeys are often thought of as essentially fiddle music, but the first of these is almost impossible on a fiddle and must have been intended for the flute. Oswald's own instrument was the cello, and cello music may superficially resemble flute music, because of the C at the bottom of its range. There are a few tunebooks from later in the century explicitly aimed at both instruments. But Scottish cellists weren't a likely market for his book; Oswald himself was probably the only one of his time who could play music as complex as this.

The next six pieces here are from an anonymous Museum for the German Flute of which only volume 4 seems to have survived. Miss Menzies of Culdare's Strathspey was printed in several fiddle collections around 1800, but this version seems not to be directly based on any of them. Orchall, Sir John Whiteford's Strathspey, Gie the Lasses mair o'it, Mary and Donald and John o' Badenyond are all arrangements of tunes first published in Aird's third book of the late 1780s. The last was often printed with a text by the Rev. John Skinner, author of the words for Tullochgorum; as a dance tune, the version most often played now is a Cape Breton one straightened out into reel tempo.

Short life to Stepmothers is from Hamilton's Complete Repository of 1802. So are the next two pieces, arrangements of fiddle tunes by William Marshall. Miss Admiral Gordon's Strathspey was adapted for several songs soon after it was written, the best known being Burns's Of all the Airts the Wind can Blaw. Kinrara is a tune Marshall seems to have been particularly proud of, as it occurs in a prominent position in two of his collections; the Gows plagiarized it and called it The Countess of Dalkeith.

Marshall's Compliments to Neil Gow is from the National Library of Scotland manuscript MS 21752, compiled a bit before 1800; it's also in Hamilton's Complete Repository.

Grey day light, a renaming of Marshall's Craigellachie Bridge, is from Anderson's Pocket Companion, published in Perth in 1807. The next six tunes are from the same book: Dunrobin Castle, Mrs Fraser of Foyer's Strathspey, The Honble. G. Carnegies Strathspey, Lady Burnside's Strathspey, The Breas of Bushby, and Colonel Belches Favorite Strathspey.

Greig's Pipes, Lady Charlotte Campbell's Strathspey and Lady Charlotte Campbell's Reel are again taken from Hamilton's Complete Repository.

The next four tunes are from a book of Scottish music compiled by Andrew Small of Carrickfergus, Ireland, around 1835 (National Library of Scotland MS 21738). Lord John Campbell's Strathspey was first published (in D) by the Gows in their fourth collection of 1800. The Miller of Drone was probably written by Nathaniel Gow, first published anonymously in a collection by John Pringle. The flute version is perhaps based on the adaptation in Hamilton's Complete Repository. So is Small's set of The Marquis of Huntly's Farewell, a slow strathspey by Marshall. The story is that it was written on the spot to console the 9-year-old Marquis on being sent away from home for the first time; the high figuration in the second part represents the weeping of his relatives. Black Watch (or Am Freicadan Dubh in Gaelic) is a strathspey from the eighteenth century, often used later for martial songs.

The Highland Watch is an alternative name for the tune. This much more complex set is from Robertson's Caledonian Museum, published for both violin and flute around 1810.

This set of Tullochgorum comes from Cameron's Flute Music published in Glasgow in the 1870s, a collection that was kept in print by Marr for years after Cameron's death. The tune was first known as Corn Bunting, and goes back to the 17th century.

The complex arrangements of Bothwell Castle and Miss Graham of Inchbrakie come from Davie's Caledonian Flutist, published by James Davie in Aberdeen around 1842; he also produced a large collection of fiddle music.

Duncan McQueen's comes from a large manuscript compiled by J. Crichton Donaldson between 1853 and 1855 (National Library of Scotland MS.22170). Many of his tunes are also in Simon Fraser's collection of Highland airs of 1816; but Fraser's version of this one is very different.

The strathspey and reel, sometimes based on the same underlying melody, is one of the commonest pairings of tunes in Scottish music. Wap 'em all Wally, or up an war them all Wally and Wap 'em all Wally, the Irish Way form one of the oldest such pairs; they're from Bremner's The Delightful Pocket Companion for the German Flute published in London after he moved there in the late 1760s. The reel is very similar to Tail Todle, which the Gows thought was Welsh.

Miss Baird's Strathspey and The Countess of Mansfield's Strathspey are both taken from the Gows' flute version of their Repository, published in 1812. The first tune is probably by Nathaniel Gow's collaborator William Shepherd.

The stratospherically-pitched slow strathspey Willie Galbreath is from the National Library of Scotland flute manuscript MS.21733. This seems to be the first occurrence of the tune; it was reprinted sixty years later, transposed down to C for the fiddle, in Keith Norman Macdonald's Skye Collection, retitled Johnny Galbraith. There is a mistake in the way the last part repeat is written in the manuscript which I've fixed by analogy with Macdonald's version.

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Old Scottish Flute Music
Copyright © 2003, Jack Campin