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The flute and fife have been used as marching instruments by Scottish armies for a longer period than the bagpipe; they are the earliest military instruments we have records of, and had a large repertoire by the beginning of the eighteenth century. Most of this early military music was based on continental European models, with only a slight Scottish accent. The fife fell out of use in the British Army in the early 18th century (replaced by double reeds and brass), but was reinstated on the orders of the Duke of Cumberland after 1746. For the next few decades it developed a much more idiosyncratic repertoire, culminating in the mixture of Continental and Highland music found in the tunebooks of the Black Watch during the Napoleonic war. They mark the last years of the instrument in Scottish regiments: after 1816 it was replaced by brass, which had recently been improved with valves to make melodic playing easier, and by the Crimean War of the 1850s the bagpipe began to take over.

To Ballance a Straw is an 18th century march, originally a song by James Oswald, here taken from the St Ninians manuscript.

The West Lowland Fencibles Quick Step, one of the most-copied tunes of the late 18th century, is taken from a sheet by A. McGoun Junr.

The Prince's Welcome to the Isle of Sky is from the Museum for the German Flute.

The Wedding Day is an eccentrically structured tune from Lieut. Tapp's book. It would work well as a wedding march.

Blue Bonnets comes from Robertson's collection. It may date back to Cromwell's invasion of 1650, under the title Leslie's March or Lashley's March, named after the Covenanter general.

Blue Bonnets o'er the Border (a different set of the same tune) and the two versions of March to the Battlefield are from a manuscript flute tutor written in Glasgow in 1838-9, in the H.G. Farmer collection at Glasgow University. This latter tune was popular in its time, and most flute collections of the mid-to-late nineteenth century include it; it's the tune of the Irish nonsense song The Rattling Bog and probably the original idea behind J. Scott Skinner's well-known fiddle tune Scott Skinner's Compliments to Dr Macdonald.

Sir William Wallace's Quick Step and Highland Laddie are both from Davie's Caledonian Flutist. The first could not have been written until centuries after Wallace's time, and probably dates from the revival of interest in Wallace as a Scottish national hero in the early nineteenth century. This Highland Laddie is the best-known of several eighteenth century tunes with this title.

The Earl of Dalhousie's March and the four untitled Quicksteps are from J. Crichton Donaldson's manuscript of 1853-55.

Pibroch, from Robertson's Caledonian Museum, is the older version of The Athol Highlanders, now usually played as a jig with the third section removed. There are many 18th and early 19th century copies of the tune in this form. The Duke of Atholl's Pibro', from Lieutenant Tapp's manuscript, is an even longer version. Both are in G major, the key now commonly used for the tune in England, rather than the usual Scottish A mixolydian. It isn't a pibroch except in a very minimal sense of the word, but may have been the basis for one.

ABC tune file

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Old Scottish Flute Music
Copyright © 2003, Jack Campin