Cumh Easpuic Earra-ghaeidheal

Lament for the Bishop of Argyll

Last update: 21 January 2007

This tune is from the Macfarlan Manuscript of Scottish fiddle and flute tunes (National Library of Scotland MS.2084/5), compiled by David Young in Scotland around 1740 for the antiquarian Walter Macfarlan (book III #34 p20). It's obviously much older, but there is no earlier source for it. The structure is like a piobaireachd (bagpipe variation set) but the range is too wide for the pipes. Some people think it was originally for the harp. The tune might just possibly be indigenous Gaelic, but the basic rhythm is so Folia-like that a foreign influence seems more likely. If it was a harp tune, that would make sense, as harpers had international connections.

There were two possible bishops it could have been dedicated to; they lived about 100 years apart. And there is another tune of the same name from another Scottish manuscript of the 18th century. David Johnson thinks this one was for the earlier bishop, who died in the late sixteenth century.

This has been recorded on the fiddle (by Mary-Ann Alburger, I think). There is a published version of it in Scots on the Fiddle, book 2, edited by David Johnson and available from him at 8 Shandon Crescent, Edinburgh EH11 1QE, Scotland (phone 0131 337 4621). The other bishop's lament has been recorded on the harp.

The motivation for doing this page was its similarity to the Spanish tune La Folia, used as the basis for innumerable sets of variations. That tune has its own website,, which includes several other melodically or harmonically similar tunes linked from the page

Jack Campin

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