The earliest published bagpipe settings of Maggie Lauder are both for Irish pipes. They are closely related to Scottish fiddle versions and to each other: O’Farrell’s 5 strains are all in Colclough’s 8-strain version as strains 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, and Colclough seems the more polished of the two.

SCORE & MIDI [opens in a new window]

SCORE & MIDI [opens in a new window]

O’Farrell’s setting is from his Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes, London, 1804. O’Farrell was a prolific publisher of music for the pipes, and also published a four-volume Pocket Companion.

The title and date of Colclough’s collection are unknown, as his book survives in a single known copy, lacking a title page, which was discovered in Dundee Pubilc Library by Roderick Cannon. In his A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music Cannon quotes some remarks by the Irish music authority Breandán Breathnach on the subject of Colclough’s book: “judging by these tunes — waltzes, quicksteps, hornpipes, variations on “The Rose Tree” and “Maggie Lauder” - the music provided by Colclough was much the same as that provided for young ladies playing on the pianoforte, very different from what must have been played on the pipes at this time for the dancing masters and their pupils.” (An Piobaire, No. 3, 1969.)

Breathnach’s comments are perhaps coloured by the more recent culture of the uilleann pipes, with its emphasis on short reels and jigs; Colclough’s book contains much the same type of music as O’Farrell’s volumes, and the two men must have known that there was a market for what they offered (O’Farrell’s Pocket Companion ran to three editions). Other factors are that the Union pipes were very much an instrument of the gentry and of professional pipers at this time, also that musicians other than pipers would buy such books. Fortunately there is at least anecdotal evidence that Maggie Lauder was actually performed on Irish pipes, i.e. it was played on the stage as well as written on the page. In his article on Courtenay's Union Pipes in An Piobaire, No. 24, 2004, Nicholas Carolan writes of Denis Courtenay, born in 1760, who “was an itinerant Irish musician who had achieved fame in the British provinces before coming to London”:

“He was especially famous for his duets with the German harper John Erhardt Weippert in the popular Ossianic ballet-pantomime Oscar and Malvina, and a portrait of him on stage in this piece was drawn by George Cruickshank the Elder...” [The engraving of which is reproduced in An Piobaire] “...Courtenay was clearly an outstanding musician. Different versions of the published 1791 music score by the composers William Shield and William Reeve for Oscar and Malvina survive, with a section scored for the ‘union pipes’, but little else is yet known about the music he played. ‘Moggy Lauder’ was one of his showpieces, it seems, and he and Weippert accompanied singers as well as playing purely instrumental pieces.”

(The article is accessible online via: )

Bearing in mind the 2-octave compass of the Irish instrument, from D below the treble stave to D above it, most of what had been written of the tune for fiddle could be borrowed wholesale, and Colclough’s set appears to be derived, directly or indirectly, from McGibbon’s, with the same 8 strains in the same sequence, but with some new detail here and there, some of which (e.g. the triplet passages in strain 5) is also in O’Farrell’s set. If Colclough’s is the later of the two Irish sets, he may well have incorporated some of O’Farrell’s ideas into what is basically a reworking of McGibbon.

In his Irish Folk Music, Chicago, 1910, the great Irish music collector Francis O’Neill discusses Maggie Lauder among other “Tunes of disputed origin”:

“Hardiman, author of Irish Minstrelsy, in his notes to the song “Maggy Laidir”, composed in Irish by John O'Neachtan in the seventeenth century, tells us that “the air as well as the words of the song, though long naturalized in North Britain, is Irish. When our Scotch kinsmen were detected appropriating the ancient saints of Ireland (would they rid us of some modern ones) they took a fancy to its music. Not satisfied with borrowing the art, they despoiled us of some of our sweetest airs, and amongst others that of Maggy Laidir. This name signifies in the original Strong or Powerful Maggy and by it was meant Ireland… By an easy change the adjective laidir was converted into Lauder, the patronymic of the Scotch family, and the air was employed to celebrate a famous woman of questionable reputation.”

O'Neill quotes the arguments on both sides and somewhat tentatively comes down on the side of Irish origin. There is scope for further investigation here - for example, does O'Neachtan’s Gaelic song lyric fit the tune in any of its guises? - but the question of the tune’s possible origin in Ireland does not affect its mythical origin or actual history in Scotland, the main subjects of the present article. Maggie Lauder is like much else which is, and has been, shared between Ireland, Scotland and England, despite the claims and counter-claims which often obscure the larger picture of what is in many respects a collective cultural enterprise, where identity and interaction, and independence and interdependence, are not mutually exclusive terms. The Irish pipe versions of Maggie Lauder certainly owe almost everything to McGibbon (who in turn owes much to his predecessors), whether the tune began its journey east or west of the Irish Sea.

1.Intro . 2.Songs . 3.Anster Fair . 4.Fiddle . 5.Irish Pipes . 6.Highland Pipes . 7.Northumbrian Smallpipes . 8.Border Pipes . 9.Conclusion

Back to Introduction