Like other ‘big’ tunes, Maggie Lauder does not have a fixed form but appears to behave like a living entity, evolving and taking on different characteristics in different environments. It changes according to where and when it is played, on which instrument and by whom. As well as Irish, Scottish and Northumbrian cultural associations, it has a mythical dimension which can be taken literally or as a metaphor for the mystery of inspiration.

Maggie Lauder’s specific relevance to the Border piping tradition, apart from its mythical origin, lies less in recreating the past than in responding to the future. While the tune might sit easily among William Dixon’s tunes, both historically and aesthetically, our setting goes beyond being a Dixon clone because our task is not merely to revive but to revitalise.

We may not take ownership of Maggie Lauder, but we may presume to claim a share of its stewardship. Whether we make a better or a worse job of this than previous stewards is not for us to say. Perhaps the fairies will let us know.


Most references are given in the course of the article. Only further or fuller references are given below:

1 - WEB

In addition to Bruce Olson’s remarks quoted in the article from

see also the his contributions to the discussion

which also includes some speculation about the possible identity of the song’s heroine.

The 1838 edition of William Tennant’s Anster Fair is digitised, though not in stanza form, at:


Gore, Charles: The Scottish Fiddle Music Index, Musselburgh, 1994

Johnson, James: The Scots Musical Museum, 6 vols., Edinburgh, 1787-1803; Scolar Press facsimile edition in 2 vols. with Introduction and Bibliography by Donald A Low, Aldershot, 1991.

Mooney, Gordon: A collection of the choicest Scots Tunes for the Lowland or Border Bagpipes, 2 vols., Linlithgow, 1982-3; included in Gordon Mooney’s Collections, LBPS, 2008.

WAP Johnman’s papers, read to the Hawick Archaeological Society and written up in their Transactions, are reproduced in Common Stock Vol. 19 No. 1 (June 2004) and Vol. 20 No. 1 (June 2005)

The Pate Baillie anecdote is quoted on pp. 66-7 of:

Johnson, David: Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century, Edinburgh, 1984


As well as the many people I have quoted who have made their work available in published form or via the internet, I wish to thank the following for direct help with specific queries:

Jeannie Campbell

Simon Chadwick

Chris Ormston

Julia Say

Pete Stewart

Thanks to the Lowland & Border Pipers’ Society for commissioning and hosting the article, and to Anita Evans for placing it on the LBPS website.

Matt Seattle


27 January 2009



Canto VI, stanza I of Tennant’s Anster Fair of 1812 was replaced in the 1814 edition, but restored by Lindsay and Scott. It is a telling counterpart to the poet’s sunny disposition in the rest of the poem:

Gay-hearted I began my playful theme,

But with a heavy heart I end my song;

For I am sick of life’s delirious dream,

Sick of the world and all its weight of wrong;

Ev’n now, when I again attempt to stream

My merry verse, as I was wont, along,

’Tween ev’ry sportive thought, there now and then

Flows a sad serious tear uppon my playful pen.


The character of Michael Scott the wizard is woven into Tennant’s narrative. In their Notes to the poem Lindsay and Scott identify him as “Sir Michael Scott of Balwearie in Fife, one of the most learned men in thirteenth-century Europe, .... popularly regarded as a magician or wizard, a superstition given literary expression during Tennant’s young manhood in Walter Scott’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805).”

It has been noted that Maggie has been claimed for Ireland as well as Scotland; here the famous Border wizard who, as everyone in the Borders knows, lived in Aikwood Tower by the Ettrick, is claimed for Fife. Whatever next?

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

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