The notion of the ‘Town Tune’ is familiar to those who have read Gordon Mooney’s introduction to his collections of Lowland and Border music; where he cites ‘Teri- bus’ and ‘The Soutars of Selkirk amongst his classification as ‘Gathering Tunes’. How these tunes acquired their local significance is a mystery, even in the case of Selkirk, where the history of the tune is known in local tradition, but questioned by some scholars. Other towns have adopted well-known tunes and have made them ‘traditional’ to their own celebrations, particularly those of the Common Ridings.
When LBPS chairman Hamish Moore first suggested that we round off the 30th anniversary collogue in Peebles with a Sunday morning street music performance it seemed the perfect occasion to introduce the town to what
may well have been the 18th century Town tune. As a result, the local news-paper advertised a performance of the ‘ancient town tune of Peebles newly restored’.
The coat of arms of the town shows three salmon, one swimming up-river [the Tweed] and two swimming down, symbolizing the natural prosperity of the burgh. Since Robert Chambers described the last town piper of the Burgh, James Ritchie as playing, among other tunes, one titled ‘Salmon Tails’, it seemed most likely that he had treated that tune as Peebles’ own. Two tunes exist with that title, both older than the one known to many musicians as ‘Salmon Tails Up the Water’. To restore the tune to the town required only the compilation of a setting suitable for the purpose. The tune was eagerly adopted by the bell-ringers who performed it on the carillon in the parish church belfry, and thus this ‘ancient tune’ was re- stored. Below is the tune as performed on the Sunday morning of the Collogue.