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Matt Seattle adds further intriguing thoughts on this tune name that seems to catch the imagination of so many pipers [see also Nigel Bridges ’ letter].


Gary West’s article on tune titles in the last Common Stock is the impetus for this gather- ing together of three tunes with ‘Linkumdoddie’ connections. The location of Linkumdod- die, as I believe Nigel Bridges points out in this issue, is indeed “on Tweed”; the Wife described in Burns’ song may have been “the wife of a fanner who lived near Burns at Ellisland”, but if so it must be that Burns was introducing his own details into, or com- pletely rewriting, an earlier song.

The earliest mention which I have found of an associated tune is ‘Such A Wife As Willy Had’ in the Henry Atkinson manuscript (Northumbrian, 1694-5), well before Burns’ life- time. This tune survived in Northumbrian circles for a good while: a later version, the one given here, is in William Vickers’ collection of 1770. It is in D, and musically unrelated to the others under discussion. Burns’ lyric could be made to fit it - sort of - but I am tempted to assume that it was once associated with a lyric, now lost, which may or may not have been the basis for Burns’ later song. I have changed one detail in reproducing the tune: the final note of each line in Vickers is low D (open 3rd string on the fiddle), but Atkinson has the D-A ending (used here) characteristic of a small number of Border pipe tunes (see the note to Canny Willy Foster in The Master Piper). Atkinson also has a high B, a rare occurrence of the overblown note in what seems to be a true Border pipe set- ting.

‘Linkumdoddie’ itself is quite well known. Although Gary says it is essentially the same tune as ‘Eight Men Of Moidart’, it is unlike the versions of that tune which I have seen. The version here, my favourite out of many, is called ‘Blue Britches’ by Robert Bremner in his Scots Reels collection (Edinburgh, c. 1760) and ‘Linkem Dodie A Reel’ by James Gillespie in his manuscript (Perth, 1768). (Bremner also has ‘Eight Men Of Moidart’ in his collection, so he evidently distinguished between the two tunes.)

Thirdly (lastly?) there is the song air ‘Sic A Wife As Willie Had’ which is associated with Bums’ lyric. The G major arpeggio figure in bar 4 of each strain is shared with Linkum- doddie (second half of bars 2, 6 and 10, where it is spelt in quavers rather than crotchets), but the tunes are otherwise distinct from each other. The version here is from The Caledo- nian Museum (referenced as C5v2 in Gore’s Fiddle Music early 19th century.


Although not playable on pipes as it stands (unless you have the high B available) it is easily adaptable for pipers who wish to try it.

I am aware that this response to Gary compounds rather than solves the mysteries surrounding Linkumdoddie and Burns’ song. Three different tunes are connected by his lyric, and it may be that there are yet other links in this chain which stretches across the Border and the centuries. All that is left of Linkumdoddie now is a roadside sign pointing to the site - and Burns’ lyric, and some tunes which merit the attention of Border pipers.