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Jack Campin

One of the most familiar musical sounds in the streets of old Dalkeith was the pipes, heard at 5am to wake people up, 8pm to mark the end of the working day, and at many ceremonial occasions. Usually the job of town piper passed from father to son.

Town and other pipers had an uneasy relationship with the Kirk in the decades after the Reformation; the Kirk made no attempt to suppress secular music, but pipers all over lowland Scotland went out of their way to stir up trouble by acts of civil disobedience like playing their pipes in the churchyard on the Sabbath during services. One Dalkeith piper took this too far: Andrew McCulloch and his wife Marion Anderson were charged with witchcraft on 26 May 1630. And another was involved in a bizarre Jacobite demonstration in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1688: on Sunday 14th October, 1688, the piper accom- panied the Rev. Thomas Heriot, who danced around a bonfire on the High Street of Dalkeith. Heriot’s excuse at his subsequent ecclesiastical trial was that he was doing it in order to purge and purify his congregation as ordained in the scriptures (“I will make my ministers a flame of fire”, Hebrews 1:7). In fact his dance was the culmination of a series of public statements on behalf of James VII that were so tactless he was lucky not to be exe- cuted for them, let alone sacked.

The last few pipers of Dalkeith are well-documented in their persons, if not in their repertoire. They combined the job of town piper with that of piper to the Scott of Buccleuch family. Geordie Sime (1700-1790) was described by several visitors to the town, and is pictured in Kay’s Portraits. According to Alexander Campbell in his “Notes of My Third Journey to the Border”, Sime could get an extra note above the nine notes common to other unkeyed bagpipes; until the mid- 19th century this was sometimes done by Highland pipers too, though always in dance music, not in the classical piobaireachd. His successor until 1810 was Jamie Reid, who is said to have welcomed the Duchess of Buccleuch on her return to Dalkeith House by standing on a high point about a mile out of town and playing “Dalkeith has got a rare thing”, a tune which has not survived under that name, though Hugh Cheape believes it to be the same as the Border tune “Dunse dings a’”.

However, I think a variant of that tune is more likely to be the old Dalkeith town anthem: it is called “the Baggpipe Tune” in a manuscript of around 1675 from the Dalhousie Cas- tle collection, now in the National Library of Scotland as MS.9454. Other tunes in it relate, specifically to the Scotts of Buccleuch, the lairds of Dalkeith, and there are no references to other Scottish noble families or locations, so it seems most likely that it was compiled by someone connected with the Scott family. At that point the heads of the family were Anne, Duchess in her own right, and her consort James, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch.

They were more often in London then, and there would have been little call for family cere- monial music at Dalkeith; so the MS may have been written in England and taken to Dalkeith Palace later in Anne’s life after her husband's execution. The title suggests there was something unique about this tune within their milieu; since the transcriber must have known other bagpipe tunes, I'm guessing it was *their* bagpipe tune, the family and town


rallying call, paralleling the familiar anthems of the other towns of the Lothians and Bor- ders.

At first sight the tune looks insane:



The manuscript is for the fiddle, and this notation is a fiddler’s trick: it implicitly assumes that the lowest string of the fiddle is to be re-tuned from G to A (“scordatura”) - the fiddler plays the notes of the score as if using a standardly tuned fiddle and the correct pitches magically emerge.

Scordatura notation became common in Scotland in the 18th century. This is by far the ear- liest Scottish example of it, just as this may be the earliest surviving Scottish manuscript to contain traditional music specifically for the fiddle. In later times it was usual to notate the tuning at the start. The retuning here is by far the commonest, still used extensively in Shet- land and Cape Breton music. The point of it in this piece is mainly to reinforce the low D’s by playing them on two strings in unison.



Reading it that way, it becomes a fairly normal-sounding 3/2 hornpipe. My guess about its special status in Dalkeith is supported by what Kay says was played when the Duchess left: “Go to Berwick Johnnie”, another 3/2 hornpipe.

The third section seems to be a fiddle-specific variation added later. Here are the first two parts, transposed up an octave and without the doublings, to make it back into a pipe tune:


We can be fairly certain that the family anthem of the Scotts of Buccleuch, whatever it might have been, was *not* one of the tunes the Rev. Heriot danced to in 1688. From his trial report:

Seven or Eight Witnesses agree in this, that from the Pulpit in the year Eighty three Mr Alexander Heriot Railed against Monmouth, Argyle, and Melvil, calling one of them a Bloody Absalon, another Hereditary Traitor, another Rebel and Disturbers of our Israel and other stuff to this purpose.

And James, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch (satirized by Dryden as “Absalom” also) had died a martyr to the Protestant cause in 1685, along with Argyll. If the Bloody Absalon’s grave had been in Dalkeith, Heriot would have been dancing on it.