Lass o' Gowrie (1)

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X:1 T:Lass of Gowry [1], The M:C L:1/8 R:Air S:John Rook music manuscript collection (Waverton, Cumbria, 1840, p. 166) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D A/G/|FAA(B/c/) d>edc|TB>ABd e>feE| FAA(B/c/) d/c/d/e/ f>e|d/c/B/A/ dF E2D:| |:g|fa d/e/f/g/ a/g/f/g/ a(g/f/)|gb e/f/g/a/ b/a/g/a/ ba/g/| f>ae>f d/c/d/e/ !fermata!f>e|{d}d/c/B/A/ dF E2D:|



LASS O' GOWRIE [1]. AKA and see "Battle of Garvagh," "I'm O'er Young to Marry Yet (3)," "Lakes of Sligo (The)," "Loch Erroch Side," "Over the Hills to Glory," "Rocky Road to Dublin (4)," "Tom Billy's Polka (2)." Scottish, English; March (2/4 time) or Reel. Scotland, Lowlands region. England, Northumberland. C Major (Kennedy, Williamson): D Major (Dixon, Kerr vol. 4, Perlman, Ross). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (most versions): AABBCCDDEEFF (Dixon). A very well known tune in the British Isles, states Bayard (1981), descended from an air used as a reel, strathspey, and song melody, and known usually by one of the alternate titles. Perlman (1996) remarks that it is "basically a simplified variant of the strathspey 'Loch Erroch Side'." In southwestern Pennsylvania it was one of several tunes to which the title "The Rocky Road to Dublin" [Bayard's No. 304, p. 258] became attached. Irish musicians know it as the polka "Lakes of Sligo (The)." Williamson (1976) remarks that Dunsinane Castle (of MacBeth fame) overlooks the Carse of Gowrie (a carse is a fertile plain near a river).

The title "Lass o' Gowrie" comes from lyrics set to the melody by Caroline Oliphant of Gask (1766-1845), whose father joined the Jacobite rebellion of Bonny Prince Charlie in 1745. With the failure of the rebellion, the Oliphant family's fortunes collapsed, but Caroline was born into the post-Jacobite sympathies The song was one of those requested by Queen Victoria for a recital by noted singer of Scots songs John Wilson, when she visited Taymouth Castle in 1842.

March versions of the melody were employed by several regiments in the British army, as recorded by David Murray (Music of the Scottish Regiments, Edinburgh, 1994). For example, it was the march of the 55th Foot, raised in Stirling in 1755. Although the regiment later became an English one (affiliated with Westmoreland, in north-western England), the melody was kept due to the regiment's Scottish roots. The 2nd battalion of The Border Regiment played "Lass of Gowrie" along with "John Peel" as their march tunes. Similarly, "Lass of Gowrie" was played by the 70th Regiment (originally raised in Glasgow in 1756) which became the 2nd Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment (later the 2nd East Surry). "It was stationed in 1758 in North Britain, and a great many of the men were natives of Scotland, particularly of Glasgow. The facings were light grey, and the 70th were commonly called the 'Glasgow Greys'" [1]. The old 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment, which became the Middlesex Regiment in 1881, also chose "Lass of Gowrie" as their march for several years. The melody was also entered in the large 1840 music manuscript collection of multi-instrumentalist John Rook, of Waverton, Cumbria.

An interesting variant was collected in Dingle (Ireland) from a fife and drum band who played the tune as part of the 1982 Dingle 'Wren', a St. Stephens day tradition in that part of Ireland. The tune was originally transcribed by Steve MacDonogh in his book Green and Gold, that used the 1982 Wren event as an opportunity to explore historic and folklore background of the tradition. Dixon (1995) prints the tune with variation sets by Robert Whinham (1814-1893), a musician, teacher, composer, dancing master and fiddler originally from Morpeth, Northumberland.

Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - George MacPhee (b. 1941, Monticello, North-East Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; an un-attributed 19th century manuscript in the collection of Tommy Breckon [Dixon].

Printed sources : - Dixon (Remember Me), 1995; p. 60. JEFDSS, vol. 2, p. Kennedy (Fiddlers Tune Book, vol. 1); No. 45. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 4), c. 1880's, No. 377, p. 42. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 160. William Ross (Ross's Collection of Pipe Music), 1869; No. 106, p. 99. Williamson (English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1976; p. 52.

Recorded sources: -



Back to Lass o' Gowrie (1)

  1. Walter Wood, "The Romance of Regimental Marches", Pall Mall Magazine, vol. 9, 1898, pp. 421-430.