Noble Squire Dacre
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NOBLE SQUIRE DACRE. English, Scottish; Air (6/8 time) or March. England, Northumberland, North West. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "This beautiful air is possessed of that uncommon characteristic appertaining to some of our oldest and best national melodies, that is, if played slowly it awakens the emotional feelings of the listeners, and if played in quick time it appeals as effectively to their saltatory powers. Sir Walter Scott, in a letter to Mr. John Ball of Gateshead, dated 7th March, 1816, says: 'The Dowager Lady Penicuick (a sister of noble Squire Dacre) tells me that when any of the family was buried the bag-piper played that tune at the funeral, as they play the family lament to this day in the Highlands.' There is no doubt that the Dacres, like the other noble families of the district, maintained their family minstrels; and Sir Walter Scott utilized, in an appropriate and happy spirit, the information he received from lady Penicuick, in his poem of 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel,' canto IV., stanza 14:--
Lord Dacre's billmen were at hand-
A hardy race, on Irthing bred,
With kirtles white and crosses red,
Array'd beneath the banner tall,
That streamed o'er Acre's conquered wall,
And minstels, as they marched in order,
Played 'Noble Lord Dacre, he dwells on the Border.
It is very probable, from the title given to this tune, that a song or ballad set to it was at one time in existence; but, so far as we know, it has disappeared" (Bruce & Stokoe).
Robert Riddell of Glenriddell noted in his 1794 collection: "This Border tune s the March of the Dacre family, which was once the most powerful as it is one of the most ancient, on the English West Border."
Composer W. G. (William Gillies) Whittaker (1876-1944) set the tune as a vocal piece, for four voices, and in a florid piano arrangement in his North Countrie Ballads, Songs & Pipe-tunes: For Use in Home and School, Part 1 (1921). "Noble Squire Dacre" appears in Davidson's Instrumental Gems just above the jig "Stool of Repentance" on the page, which it resembles. As "Squire Dacre's" the tune was entered into the large 1840 music manuscript collection of multi-instrumentalist John Rook, of Waverton, near Wigton, Cumbria.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Bruce & Stokoe (Northumbrian Minstrelsy), 1882; p. 161. G.H. Davidson (Davidson's Instrumental Gems), London, n.d.; p. 14. Riddell (Collection of Scotch Galwegian Border Tunes), 1794; p. 15.
Recorded sources: Topic Records, Colin Caisley & Forster Charlton - "The Wild Hills of Wannie: The Small Pipes of Northumbria" (1974. Various artists.).
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Hear/see the Twagger Band play the tune on Vimeo.com