Abbey Craig (The)

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ABBEY CRAIG, THE. Scottish, Strathspey. E Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Composed by Alexander Walker, born 1819 in Rhynie, Strathbogie, Aberdeenshire. Abbey Craig is the name of a hill overlooking (and just to the north of) Stirling, Scotland, on which was erected the Wallace Monument. Craig, or crag, refers to a geologic formation, while the abbey refers to Cambuskenneth Abbey, about a kilometer distant.

Walker published his Castle Newe collection in 1866, while employed as a gardener for Sir Charles Forbes at Castle Newe. Walker was evidently a man of some technical training and ingenuity, for he invented surveying instruments. He composed one tune ("Dr. Profeit's Strathspey") in conjunction with J. Scott Skinner ('The Strathspey King'), and evidently led a 'Castle Newe band'. In 1870 Walker emigrated to America, where he joined his brother. It was believed that he dropped from sight (most of the little information known about Walker has been quoted from Emmerson's Ranting Pipe and Trembling String, 1971), however, Walker re-established himself in Massachusetts, where he apparently had been preceded by other members of his family (who may have advised him to wait until after the Civil War). This passage is from Arthur Latham Perry's Origins in Williamstown (1894, p. 28), referring to the town of Williamstown, northwest Massachusetts:

...the Berlin road goes past pretty good farms on either hand, and the last one (the old toll-gate farm) became noted for its productiveness under the ownership of Alexander Walker and the industry of his family, canny people from Aberdeenshire: the parents married there August 7, 1856. Mr. Walker could handle the fiddle-bow and the surveyor's instruments with about equal facility; but as the lines fell to him in this country in prosy times and non-piping localities, the Scotch reels and strathspeys, of which he was a master and even a successful composer and publisher, slumbered for the most part on the bridge of his fiddles, of which he invented and perhaps patented a prized improvement. Nevertheless, his residence at the head of the gorge, where the Fosters had lived for three generations, threw a sort of halo of music and good cheer up and down the valley, and proved to many persons a kind of subtle attraction not only for the Pass, but Mount Hopkins beyond it.

1905 has been given as the date of his death.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Walker (A Collection of Strathspeys, Reels, Marches, &c.), 1866; p. 42, No. 126.

Recorded sources:




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