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X:1 T:Blair Drummond's Reel M:C L:1/8 R:Reel S:Bremner - Scots Reels (c. 1757) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Amix e | A/A/A Tc2 eaec | A/A/A Tc2 BgBG | A/A/A Tc2 eae(f | g)aef gdBG :| |: a2 (e/f/^g) aecA | a2 ef gdBG | a2 eg fae(g | f)aef gdBG :|

BLAIR DRUMMOND. AKA and see "Maddam Blar's Reel [sic]," "Madam Blair's Reel," "Rob an Lugy." Scottish, Canadian; Pipe Reel or Strathspey. Canada, Cape Breton. A Mixolydian (most versions): G Mixolydian (Athole). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (McLachlan): AABB (Bremner): AABCCD (Davie, Gow): AABBCD (Kerr): AABBCCDD (Athole, Dunlay & Greenberg/D. MacLellan): AABBCCDDEEFF' (Dunaly & Greenberg/T. MacLellan). The tune appears in the Gillespie Manuscript (1768), but it was first published by Bremner in his 1757 collection (vol. 1, p. 87), according to Glen (1891). Another early printing is in Mackintosh, vol. 3 (1796). Two part settings of the melody can be found under the title "Rob an Lugy;" four part settings can be found in pipe collections and some fiddle collections under the "Blair" title. Paul Cranford says that Cape Breton musicians usually play a four turn setting.

Blair Drummond is located in Perthshire, less than five miles northwest of Stirling and some 40 miles southwest of Perth. 'Drummond' means 'at the ridge,' thus Blair-Drummond is a 'level clearing (blar) at the ridge.' The original mansion was built between 1715-17, created by Alexander McGill, but was replaced in 1868-72 by a three-story baronial house designed by J.C. Walker. In modern times the estate is in trust, and Blair Drummond is chiefly known as Scotland's only safari park (near Stirling).

At the time the tune was first published, Blair Drummond was the home of Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782), who set about improving the landed estate agriculturally. Kames was a Law Lord, philosopher and a leading member of the Scottish enlightenment of the second half of the 18th century, who published Elements of Criticism (1762). When asked how he was able to do his business as a judge and write on so many other subjects, he replied that "he took much time to do the smallest thing, and that everything was to be done by labor, and little by genius." When he died, his last (and most remembered) public words were the same as those he uttered upon closing the courts for the Christmas holiday: "Fare ye a' weel, ye bitches!" Benjamin Franklin was a correspondent with Lord Kames, and mentioned Scottish music in a letter to the elderly man, in which he opined that old Scottish airs needed no harmony:

Whoever has heard James Oswald play them on his violoncello, will be less inclined to dispute this with me. I have more than once seen tears of pleasure in the eyes of his auditors, and, yes, I think, even his playing those tunes would please more, if he gave them less modern ornamentation.

A version appears in the 1770 music manuscript collection of Northumbrian musician William Vickers (of whom little is known), under the title "Maddam Blar's Reel."

Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - Donald MacLellan and Theresa MacLellan [Dunlay and Greenberg]; William Vicker's 1770 music manuscript collection (Northumberland) [Seattle].

Printed sources : - Bremner (Scots Reels), c. 1757; p. 87. J. Davie & Co. (Davie's Caledonian Repository, vol. 4), c. 1829; pp. 36-37. Dunlay & Greenberg (Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton), 1996; p. 30 (two versions). Gow (Complete Repository, Part 4), 1817; p. 35. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; Set 26, No. 4, p. 16. John McLachlan (Piper’s Assistant), 1854; No. 75, p. 43. Seattle (William Vickers), 1987, Part 3; No. 561 (appears as "Maddam Blar's Reel"). Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 200.

Recorded sources: - DAB 3-26-1, Kinnon Beaton - "Cape Breton Fiddle 1" (1982). IMS-WRC1-759, Winnie Chafe - "Cape Breton Scottish Memories" (1979). Rounder 7006, Theresa MacLellan - "A Trip to Mabou Ridge" (1979. Appears as unlisted 2nd strathspey on 1st cut, side two).

See also listing at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [1]

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