Bonnie Lass of Bon Accord

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BONNIE LASS OF BON ACCORD. Scottish, Air or March (4/4 time). A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Of the 600 tunes composed by J. Scott Skinner (1843-1927), this is one of his best and most famous, composed in 1884 and still popular today. 'Bon Accord' is an affectionate name for the city of Aberdeen, Scotland, and is ensconsed over the arms of the city -- it means "happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again." The nick-name's origins are thought to date to 1308, when it was a watchword or cri de guerre of the burghers of the town who at that time overcame the English garrisoning the town. "'It's inspirer,' wrote Skinner, 'was a young girl named Wilhelmina Bell (who later became Mrs. Peters, and whom Skinner had met at a house party in Union Terrace, Aberdeen, in December 1884)...[whose] father used to play bass fiddle for my father.' She was a splendid dancer, but was having to work as a servant, for her father had been ruined by taking on a friend's debts. 'Never mind, my lassie,' said I, cheerfully...'I'll ma' a tune that'll maybe keep ye in min' when we're baith deid'" (Alburger, 1983). This is perhaps close to the literal truth, for the opening bars of the tune were inscribed on Skinner's gravestone in Aberdeen's Allenvale cemetary (Hardie, 1992). Skinner wrote the tune the next morning after meeting Mina, and later that day, having completed the melody, he showed to an Aberdeen photographer named Alexander Dinnie. Dinnie was impressed by the tune and suggested that Skinner "make it something about Bon-Accord. Just at that point Mina passed on an errand. Scott Skinner whispered to Dinnie that she was the bonnie lass that the tune was about. 'I've got it,' exclaimed Dinnie, 'Ca' it the bonnie lass o' Bon-Accord' and he did" (Neil, 1991). It was first published in Skinner's Logie Collection. Purser (1992) remarks that the tune follows the same formal pattern as Niel Gow's "Lament for the Death of His Second Wife," repeating its second strain three times in slightly different versions. Skinner printed a poem with the tune (reprinted) in his Harp and Claymore Collection (1904), written by "W.M." It begins:

The Bonnie Lass o' Bon-Accord,
Looks lang owre the bar o' the Dee,
An' the Bonnie Lass o' Bon-Accord
Comes hame wi' the tear in her e'e.
An' there's never a wind but blaws to her gater
Some brisk braw carle come to woo;
But wi' neither the kilt nor the coat will she mate,
For her heart's wi' the jacket o' blue.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Alburger (Scottish Fiddlers and Their Music), 1983; Ex. 107, p. 184. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 53. Hardie (Caledonian Companion), 1992; p. 82 (includes variations). Hunter (The Fiddle Music of Scotland), 1988; No. 21 (includes variations). Johnson (A Twenty Year Anniversary Collection), 2003; p. 11. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 152 (includes one set of variations). Moffat (Dance Music of the North), 1908; No. 54, p. 24. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 87, p. 117. Skinner (Harp and Claymore), 1904; pp. 2 & 3 (includes variations). Skinner (The Scottish Violinist), 1900; p. 1 (includes variations).

Recorded sources: Green Linnet 1015, Eugene O'Donnell- "Slow Airs and Set Dances." Philo 1051, Boys of the Lough - "Good Friends, Good Music" (1977). Rounder 7001, Joseph Cormier- "Scottish Violin Music of Cape Breton" (1974). Topic 12T280, J. Scott Skinner- "The Strathspey King."

See also listings at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [3]




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