Cadgers of the Cannongate

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CADGERS OF THE CANNONGATE. AKA and see "Dalkeith Fair." Scottish; Strathspey, Fling or Reel. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB' (Carlin, Kerr): AAB (Bremner, Gow, Neil, Skye). The Cannongate is a famous street of some antiquity in Edinburgh which links the Castle and Holyrood Place. The '-gate' in the name of the Edinburgh street derives from an Old Norse word gata and Old English word geat; both originally meaning 'a way through'. The modern English word gate, meaning an opening in a fence or wall, derives from this, but the word 'gate' also was used by the Vikings to refer to 'a way through' a village, as in a road. This meaning of gate--a road--survives in some street names in the north or England, as in 'Coppergate'--'the street of the cup makers'.

Robin Williamson (1976) explains that a cadger was originally a word for a 'carrier', or one who whose job it was to ferry about customers in sedan chairs. He suggests the word may have derived from the tinker's cant word gadgie, meaning a man, and notes that in more recent times it has come to mean a beggar or someone who wheedles or sponges something. There was at one time a country dance of the same name, written down in 1752 for his students by one John McGill, who was a dancing master in Girvan (Alburger). Glen (1891) finds the tune first published in Robert Bremner's collection (1757, p. 51), and London publishers Charles and Samuel Thompson included it in their Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 1, also published in 1757 (as "Codger's in the Cannongate"). A century or so later it was printed by Joseph Lowe in his Lowe's Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs.

Source for notated version: Bobby McLeod [Williamson].

Printed sources: Bremner (Scots Reels), 1757; p. 51. Carlin (Master Collection), 1984; p. 106, No. 183. Gow (Complete Repository), Part 1, 1799; p. 12. Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 4; No. 106, p. 13. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 6, p. 8. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 78. Thompson (Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 1), 1757; No. 29. Williamson (English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1976; p. 66.

Recorded sources: Beltona BL 260 (78 RPM), Bobby McLeod's Highland Dance Band.

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