Caledonian Hunt's Delight (The)

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CALEDONIAN HUNT'S DELIGHT, THE. AKA and see "Ye Banks and Braes." Scottish, Air (6/8 time). D Major (Gow): G Major (Aird, Manson) Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The composition was credited to "Mr. Miller of Edinburgh" by Gow. The Gows dedicated their second volume to the "Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt." The antiquarian William Chappell wrote an article in 1867 on the subject of the air, entitled "The Caledonian Hunt's Delight, 'Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon', and Robert Burns," in which he states that Mr. Miller was said to have been an excellent singer. "Mr. Miller" was James Miller, a writer who served for many years as clerk in the Teind Office, Edinburgh. Burns set his song "The Banks o' Doon" or "Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon," to the melody in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (vol. IV, 1792). In 1794 Burns wrote to his editor, Thomson, regarding the air:

Do you know the history of the air—It is curious enough.—A good many yeas ago a Mr. Jas. Miller,... was in company with our friend, [the organist Stephen] Clarke; & talking of Scots music, Miller expressed an ardent ambition to be able to compose a Scots air.-Mr. Clarke, partly by way of joke, told him, to keep to the black keys of the harpsichord, & preserve some kind of rhythm; & he would infallibly compose a Scots air.-Certain it is, that in a few days, Mr. Miller produced the rudiments of a air, which Mr. Clarke, with some touches and corrections, fashioned into the tune in question...Now to shew you how difficult it is to trace the origins of our airs, I have heard it repeatedly asserted that this was an Irish air; nay, I met with an Irish gentleman who affirmed he had heard it in Ireland among the old women; while, on the other hand, a Lady of fashion, no less than a Countess, informed me, that the first person who introduced the air into this country was a Baronet's Lady of her acquaintance, who took down the notes from an itinerant piper in the Isle of Man. [quoted in The Life and Works of Robert Burns, 1896, by Robert Burns].

See "Caledonian Hunt (1) (The)" for more information on the subject of the title. In fact, the Hunt as an organization was a supporter of Robert Burns, and Burns dedicated a later edition of the work to the Caledonian Hunt, writing a new Dedication in 1787 "To the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt." He was rewarded when the Hunt led the subscription list, ordering 100 copies.

English musicologists, such as William Chappell, have pointed out the air bears more than a little resemblance to a melody in Playford's Apollo's Banquet (1690), called "Lost is my quiet for ever." Chappell even ascribes an English provenance for it. Glasgow publisher James Aird seemed to think the tune's provenance was Irish, and listed it so in his publication Selections (vol. 4, 1796).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 4), 1796; No. 134, p. 52. Gow (Second Collection of Niel Gow's Reels), 1788 (revised edition); p. 1. Manson (Hamilton's Universal Tune-Book, vol. 2), 1853; p. 69.

Recorded sources:

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]




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