Daft Willie Dawson

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X:1 T:Daft Willie Dawson C:Joseph Lowe M:C L:1/16 B: Joseph Lowe - Lowe's Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs, B:book 1 (1844–1845, p. 10) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D A2|{G}F3D DDD2 A,-D3D3G|FD3D3G FGAF DF3|G3E EEE2 B,-E3E3F|G3EE3d cdec Ac3| d3D DDD2 (A,D3)D3G|FD3D3G DFAD DF3|GB3 ~E3G FA3d3B|cdec Ac3 ddd2 d2|| g2|fd3a3d b3da3g|fd3d3g fgaf df3|ge3b3e ge3e3f|g3eb3e gabg eg3| fd3a3d b3da3g|fd3d3g fgag df3|gabg eg3 fa3d3f|cdec Ac3 ddd2 d2||



DAFT WILLIE DAWSON. Scottish, Strathspey and Reel. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. "Daft Willie Dawson" was composed by Inverness dancing master and musician Joseph Lowe. The title refers to a character born at the Bog, later Scott Street, in Brechin, who initially was trained as a weaver, but was "lazy" and "sluggish" at the loom. As it was said, he mentally deteriorated from the shock of having a pail of water thrown on him as he lay lay too long asleep in the morning. He became a mendicant or a traveling pedlar, given to oddities and mannerisms, but regarded as harmless[1]:

In olden times the country was traversed by a class of beggars of the Edie Ochiltree type, and, besides being the principal news-carriers some of these itinerants were half-crazed and half-droll, and much quaint humour and curious fun was got from them. Daft Willie Dawson from Brechin was one of these, and some of our readers may remember him with his hardware box selling trumps. Willie was tormented with a restless spirit, which would not allow him to either sit or stand still, or even go ten paces straight forward. He jerked and cut all the gesticulations conceivable. The opening of his box was a comical operation. Placing it on a table, Willie retired some steps backward, all the time pointing with the key in one hand and pitching up the tails of his coat behind with the other, and stamping with his feet like a "puttin" sheep. Then forward he went with a bounce, but ten to one he scored a miss. When Willie was to get married the minister he asked to officiate got into a rage, saying "Who would marry you, sir, to fill the country full of beggars?" "In troth Mr. Whitson," said Willie, "you have not filled it full o' gentry either." The minister had no family.[2]

He is mentioned in verse in Bowick & Lee's Montrose Characters: Past and Present, in a poem called "Epilogue to the Characters", a twelve stanza ode to the odd personages of the day. Stanza 10 goes:

Moreover, there's ane strange, eccentric crew,
As e'er was seen in town and country side,
Such as the Royal Bamfylde More Carew
Once on a time did for the plan to guide
Poor Willie Dawson, who can ne'er abide
At rest upon his poor shuffling feet;
And Charlie Wood, who hath especial pride,
In raking Brechin's foul and nasty street
And which the creature deems ane occupation sweet.[3]


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Paul Cranford (Brenda Stubbert: The Second Collection). Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3), c. 1880's; Nos. 19 & 20, p. 5. Joseph Lowe (Lowe's Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs, book 1), 1844-45; p. 10.

Recorded sources : - Scotdisc Records, "Jim Macleod & His Band Play Selected Scottish Country Dances" (1989). Ross Records, "Jim Cameron's Scottish Dance Band, Vol. 3." Royal Scottish Country Dance Society RSCDS 49, Alastair Wood And His Scottish Dance Band – "Music For Nine Scottish Country Dances From Book 17" (1994).

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



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  1. There is a substantial sketch of him in William Sievwright, Brechin Faces of the Olden Time: Being Brief Sketches of Old Citizens, 1902, pp. 247-253.
  2. William Harvey, Scottish Life and Character in Anecdote and Story, 1874, p. 280.
  3. James Bowick & John Lee, Montrose Characters: Past and Present, 1880, p. 69. The 'characters' in the poem comprise mostly of the low functioning mentally ill of the day.