Drunken Wives of Fochabers (The)

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X:1 T:Drunken Wives of Fochabers M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel B:David Young – Drummond Castle/Duke of Perth Manuscript (1734, No. 48) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Ddor A|D/D/D D2 F>GAF|G/G/G BG cABG|D/D/D D2 F>GAc|d/d/d cd AGG:| |f|d/d/d T(cA) f>gaf|d g2 g/a/ bgag|fdTcA f>gag|fdTcB AGG:|]



DRUNKEN WIVES OF FOCHABERS, THE. AKA and see "Clare Reel (The)," "Clunie's Scotch Reel," "Drunken Maids of Ardnaree (The)," "Miss Nicoll's Favourite," "Scolding Wife (1) (The)."Scottish, Strathspey. Scottish, Highlands. G Dorian (Campbell): A Minor (Aird). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Aird): AABCCDE. A companion piece to "Drunken Wives of Carlisle," written in the latter 18th century, this time commenting on a northeast Scottish Highland town's women. Fochabers [1] lies near the River Spey in the county of Moray, not far from Elgin, and is most famous to fiddlers as the home of Scots fiddler-composer William Marshall. It was a planned village, begun in 1776 by Alexander Gordon [2] (1743-1827), 4th Duke of Gordon (who was strathspey composer William Marshall's employer and patron). The following Scottish folk rhyme mentions the title (from Walter Gregor's Folk-lore of the North-East of Scotland, 1881, Chapter 18, "Place Rhymes":

Aw sing a sang, aw ming a mang,
A cyarlin an a kid;
The drunken wives of Fochabers
Is a' rinnin wid.

The tune appears as a country dance in the Drummond Castle Manuscript, in the possession of the Earl of Ancaster at Drummond Castle; it is inscribed "A Collection of Country Dances written for the use of his Grace the Duke of Perth by Dav. Young, 1734." It was also entered (set as a reel in the fife-friendly key of B minor) into the music copybook (No. 824) [3] of John Buttery (1784-1854), a fifer with the 37th Regiment, British army, who served from 1797-1814 and who late in life emigrated to Canada. Buttery's manuscript collection has also been identified as belonging to John Fife [1], with a suggested date of 1780. Fife was a family name, like Buttery, identified with the manuscript.
Variants also had a life in Ireland. County Cork cleric and uilleann piper Canon James Goodman entered it in his own large mid-19th century music manuscript collection (vol. iii, p. 166) under the title “Drunken Wives of Lochaber [sic]" in a section of Scottish tunes. However, an Irish version was printed by violinist R.M. Levey in his 2nd Collection of the Dance Music of Ireland (1873) as "Scolding Wife (1) (The)," and it was entered as "Miss Nicoll's Favourite" into Book 2 of the large c. 1883 music manuscript collection of County Leitrim fiddler and piper Stephen Grier (c. 1824-1894).


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 6), 1803; p. 4. Joshua Campbell (A Collection of New Reels & Highland Strathspeys), Glasgow, 1789; p. 22. Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 36. Gow (The First Collection of Niel Gow's Reels), 1784 (revised 1801); p. 9. Johnson (A Further Collection of Dances, Marches, Minuetts and Duetts of the Latter 18th Century), 1998; p. 3. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 199.






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  1. Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources, https://www.cdss.org/elibrary/Easmes/Index.htm