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DUMFRIES RACES. Scottish, Strathspey. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. The melody appears in Gow's Fifth Collection (p. 7), where it is attributed to Joseph Reinagle (1762–1836), English-born son of a German musician. Reinagle was a music composer and violinist, although particularly known for his cello playing (he was the principal cello at the Salomon concerts under Haydn in London). Nathaniel Gow took lessons from him in Edinburgh.
The name Dumfries means 'stronghold by the little wood', from the Celtic root-word dun, meaning a fortified place. The flatlands by the river Nith were the location of horse races from a remote period, mentioned as early as 1575. The following is from William Andrews' Historic Byways and Highways of Old England:
The magistrates of Dumfries, on April 15th, 1662, ordered the town treasurer to purchase a silver bell as a prize to be run for annually by the "work-horses" of the burgh. May was the month fixed for the races, and the same horse and rider had to win the bell three consecutive years before is should become his property. We are not aware if anyone actually acquired the original bell; the conditions were by no means easy. The races were suppressed, as they had given rise to serious scandal, and, in 1716, the treasurer was instructed to sell the silver bell.
It appears this was but a short hiatus, as races recommenced not long afterwards and were held throughout 18th century, certainly from 1788. However, they ceased after 1847.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 45. Gow (5th Collection of Strathspeys Reels), 1809; p. 7 (includes a second violin part, played mostly on the lower strings).