Dunkeld Hermitage

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DUNKELD HERMITAGE. Scottish, Reel. E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Composed by Scots fiddler-composer Niel Gow (1727-1807). The name Dunkeld means the 'fort of the Caledonians' and refers to the people that dominated the central lowlands of Scotland during the time of the Romans (Matthews, 1972). Celtic monks, driven from Iona, established themselves there in the year 729 and Kenneth Macalpin made Dunkeld the ecclesiastical capital of his combined kingdom of the Scots and Picts in 849. Alexander I revived the bishopric in 1107. Dunkeld has been much fought over. It was raided by Vikings in 903 and by Malcolm of Moray in 1027; it was the site of MacBeth's victory over Crinan and Maldred in 1045. In 1689 Captain Munro massacred an army of Highland supporters of James VII there.

Hermitages were a for a time a fashionable affectation of the rich, derived from the court of Louis XV of France who built a retreat as a place of refuge from the excesses of Versailles and called it L'Hermitage, explains Derek Hoy. The fad spread through Europe until many landed aristocrats had rustic looking, cave-like hermitages tucked into remote corners of their estates. Hoy states that those who could afford it might also employ a hermit to occupy the crude dwelling, although finding a genuine hermit was not always so easy. One hermit was employed to staff a noble hermitage and offered steady wages with full board and lodging, on the condition that he never cut his hair or shave his beard. Perhaps second thoughts set in, however, for soon after receiving his first paycheck the new hermit deserted the enterprise and fled without explanation.

Dunkeld Hermitage refers specifically to a small forest or wood that was planted (by the Dukes of Atholl in the 18th century) specifically to grow certain types of trees, reveals Richard Allardice. He also notes the hermitage at Dunkeld is the most famous in Scotland, over 400 years in age, and is primarily Scots pine, although many trees have been replaced with other coniferous species. The Hermitage is situated above a spectacular waterfall on the River Braan, and today boasts some of the tallest trees in Britain.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 245. Glen (Glen Collection of Scottish Music), vol. 2, 1895; p. 48. Gow (The First Collection of Niel Gow's Reels), 1784 (revised 1801); p. 21. Jones [Ed.] (Complete Tutor Violin), c. 1815; p. 8. Kennedy (Traditional Dance Music of Britain and Ireland: Reels and Rants), 1997; No. 38, p. 12. O'Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. III), c. 1808; p. 8. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 259.

Recorded sources: Jerry O'Sullivan - "O'Sullivan meets O'Farrell" (2005). Rounder Records, Alex Francis MacKay - "A Lifelong Home" (1997).

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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