Dunse Dings A'

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DUNS(E) DINGS A. AKA- "Mr. Sharpe's Favorite." AKA and see "Fair Bosom (The)." Scottish, Reel. A Mixolydian (most versions): G Mixolydian (Surenne). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Surenne): AAB (Gow, Williamson): AABB (Köhlers’): AABB' (Athole, Neil). The title refers to Duns, a small ancient town high in the Border hills, and until 1975 the county town of Berwickshire. The title "Dunse dings a'" means 'Dunse beats/surpasses all', an expression of local pride. The town rests at the foot of a hill called Duns Law, which, in 1639 was the camp of an army of the Covenant who by its presence secured the right of the people to remain Presbyterian, despite King Charles II's desire to return the land to Episcopacy. One of the greatest mediaeval philosophers John Duns Scotus, 1265-1308, was born there. Scotus was renowned throughout Europe, lectured in Oxford and Paris, and died in Cologne. He upheld the separability and independence of the rational soul from the body; a humanist, he believed in the primary importance of the individual will. Unfortunately, his views were the object of severe criticism and scorn (by, for one, his rival Thomas Aquinas), especially from puritanical factions who coined the term "dunce" in derision. John Duns evidently also had a wit that Winston Churchill would have approved of, for the King of France once provocatively asked the learned man how far it was between a 'Scot' and a 'sot', and received the reply "Just this table!" John Glen (1891) finds the earliest appearance of the tune in print in Neil Stewart's A Collection of the Newest and the Best Reels, or Country Dances, Adapted for the Violin or German Flute, Edinburgh 1761-62 (pg. 43). The Gow's give "Mr. Sharpe's Favorite" as an alternate title, a reference to Charles Sharpe (1750-1813) of Hoddam (for whom see "Mr. Sharpe's Delight").

A pipe version of the tune appears under the title "Co sin th’ air do chiachun Geala" ("Fair Bosom (The)") in Glasgow piper, pipe teacher and pipe-maker William Gunn's Caledonian Repository of Music Adapted for the Bagpipes (1848).

Source for notated version: copied from James Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs (1782-97) [O'Neill].

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 4), 1796; No. 169, p. 64. Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 246. Gow (Third Collection of Niel Gow's Reels), 1792; p. 21 (3rd ed.). Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 2; No. 2, p. 3. Köhlers’ Violin Repository, Book 1, 1881-1885, p. 47. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 16. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 26, p. 35. O'Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922; No. 248. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 19. Surenne (Dance Music of Scotland), 1852; p. 99. Williamson (English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1976; p. 51.

Recorded sources: Beltona BL2128 (78 RPM), The Edinburgh Highland Reel and Strathspey Society (1936).




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