Four Marys (The)

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FOUR MARY'S WALTZ. Scottish, Air and Waltz. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA (Kerr): AB (Perlman). The melody is an adaptation of a famous Scottish song that usually goes by the title of "Mary Hamilton" or "The Queen's Maries," whose chorus goes:

Last night there were four Maries,
Tonight there'll be but three;
There was Mary Beaton and Mary Seaton,
Mary Carmichael and me.

The ballad, a lament before the fourth Mary's execution, is based on a germ of truth. Four female children were selected to accompany the six year old Scottish Princess Mary when she was sent to France and by the time they returned in 1561 the Maries had become her ladies in waiting. However, Evelyn Wells in her book The Ballad Tree, finds that the ballad maker(s) either confused or purposefully wove a tale involving Queen Mary, the real Maries who were part of her entourage, various other famous Scots ladies to whom the taint of scandal was attached (who may or may not have been named Mary) and an actual recorded tragedy. It is fact that one of the Queen's French waiting-woman was hanged for murdering her illegitimate infant, sired by the Queen's apothecary, and this event was the germ of the ballad, perhaps "enhanced" for effect.

Source for notated version: Sidney Baglole (b. 1912, Southwest Lot 16, East Prince County, Prince Edward Island; now resident of Freetown) [Perlman].

Printed sources: Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 3; No. 428, p. 48. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 168.

Recorded sources:

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