Frennet Hall

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FRENNET HALL. AKA - "Frennet Ha'." Scottish, Air (3/4 time). A Mixolydian (Aird): G Minor (Howe). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. The air goes to a once-popular ballad (reproduced in Herd's collection of Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, 1870) that is based on a 17th century incident in Forgue, Scotland, at the castle of Frendraught (i.e. Frennet Hall), now a ruin. The castle was the ancient seat of the Crichton family, who, in the early 1600's became engaged in a feud with the Gordons of Rothiemay. It was in the tower of the castle, in 1630, that Viscount Aboyne, laird of Rothiemay, and two or three followers were abed after being given the hospitality of the castle. A great fire of unknown origin, but sudden and intense, destroyed the upper stories of the tower and killed all who were in them. The popular view was that they had been deliberately murdered, and it was commonly held that Lady Frendraught (i.e. "Lady Frennet") was responsible for the treachery. The fire was determined to be arson and a scapegoat was tried and executed, although the feud between the factions simmered on for years. Words to the song, in dialect, have been attributed to Bauldie Scrimezour c. 1795, and begin:

Quhair wile I lay my hede,
Quhair lay my bodie doune,
Qhairfor na am I died,
Sen' wandrin' I bene bown;
O! Marie ze war fairer
than ony goud or gear;
O! bot my hert is sairer'
than't has bene mony zeir.

A variant (which contains garbled and inaccurate information about the incident) begins:

When Frennett castle's ivied wa's
Thro' yallow leaves were seen;
When birds forsook the sapless boughs,
And bees the faded green;
Then Lady Frennet, vengeful dame,
Did wander frae the ha',
To the wild forest's dewie gloom,
Among the leaves that fa'.
Her page, the swiftest of her train,
Had clumb a lofty tree,
Whase branches to the lofty blast,
Were soughing mournfullie:
He turn'd his een towards the path
That near the castle lay,
Where good lord John and Rothemay
Were rideing down the brae.

The air also appears in the 1840 music manuscript collection of John Rook, of the Wigton, Cubria, area. Another 'Frennett Hall' is the name of an unrelated song in the Scots Musical Museum (vol. 3, No., 286, 1790).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs), vol. 5, 1797; p. 24. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 127. Johnson (A Further Collection of Dances, Marches, Minuetts and Duetts of the Latter 18th Century), 1998; p. 8. Manson (Hamilton's Universal Tune Book, vol. 1), 1853; p. 31.

Recorded sources:




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