Glengarry's Dirk (1)

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GLENGARRY'S DIRK [1]. AKA – "Mac mhic Alastair," "Biodag Dho'ill 'Ic Alasdair," "Glengarry (1)." Scottish, Strathspey. A Major (Scottish versions-Athole, Fraser, Kerr, Neil): C Major (Cape Breton/PEI-Cranford, Perlman): D Major (Martin). Standard tuning. AB (Fraser): AAB (Athole, Cranford, Kerr, Martin, Perlman). The tune is known in Gaelic as "Biodag Dhòmhnaill 'ic Alasdaiar" (Alasdair's son Donald's wee knife), and is also a popular pipe tune. "Glengarry's family have always been celebrated for supporting the dignity of a Highland chief, and for keeping up a retinue of minstrels; hence the tendency of minstrels to celebrate their patrons. Glengarry's late piper, his blind bard and minstrel, and Neil Kennedy, his late fox-hunter, have all been listened to with much pleasure by competent judges" (Fraser). 'Mac Mhic Alastair' is the patronymic given to Glengarry, chief of the Macdonells of Glengarry. The name was derived from the 15th century son of the Lord of the Isles, named Alexander. Neil (1991) reports: "The Macdonells of Glengarry are a branch of the parent Clan Macdonald or Clan Ranald. The Macdonalds were one of the most powerful and numerous of the clans in the Highlands. From the reign of King Robert the Bruce, who conferred on them the distinction of taking up position on the right flank in battle, the Macdonalds have distinguished themselves by their courage and fighting qualities, which were in evidence over the years at battles such as Inverlochy and Sheriffmuir." Honors over the years evidently went to their heads, for the tale is told that a Macdonald chief was inadvertently misplaced from being seated at the head of the table at an important gathering; allaying the fears of those assembled, however, the canny Macdonald declared that 'Where Macdonald sits, that is the head of the table.' Cape Breton versions are generally played in C Major. The piece was recorded on a 78 RPM record by Cape Breton fiddler Angus Chisholm.

Source for notated version: Peter Chaisson, Sr. (b. 1929, Bear River, North-East Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; fiddler Ian Kennedy (Fort William, Scotland) [Martin].

Printed sources: Cranford (Jerry Holland's Collection of Fiddle Tunes), 1995; No. 72, p. 22. Fraser (The Airs and Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland and the Isles), 1816/1874; No. 29, p. 10. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 2); No. 170, p. 20. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 79. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 128, p. 167 (appears as "Glengarry"). Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 201. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 23.

Recorded sources: WMT002, Wendy MacIsaac – "That's What You Get" (1998?).

See also listing at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Index [1]




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