Kate of Aberdeen (1)

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KATE OF ABERDEEN [1]. English; Air (cut time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "Date of Aberdeen" was a favorite song by Jonathan Battishill [1] (1738-1801), written for the Ranelagh Gardens, a London pleasure-garden. It was frequently printed in latter 18th century songsters and issued on songsheets. The melody also appears in instrumental tutors such as Longman, Lukey & Broderip's A Pocket Book for the German Flute (1788) and Preston's New and Complete Instructions for the Hautboy (c. 1780). The song appears in Johnson's Scots Musical Musem vol. 1 (1787, Song 35, p. 36) as "May Eve, or Kate of Aberdeen," and begins:

The silver moon's enamour'd beams,
Steal softly through the night,
To wanton in the winding streams,
And kiss reflected light.
To courts, begone! Heart soothing sleep,
where you've so seldom been,
Whilst I May's wakeful vigil keep,
With Kate of Aberdeen
With Kate of Aberdeen
With Kate of Aberdeen.

Robert Burns claimed that the words to "Kate of Aberdeen" were "the work of poor Cunningham the player," of whom he told the following annecdote:

A fat dignitary of the church coming past Cunningham one Sunday, as the poor poet was busy plying a fishing-rod in some stream near Durham, his native county, his reverence reprimanded Cunningham very severely for such an occupation on such a day. The poor poet, with that inoffensive gentleness of manners which was his peculiar characteristic, replied that he hoped God and his reverence would forgive his seeming profanity of that sacred day, 'as he had no dinner to eat, but what lay at the bottom of the pool!' This, Mr. Woods, who knew Cunningham well, and esteemed him much, assured me was true.

John Cunningham was a descendent of the Cunninghams of Enterkine in Ayrshire, and was born in Dublin (not Durham) om 1729. His father was a wine-merchant in that city, but Cunningham's career lay in the Edinburgh stage. Later he moved to Newcastle, where he was engaged in the theater. "Bonny Kate of Aberdeen" is a different melody.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 10), 1760; p. 14. Riley (Flute Melodies, vol. 1), New York, 1814; p. 40.

Recorded sources:




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