Lady Susan Gordon

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LADY SUSAN GORDON'S REEL. Scottish, Reel. B Flat Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Composed by William Marshall (1748-1833), first appearing in print in his 1781 collection. Lady Susan (1774-1828) was the third of the beautiful daughters of the 4th Duke and Duchess of Gordon, who married William Montague, 5th Duke of Manchester, in 1793. Moyra Cowie (1999) records that Susan was a "wayward girl" and later, after she had become the Duchess of Manchester, ran off with one of her footman (according to a sharp-tongued Miss Grant of Rothiemurchus). She left her husband the Duke in 1803, after bearing a number of children, and her conduct was described years later by Lady Jerningham in 1813 as having been "most notoriously bad." Montague had financial difficulties, fairing poorly, and finally secured an appointment as Governor of Jamaica, a post held for some twenty years, during which he prepared the colony for the emancipation of slaves, and dealt with the aftermath of hurricanes and a disastrous fire in Port Royal. Despite the approbation of her aristocratic peers, other portraits of Lady Susan are rather sympathetic (see Bulloch & Henderson's Scottish Notes and Queries, vol. XII, no. 3, Sept., 1898). She is described by one who knew her as "one of the most vivacious and kind-hearted girls." Arthur Young, the agriculturalist and friend of the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, fairly rhapsodised her:

The duchess pleases me as much or more than any other woman I have met these many years. Her character in every worldly respect is most amiable. There is a native ease, simplicity and naiveté of character in her which delights me; and when I consider the life of the Duchess of Gordon, her mother the great patroness of every dissipation, I am amazed at this secluded young duchess, who never goes to London, who loves a retired life, and is quite content on a fortune very moderate for the rank of her husband. She gave me her whole history, from going one summer for weeks to drink goats' whey on the mountains many miles beyond Gordon Castle, and running up and down the hills barefooted, driving down the goats and milking them, and being delighted with the place and the life, though no human being within many miles except the family and an old woman of the solitary house. This was the case with all of the girls. She never went to school, and laid in a fine stock of health, and with it a sweetness of temper and simplicity of character which, joined with an excellent understanding, contributed so much to form her as she is at present, calculated to be a blessing to her husband.

Young thought her happy in her marriage, and in this he was mistaken. However the sketch in Scottish Notes indicates only that she was unhappy and separated from the Duke, without even hinting at anything so scandalous as a dalliance with a footman, which may have been a bit of unfortunate slander. Still, Lady Susan's two sons were sent away to Eton, and her six daughters were raised in the home Susan's mother-in-law, the Dowager Duchess of Manchester, evidencing a family rift of some sort. Susan's eldest daughter, Lady Jane Montagu, managed to spend considerable time with her other grandmother, Jane Maxwell, the Duchess of Gordon, "and used to dance the Ghillie Callum and Shean Trews at the impromptu balls that her grandmother used to get up at [her residence of ] Kinrara." Unfortunately Jane died young, of consumption. Lady Susan herself died in 1828 at Bedfont Lodge, Middlesex, aged 54. She was interred at Kimbolton, attended by a son and son-in-law. Her portrait in pastel, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, hung in Kimbolton Castle (Cambridgeshire) as long as it was in the Montagu family (from 1615 to 1951, when it was sold to a school).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 48, p. 20. Glen (Glen Collection of Scottish Music), vol. 1, 1891; p. 17. Marshall, Fiddlecase Edition, 1978; 1822 Collection, p. 10 and the 1781 Collection, p. 5. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 294.

Recorded sources:




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