Little Donald in the Pigpen

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LITTLE DONALD IN THE PIGPEN. AKA - "Little Donald in the Pig Sty," "Little Donald of the Pigpen." Canadian, Reel. Canada, Prince Edward Island. A Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Dunlay): AAB (Perlman): AABB (Songer). Dunlay & Greenberg note that the second turn of the tune sounds like some settings of "Pigeon on the Gate." P.E.I. fiddler Hector MacDonald believed the tune was originally a pipe march that came to be played "too fast" as a reel. Some see similarities to the Irish reel "Jolly Tinker (2) (The)" (the second part of "Little Donald" and the third part of "Jolly Tinker" are very similar). MacDonald's version is distanced from other versions, and the parts are reversed (his first strain is the second strain of other versions).

Ken Perlman, in The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island (1996), writes that fiddler Hector MacDonald (Bangor, Kings County, PEI) came up with the name in the 1930's while performing it on the radio. This in not quite what MacDonald recalled when he was interviewed for the newsletter The Island Fiddler in 1982 [1]. MacDonald played for radio station broadcasts from CHCK in Charlottetown in the late 1920's, and was surprised at the public reaction to his playing the tune. On the air he was asked how it came by its name:

"Well," I said, "as far as I know, Little Donald was a piper from over here, and he had this tune but he had no name on it. He was a short little fella himself, you know. So he was coming home from a dance one night and got awful drunk. So, god, he got sleepy, so he jumped over the fence and lay down and he fell asleep. So when he woke up in the morning he looked all around, and he was in a pigpen. So he clapped the pipes on his back and he played this tune, and he christened it Little Donald in the Pigpen...Well, my god, I went in the next week, we were playing every week for him, and he called me into the office. 'C'mere' he said. There was a stack of letters honest to god that high [several feet] from everywhere: 'Play it again.' I had to play that tune every night I was in there. [p. 5]

Sources for notated versions: Stanley Myers (of Holbrook, Mass., originally from Marinvale, Prince Edward Island) [Dunlay & Greenberg, Dunlay and Reich]; Leonard MacDonald (b. 1933, Emyvale, Queens County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; Oregon fiddler David Reich via Rick Macquoid (Portland, Oregon) [Songer].

Printed sources: Dunlay & Greenberg (Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton), 1996; p. 54. Dunlay and Reich (Traditional Celtic Fiddle Music of Cape Breton), 1986; p. 37. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 98. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 126.

Recorded sources: CEI 8001, Winnie Chafe - "Echoes" (1988). RF-9001, John Morris Rankin - "Fare Thee Well Love." Nimbus NI 5383, John Morris Rankin et al. - "Traditional Music from Cape Breton Island" (1993). Patio Records PR002, Joseph & J.P. Cormier - "Velvet Arm, Golden Hand" (2002).

See also listing at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [2]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]




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