Maggy Lawder

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X:1 T:Moggy Lauther M:C| L:1/8 R:Air B:Neal - (Dublin, 1724) K:G V:1 clef=treble name="1." [V:1] G z G z G z G z|A>BA>G F2A2|BGGG G2G2|d>ed>c B2c2| d>edB c2B2|A>BA>E F2A2|B>cB>G c2 BA|B/c/dAB G2G2||

MAGGIE LAUDER. AKA and see "Maggie Laidir," "Moggy Lawther." Scottish, Irish, English; Air, Slow March, Polka or Highland Schottische. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Miller & Perron, Raven): AABB (Aird): AABBCCDDEE (O'Farrell): AABBCCDDEEFF (Oswald): AABBCCDDEEFFGGHH (Colclough). The melody "Maggie Lauder" (and its many variant spellings) has had astonishing longevity from its first publications in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and has been an adaptable piece of music, rendered in various forms depending on context and need, including (and probably originally) a song air, polka, schottische, country dance, and others, as well as being the basis for numerous variation sets (particularly in piping repertoire). The Scottish dialect title (which goes by a number of variant spellings, including 'Maggie', 'Maggy', 'Moggy', 'Lauder','Lauther', 'Lawder, 'Laidir' etc.) means "strong Maggie" and dates from the mid-17th century when new words were adapted to the tune by John O'Neachtan about the year 1676 (a transcript of which dating to 1706 was published by Hardiman). Grattan Flood (1906) traced reports of the tune back to 1696 when it was sung by Anglo-Irish actor Thomas Dogget in his comedy called A Country Wake (who must have liked it for he used it again in 1711 for another play, Hob, or the Country Wake, a variant which appeared in Drury Lane that year) [Ed.: Flood, it must be said, is renowned for his inaccuracies and his scholarship must always be taken with a grain of salt]. Having found a home in the ballad opera genre, the melody was utilized again in the Quaker's Opera in 1728, by Charles Coffey, and in 1729 in his Beggar's Wedding (both under the title "Moggy Lawther"). As mentioned, it was employed by Allan Ramsay in his ballad opera The Gentle Shepherd in 1725, and it is Air IX in Theophilus Cibber's Scotch ballad opera Patie and Peggy (1730). Finally, it is the melody for the song "M Johnny ne'er cou'd take Delight" from The Quaker's Opera (1728), an anonymous work performed at Lee's and Harper's Great Theatrical Booth in Bartholemew Fair. The melody to Ramsay's version is the one that has been most reproduced.

Instrumental versions of the widespread tune can be found in a number of printed and manuscript volumes dating to around the mid-1720's to 1730's, and show a wide variety of iterations and variants. John and William Neal (Dublin) printed it in their A Collection of the Most Celebrated Scotch Tunes for the Violin in Dublin in 1724, as did music publisher Daniel Wright (London) in Aria di Camera (1727). A Scottish version appeared in 1729 in Adam Craig's Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes (Edinburgh), and a country dance form was printed by Benjamin Cooke in London in 1738. A rare, late text of Forbes of Disblair's "Maggie Lauder" variations appears in Perthshireman James Gillespie's 1768 MS. (where it is listed as "Moggie Lawther"), and Edinburgh fiddler and writing master David Young included it in his MacFarlane Manuscript (c. 1740, No. 45, pp. 90-95, also with variations by William Forbes of Disblair, 1661-1740), "Written for the use of Walter Mcfarlan of that ilk." "Maggie Lauder" has also long been known in the north of Britain, where it is popular in piping as well as fiddle repertoire. Manuscript versions appear in the copybooks of James Winder (c. 1835-41) in three parts (key of 'D') and the music copybook of Welsh fiddler John Thomas, dated 1752, in four parts.

The nation of Ireland has often been portrayed euphemistically, personified similar to Uncle Sam for America or John Bull for England. "Strong Maggie" is a euphemism for Ireland, states Hardiman, who published the air in 1831 based on an unknown 1706 transcription. The evidence, however, points to a Scottish provenance, with the 17th century lyric (which Chappell (1859) and Emmerson {1972} attribute to Francis Sempill or Semple of Beltrees, 1616-1682) tells of a Scottish piper and his serendipitous meeting with a merry dancer in Fife, and may be enjoyed at face value:

For I'm a piper by my trade
My name is Rob the Ranter,
The lasses loup as they were daft
When I blaw my chanter.


Then to his bags he flew wi'speed,
About the drone he twisted;
Meg up and wallop'd o'er the green,
For brawly could she frisk it.
Weel done, quoth he, play up, quoth she,
Weel bob'd, quoth Rob the Ranter,
'Tis worth my while to play indeed,
When I hae sic a dancer.

The attribution to Sempill has since been disputed and awaits further research. According to Flood (A History of Irish Music), "The Scotch version was first printed in 1729 in [Adam] Craig's Collection, the melody being set to words in celebration of Maggie Lauder, a reigning courtesan of Crail." The song was also mentioned in Allan Ramsay's ballad opera The Gentle Shepherd (1725, just before "Sang X"):

Jenny sings saft the "Broom o' Cowden-Knowes",
An' Rosie lilts the "Milking of the Ewes";
There's nane like Nancy, "Jenny Nettles" sings;
At turns in "Maggy Lauder", Marion dings:
But when my Peggy sings, wi' sweeter skill,
"The Boatman", or the "Lass o' Patie's Mill",
It is a thousand times mair sweet to me;
Tho' they sing weel, they canna sing like thee.

Seán Donnelly notes that the Scottish song and tune "Moggy Lauder" was adopted as a keening for Ireland by the Irish poet Seán Ó Neachtain (c. 1650-1728) in the form "Magaí Lauder"[1].

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II), 1785; No. 128, p. 47. Colclough (Tutor for the Irish Union Pipes), c. 1830; p. 18 (appears as "Maggie Lawder with Var."). Cooke (Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1738), London, 1738. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3), c. 1880's; No. 201, p. 23. Laybourn (Köhlers' Violin Repository, Book II), 1881-1885; pp. 98-101 (with numerous variation sets). McGibbon (Scots Tunes, Book 1), c. 1762; pp. 16-17 (appears as "Magie Lawder"). John McLachlan (Piper’s Assistant), 1854; No. 108, p. 66. Miller & Perron (101 Polkas), 1978; No. 31. O'Farrell (National Irish Music for the Union Pipes), 1804; pp. 42-43 (appears as "Maggie Lawder with New Variations). James Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 1), 1760; p. 30.

Recorded sources : - Saydisc CDSDL 372, Bonnie Shaljean – “Farewell to Lough Neaghe” (recorded 1988). Saydisc CDSDL449, Bonnie Shaljean - "Traditional Dance Music of Britain & Ireland" (2018).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
See a standard notation transcription of the melody with numerous variation sets from David Young's MacFarlane Manuscript (c. 1740) [2]

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  1. Seán Donnelly, "A German Dulcimer Player in Eighteenth-Century Dublin", Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), p. 83.