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MAIRI'S WEDDING. AKA - "Mari's Wedding." AKA and see "Jack Sweeney's (3)," "Lewis Bridal Song." Scottish, Scottish Measure (4/4 time). Scotland, Hebrides. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The tune is from the Hebrides Islands (the alternate title refers to the Isle of Lewis) which lie off the north coast of Scotland. It was first printed in Marjory Kennedy-Fraser's Songs of the Hebrides (1909), as a song written originally in Scots Gaelic and translated into English a year later by Sir Hugh Robertson. There is nothing that particularly distinguishes this tune as Scottish, notes Emmerson (1972), save for the "hint of Rant in the first two phrases." Nevertheless, it has had remarkable longevity, and is popular in traditional circles to this day as a song, country dance, march and polka.
An article in the Glasgow Daily Record by Stephen Houston claimed that the song "Mairi's Wedding" was originally written for Mary C. MacNiven (1905–1997) by her friend Johnny Bannerman (in Gaelic) and was first played to her at the Old Highlanders Institute in Glasgow's Elmbank Streeet for the Mod of 1935 (where she won the prize for singing). The article states that although the song was written for her, it was not on the occasion of her wedding, but rather for her birthday. In fact, she was unmarried at the time, and remained so until she wed Skye-born sea captain John Campbell 6 years later. The article (date unknown) was published the day before Mary's 90th birthday.
Step it gaily, off we go
Heel for heel and toe for toe,
Arm in arm and off we go (or 'row on row')
All for Mairi's wedding.
Over hillways up and down
Myrtle green and bracken brown,
Past the sheiling through the town
All for sake of Mairi.
Plenty herring, plenty meal
Plenty peat to fill her creel,
Plenty bonny bairns as weel
That's the toast for Mairi.
Cheeks as bright as rowans are
Brighter far than any star,
(or Red her cheeks as rowans are
Bright her eye as any star)
Fairest o' them all by far
Is my darlin' Mairi.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler's Repertoire), 1983; No. 54. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 96 (appears as "Mari's Wedding"). Sweet (Fifer's Delight), 1965/1981; p. 75.
Recorded sources: Kicking Mule KM216, Strathspey - "New England Contra Dance Music" (1977. Appears as "Mari's Wedding"). Tradition 2118, Jim MacLeod & His Band - "Scottish Dances: Jigs, Waltzes and Reels" (1979).