Miss Ann Stewart (1)
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MISS ANN STEWART . AKA – “Miss Ann Stewart East Craig’s Reel.” Scottish, Reel. G Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Surenne): AAB (Skye). East Craigs is north west of Edinburgh. Anne Stewart was the daughter of John Stewart of East Craigs. Ann(e) was a celebrated Edinburgh beauty who married a surgeon an apothecary of the city named Forrest Dewar (d. 1816) in January, 1789, in the process breaking the heart (the story goes) of another suitor, Alexander Cunningham. Cunningham was a friend of poet Robert Burns, who knew how much in love he was with Miss Stewart, whom Burns once described as “an amiable and accomplished young lady with whom I fancy I have the honor of being a little acquainted.” Burns had encouraged Cunningham to marry her, penning a verse in 1788 called “To Alex. Cunningham, Esq., Writer, Edinburgh,” which ended:
Sweet Anna has an air—a grace,
Divine, magnetic, touching;
She talks, she charms—but who can trace
The process of bewitching?
The poet was less charitable after she spurned his friend, declaring the she had “prostituted her character” and married beneath her. In a letter to Cunningham from 1789, Burns consoled: “…I am certain that a disappointment in the tender passion must, to you, be a very serious matter…to your scanty tribe of mankind, whose souls bear, on the richest materials, the most elegant impress of the Great Creator, Love enters deeply into their existence, and is entwined with their very thread of life.” It has been suggested that Burns’ poem “She’s Fair and Fause” was inspired by his friend’s loss.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Gow (Second Collection of Niel Gow’s Reels), 1788; p. 26 (3rd ed.). MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 147. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 202. Surenne (Dance Music of Scotland), 1852; p. 110.