Miss Gordon of Gight
X:1 T:Miss Gordon of Gight (Em) T:Easter Morn C:Isaac Cooper 1783 B:Isaac Cooper "Thirty New Strathspey Reels For The Violin or Harpsichord" 1783 O:England L:1/8 M:4/4 Z:Alf Warnock - email@example.com %Q:1/4=112 K:Em |: "Em"B,E GB eb ge | "D"d/e/f dB AF DF | "Em"EG BG "D"FA dB | "Bm"AF DF "Em"GE E2 :| [| "G"gb d'b "Am"c'b ag | "Bm"fg ab "D"af df | "G"gb d'b "Am"c'b ag | "D"fd af "Em"e4 | | "G"gb d'b "Am"c'b ag | "Bm"fg ab "D"af da | "G"ba gf "C"ef ge | "Bm"dB AF "Em"GE ED |]
MISS GORDON OF GIGHT. AKA and see "Easter Morn." Scottish, Reel. C Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Composed by Isaac Cooper of Banff (1754? – 1820) around 1783, dedicated to the literary Lord Byron's mother, a Huntly Gordon (The Bog of Gight is the site of Gordon Castle). Cooper was a skilled musician and excellent composer. He advertised himself as a teacher of “The Harpsichord, The Violin, The Violincella, The Psaltery, The Clarionet, The Pipe and Taberer, The German Flute, The Scots Flute, The Fife in the Regimental Stile, The Hautboy, The Irish Organ Pipe…And the Guitar, after a new method of fingering…”
Catharine Gordon, of Gight, Aberdeenshire, was a rich heiress of modest fortune, but “her unattractive looks and awkward figure had kept her without offers of marriage” (Laura Carter Holloway, The Mothers of Great Men and Women, 1883). She met Mad Jack Byron, a widowed Life Guardsman and the son of Admiral "Foul Weather Jack" Byron, at the fashionable watering place of Bath, and married him there in March, 1786, after which the couple moved to Scotland. He was obliged to add the name Gordon to his own, in compliance with a condition imposed by will on whoever should become husband of the heiress of Gight. She soon found that Mad Jack was an unprincipled and dissipated husband deeply in debt, and had only married her for her money, which he ran through in just a few short years (save for £3,000 which the guardians of her estate managed to secure).
Catharine led a deeply unhappy life, characterized by bleak moods and violent temper outbursts. Even before her marriage she had a reputation for public outbursts, as mentioned by Thomas Moore in Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1830, p. 20)
A circumstance, related as having taken place before the marriage of this lady, not only shows the extreme quickness and vehemence of her feelings, but, if it be true that she had never at the time seen Captain Byron, is not a little striking. Being at the Edinburgh Theatre one night when the character of Isabella was performed by Mrs. Siddons, so effected was she by the powers of this great actress, that, towards the conclusion of the play, she fell into violent fits, and was carried out of the theatre, screaming loudly, "Oh my Biron, my Biron."
This parody was published at the time of the marriage, and reprinted in Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland [quoted by Thomas Moore, p. 20]:
MISS GORDON OF GIGHT.
O whare are ye gaen, bonny Miss Gordon?
O whare are ye gaen, sae bonny an' braw?
Ye've married, ye've married wi' Johnny Byron,
To squander the lands o' Gight awa'.
This youth is a rake, frae England he's come;
The Scots dinna ken his extraction ava;
He keeps up his misses, his landlord he duns,
That's fast drawen' the lands o' Gight awa'.
O whare are ye gaen, &c.
The shooten' o' guns, an' rattlin' o' drums,
The bugle in woods, the pipes i' the ha',
The beagles a howlin', the hounds a growlin';
These soundings will soon gar Gight gang awa'.
While the verses do not scan to Cooper's reel, they were set to a pentatonic melody quite like "Forrest (The)" in Gow's Second Collection (where it is marked as Irish) that "was used as a favourite quick march, by some of the Bands of the Volunteers in Buchan in the end of the last century [i.e. the 18th] and beginning of the present. It was called "The House at the fit o' the Hill," and sung to a ballad of that name; but the editor has been unable to procure the words to it. He has often heard it, in his young days, sung to 'Miss Gordon of Gight'" [William Christie, Traditional Ballad Airs, vol. 1, 1877, p. 50]. The melody is reproduced below.
“Though she had royal blood in her veins,” writes a Mr. Jeaffreson in a decidedly unflattering sketch,:
...and belonged to the superior branch of the Gordons, it would not have been easy to find a gentlewoman whose person and countenance were less indicative of ancestral purity. A dumpy young woman, with a large waist, florid complexion, and homely features, she would have been mistaken anywhere for a small farmer’s daughter or a petty tradesman’s wife, had it not been for her silks and feathers, the rings on her fingers, and the jewelry about her short, thick neck. At this early time of her career she was not quite so graceless and awkward as Mrs. Cardueis (in Lord Beaconsfield’s Venetia), but it was already manifest that she would be cumbrously corpulent on coming to middle age; and even in her twenty-fifth year she would waddle through drawing-rooms and gardens on the development of her unwieldy person. In the last century it was not uncommon for matrons of ancient lineage to possess little learning and no accomplishments; but Miss Gordon’s education was very much inferior to the education usually accorded to the young gentlewomen of her period. Unable to speak any other language, she spoke her mother tongue with a broad Scotch brogue, and write it in a style that in this politer age would be discreditable to a waiting-woman. Though she was a writer of long epistles, they seldom contained a capital letter or a mark of punctuation to assist the reader in the sometimes arduous task of discovering their precise meaning, and thought she could spell the more simple words correctly, when she was writing in a state of mental placidity, she never used her pen in moments of excitement without committing comical blunders of orthography. To Captain (Mad Jack) Byron, however, the lady’s temper was more grievous than her defects of person, breeding, and culture. It should, however, be remembered by readers who would do her justice, that Mrs. Byron was by no means devoid of the shrewdness and ordinary intelligence of inferior womankind, and was capable of generous impulses to the persons whom, in her frequent fits of uncontrollable fury, she would assail with unfeminine violence, and even with unnatural cruelty. ... [quoted in Holloway, 1883].
Catharine died in 1811, far outliving her husband, who died in Valenciennes, France, in 1791.