Miss Katty Gordon of Earlston’s Reel

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MISS KATTY GORDON OF EARLSTON(‘S REEL). Scottish, Reel (cut time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB'. John Glen (1891) finds the earliest appearance of this tune in print in Ayrshire fiddler-composer John Riddell's 1782 second collection (p. 24). It is possible the 'Katty Gordon' of the title was Catherine Gordon, whose ancestral home was Earlstoun Castle, overlooking Earlston Loch to the north of St. John's Town of Dairy in Kirkcudbrightshire. The barony of Earlstoun had been acquired by the Gordons from Lord Stewart of Ochiltree in 1620. Catherine inherited the family estates (which included Afton and Stair) in 1766, on the death of her father. In 1770 Catherine married Colonel Alexander Stewart, grandson of the Earl of Galloway, who eventually became a Major-General in the army. Catherine was then known as Mrs. General Stewart. Burns visited the estate of Stair in the company of a friend, David Siller, to see Siller's sweetheart and happened to leave some songs in manuscript behind, which came to the attention of Catherine. Impressed, she became a patron of the poet, and the two had a lengthy and productive correspondence. He eventually sent two collections of songs to her, known as the Stair Manuscripts and the Afton Manuscripts. She died in 1818.

A County Donegal version of Riddell's reel goes by the name "Kitty Gordon's," collected from the playing of fiddler Peter Turbit by Alan Feldman and Eamonn O'Doherty and printed in their volume Northern Fiddler (1979).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Glen (The Glen Collection of Scottish Music), vol. 1, 1891; p. 4. Moffat (Dance Music of the North), 1908; No. 35, p. 15. John Riddell (Collection of Scots Reels, Minuets &c. for the Violin), 1782; p. 24.

Recorded sources: Isle Music Scotland ISLE 01CD, Borders Young Fiddles ‎– "Borders Young Fiddles: Borders Traditions vol. 3" (2004).




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