Miss Preston of Fernton’s Strathspey
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MISS PRESTON OF FERNTON'S STRATHSPEY. Scottish, Strathspey (cut time). A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Composed by William Shepherd (c. 1750-1812). See also the reel "Miss Preston Fernton." The title may refer to Miss Anne Campbell Preston, of Fernton and Lochlane, County Perth, daughter of Major Patrick Preston of Valleyfield, Fife, or to her sister (the only children of the Colonel). In 1810, Anne married Sir David Baird (1757-1829), Bart., an army general and colonel of the 24th Regiment of Foot, and hero of the battle of Seringapatam (India). P. R. Drummond, writing in his Perthshire in Bygone Days (1879) records this reminiscence:
When Miss Preston was about to be married to Sir David Baird, she sent William Eobertson the hedger, who knew the tenants well, to invite them all to the marriage. "You will not only invite them, but you will arrange fully with them how they are to come, and be able to tell me all about it when you return. Any of them that have gigs will come in them, those who have no gigs will come on horseback, and those who cannot come on horseback will come in a cart, and any poor body that has neither horse nor cart, tell them I will send the carriage for them — only see that they do come."
The marriage ambassador had a peculiarity when assenting to anything said to him; he did not do it with the usual "yes" — "just so," — or "precisely,"--but with "Immediately,! immediately." I remember him well as he came round on his hymeneal mission; a tall square-built, loquacious man, very precise in his movements, and in the present case, necessarily well bred. He was dressed in a green frock-tailed coat with brass buttons, drab breeches and leggings, a hat somewhat stinted of brim, but of vast altitude, and a stick in his hand, the crook of which bespoke his important embassy; my father was ill and in bed, but received the gracious message, expressing great fears of being able to attend the wedding. The envoy urged the great importance of the business, and when leaving, my father said, "Tell Miss Preston that I will yoke a cart and bring my wife and bairns all in a bundle." "Immediately! immediately." The invalid gave himself a turn in his bed, and remarked, "Miss Preston has waited a long time but she seems in a terrible hurry at last." The Plenipo did not see the personality of the joke, but replied, "Oh no! no hurry, three weeks is a long time." "I will get better in time if I can," said the invalid; "But if I do not she will require to come and bury me." "Immediately! immediately!" said the sub-grandee, and left.
David Beveridge and John James Dalgleish in their book Culross and Tulliallan: or, Perthshire on Forth, volume 2 (1885), write:
Lady Baird was a woman of considerable vigour and originality of character. For her husband, Sir David, who died in 1829, Lady Baird cherished an immense reverence, and erected a granite obelisk to his memory on an eminence on her estate, at a cost of £15,000. She also paid 1,500 guineas to Sir David Wilkie for his picture of Sir David Baird finding Tippoo Saib's body. Unfortunately for herself, she was animated by a strong litigious spirit, which was constantly embroiling her in lawsuits, the principal objects of her animosity being her uncle's trustees. A great part of her substance was spent in this unprofitable manner; and though doubtless she possessed many good qualities, her memory is preserved around Culross as of one who, in the old Scottish phrase, was a "dour and stour wife"
He died in 1829, but she survived until 1847, and Fernton (or Ferntower ) estate went to her sister, created Baroness Abercromby, the widow of Sir Ralph Abercromby, the hero of the Battle of Aboukir.
See also the reel "Miss Preston Fernton."
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Shepherd (A Collection of Strathspey Reels), 1793; p. 10.