Mrs. Baird of Newbyth (2)

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MRS. BAIRD OF NEWBYTH [2]. Scottish, Strathspey. C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Surenne): AABB' (Kerr, Stewart-Robertson). The tune is attributed to William MacDonald in the Gow’s 2nd Collection (1788). Perthshire fiddler-composer Malcolm MacDonald dedicated his entire first volume to Mrs. Baird of Newbyth. Newbyth is in East Lothian, and lies on the Peffer Burn north of East Linton. It is the birthplace of Sir David Baird of Newbyth (1757-1829, whose mother is probably the Mrs. Baird honoured by MacDonald’s melody. She was Alicia Johnston (b. 1720) of Hilton, fourth daughter of Robert Johnston of Hilton, Berwickshire, and Mary Home of Coldingham. Alicia married William Baird of Newbyth, one of the baillies of Edinburgh, thus uniting two extremely rich and powerful merchantile families. The couple had six sons and eight daughters.

Son Sir David Baid was a hero of military campaigns in India and saw service in the Napoleonic Wars. He was made baronet in 1809. This anecdote is told of Mrs. Baird of Newbyth:

Mrs. Baird of Newbyth, the mother of our distinguished countryman the late General Sir David Baird, was always spoken of as a grand specimen of the class. When the news arrived from India of the gallant but unfortunate action of ‘84 against Hyder All (ed. AKA Hyder Ali {1722-1782} or Haider ‘Alt), in which her son, then Captain Baird, was engaged, it was stated that he and other officers had been taken prisoners and chained together two and two. The friends were careful in breaking such sad intelligence to the mother of Captain Baird. When, however, she was made fully to understand the position of her son and his gallant companions, disdaining all weak and useless expressions of her own grief, and knowing well the restless and athletic habits of her son, all she said was, "Lord pity the chiel that’s chained to our Davie!”

There is a legend of the family which regards a fulfilment of a prophecy attributed to Thomas the Rhymer, that "There would be an eagle in the crags while there was a Baird in Auchmedden." Auchmedden was a former estate of the Baird family, which had passed to Lord Haddo in 1750 in consequence of the Bairds fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie in his abortive coup in 1745. When the estate passed out of the Baird family at this time, the eagles disappeared from the nearby rocks of Pennan, where they had nested for ages. As circumstances had it, William and Alicia Baird's youngest daughter, Christian Baird of Newbyth, married Lord Haddo, eldest son of the Earl of Aberdeen. Once again there was a Baird at Auchmedden, upon which the eagles returned to the rocks and remained until the estate passed into the hands of William Gordon, after which the raptors again fled, never to be seen again in that part of the country.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Gow (Second Collection of Neil Gow’s Reels), 1788, 3rd ed.; p. 9. Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 2; No. 92, p. 12. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 75. Surenne (Dance Music of Scotland), 1852; pp. 150-151.

Recorded sources:




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