North Inch

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NORTH INCH. AKA – "North Inch of Perth." Scottish, Strathspey. A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. This reel appears in an obscure violin tutor published by John Sutherland in Edinburgh, around 1815–1825 [Jones]. It also appears in the manuscript of fiddler and composer Alexander Laing (1792–1868), who attributes it to "N. Gow." Laing, who claimed to have served in the 22nd Gordon Highlanders, was convicted of burglary in 1813 and transported to Australia, where he remained until his death. [1]

The Perth Bridge and the North Inch (right).

Inch is a Gaelic word meaning 'a level field', and the North Inch is a place-name in Perth, the scene of annual festivities. Robert Chambers [Chambers Journal, vol. 6, 1906, p. 131] provides a thoroughly descriptive passage, recalling "Bygone Perthshire":

[The North Inch] was the meeting place, once a year, of the great Perth Hunt meeting of all notabilities in Perthshire, with a few chosen friends from the adjacent kingdom of Fife...Races of more or less merit were viewed from the grand stand by ladies of high degree, while the lords and the lairds congregated about the steward's box or the then small ring. The science of racing has never been a Perthshire strong point, and occasionally ironical comments have been passed on 'them 'ighland chiefs' who, arrayed in philabeg and sporran, appeared impervious to the persuasive requests of the professional bookmaker.

In the evening the country rooms at Perth were croweded with 'stalwart men and bonnie lassies,' dancing 'high and disposedly' the dignified quadrille, the trois temps waltz, intermingles with strathspey and reel, finding a climax in the historic medley. This ceremonious rite is still strictly adhered to, and is thoroughly characteristic of the country. A mixture of the dignified minuet and the abandon of the Hungarian
czardas in Charles Reade's novel Christie Johnstone, the contrast between the stately crotchet of the strathspey and the wild demi-semi-quaver of the 'reel o' thulichan' is graphically put; but the medley of these two is an excellent exemplar: first the slow measure, with dignified action and grace, in its somewhat intricate manoeuvre; then to the wild crash of the fiddles, and an accompanying 'Hoch' or 'Heigh', it is down the middle and back, set to corners, for all the world like the revel in Alloway Kirk, with lads and lassies to fill the place of Cutty Sark. Heavy and ponderous were the suppers and speeches. Rounds of beef, turkeys, and 'jeelies', washed down by an abominable compound of port wine negus called 'plottie.' The innovation of the first stand-up supper in 1875 was strongly resented, and was humorously described by Sir. R. Menzies in a travestly of the 'Barrin' o' the Door.'

On the close of the ball, at some 'short hour ahing the twal,' it was the custom for the roisterers to adjourn to the Royal George Hotel and finish the night with grilled bones and a bowl of punch to put them in good trim for meeting the Perthshire 'John Peel' in the morning.


Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Jones [ed.] (Complete Tutor Violin), c. 1815; p. 2.

Recorded sources:




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