Over the Moor among the Heather (2)
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OVER THE MOOR AMONG THE HEATHER . AKA - "O'er the Muir Amang the Heather." Scottish, Air (2/4 time), D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Aird). For reel, country dance versions, see "Over the Moor among the Heather (1)."
Song (air) versions of the tune appear to be earliest, as is frequently the case, and probably had risqué or bawdy words attached to it, according to David Johnson (1984). The melody was current as a reel in the early 18th century, says Johnson (1984), while the strathspey version appears to have been fashioned c. 1760. John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900) thought dance versions of the melody to have been older than the song version, noting that the dance tune was printed in Bremner's Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances (1760), while the author of the song verses was only two years old at the time.
The song "Over the Moor among the Heather" printed in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (1792) has a lyric credited by poet Robert Burns to a Jean Glover. In correspondance, he wrote that she was "a girl who was not only a whore, but also a thief; and in one or other character has visited most of the correction-houses in the west. She was born, I believe, in Kilmarnock: I took the song down from her singing as she was strolling with a slight-of-hand blackguard through the country." More about Glover is recorded in James Paterson's The Contemporaries of Burns: and the more recent poets of Ayrshire (1840):
When at Muirkirk, we were fortunate enough to learn a few particulars relative to Jeanie Glover. A niece of hers still resides there, and one or two old people distinctly remember having seen her. She was born at the Townhead of Kilmarnock on the 31st of October 1758, of parents respectable in their sphere. That her education was superior, the circumstances of her birth will not permit us to believe; but she was brought up in the principles of rectitude, and had the advantage of that early instruction which few Scottish families are without. She was remarkable for her beauty--both of face and figure--properties which, joined to a romantic and poetic fancy, had no doubt their influence in shaping her future unfortunate career. She was also an excellent singer.
Until within these few years, Kilmarnock had no theatre, or at least any buildings so called; but strolling parties of players were in the habit of frequenting the town at fairs, and on other public occasions, sometimes performing in booths, or in the "Croft Lodge," long known as a place of amusement. Having been a witness to some of these exhibitions, Jeanie unhappily became enamoured of the stage; and in an evil hour eloped with one of the heroes of the sock and buskin. Her subsequent life, as may be guessed, was one of adventure, checkered, if Burns is to be credited, with the extremes of folly, vice and misfortune.
About the time the Iron Works commenced, a brother of Jeanie (James Glover) removed from Kilmarnock to Muirkirk; and there, in the employ of the Company, continued until his death, which occurred about fourteen years ago, leaving a daughter (the niece formerly mentioned), whose husband is one of the carpenters employed at the works. This individual, as well as several others, recollects having seen Jeanie and the "slight-of-hand blackguard"--whose name was Richard--at Muirkirk, forty-three years ago (about 1795), where they performed for a few nights in the large room of a public-house called the "Black Bottle," from a sign above the door of that description, kept by one David Lennox. During her stay on this occasion she complimented her brother with a cheese and a boll of meal--a circumstance strongly indicative of her sisterly affection, and the success that had attended the entertainments given by her and her husband. Those persons who recollect her appearance at this time, notwithstanding the many vicissitudes she must have previously encountered, describe her as exceedingly handsome. One odl woman with whom we conversed, also remembered having seen Jeanie at a fair in Irvine, gaily attired, and playing on a tambarine [sic] at the mouth of a close, in which was the exhibition-room of her husband the conjurer. "Weel do I remember her," said our informant, an' thocht her the bravest woman I had ever seen step in leather shoon!"
Such are our Muirkirk reminiscences of Jeanie Glover. From another source we learn that she sometimes paid a theatrical visit to her native town. One individual thee, who knew her well, states that he has heard her sing in the "Croft Lodge." The song she generally sung, and for which she was most famed, was "Green grow the rashes." The same person afterwards became a soldier; and, being in Ireland with his regiment, happened to see Jeanie performing in the town of Letterkenny. He introduced himself to her acquaintance, and had the 'honour' of her company over a social glass. This occurred in 1801. She was then apparently in good health, gay and sprightly as when in her native country; but, alas! before he left Letterkenny--and he was only about two months in it--she was "mouldering in silent dust." She must therefore have died rather suddenly, in or near that town, in the year above mentioned.
It is difficult to sing because of the wide range, notes Cape Breton's Paul Stewart Cranford, who suggests it is best suited to the violin. Glover's song (Johnson, Scots Musical Museum, 1792, No. 328) begins:
Comin thro' the craigs o' Kyle,
Amang the bonnie blooming heather,
There I met a bonnie lassie
Keeping a' her yowes thegither.
O'er the moor amang the heather,
O'er the moor amang the heather;
There I met a bonnie lassie
Keeing a' her yowes thegither.
See also Friedemann Stickle's distanced derivative under the title "Owre da Moors ta Maggie."
Sources for notated versions:
Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5), Glasgow, 1801; No. 154, p. 58. Johnson (Scots Musical Museum. vol. 4), 1792; Song 328, p. 338.
Recorded sources: Canadian Broadcasting Corp. NMAS 1972, Natalie MacMaster - "Fit as a Fiddle" (1993). Rounder 82161-7032-2, Bill Lamey - "From Cape Breton to Boston and Back: Classic House Sessions of Traditional Cape Breton Music 1956-1977" (2000). Rounder Records , John L. MacDonald - "Formerly of Foot Cape Road: Scottish Fiddle Music in the Classic Inverness County Style" (2005). Rounder Records 7057, Jerry Holland - "Parlor Music" (2005).