Put Me in the Big Chest
X:1 T:Put Me in the Big Chest T:Cuir a Chiste Mhoir Mi S:K.E. Dunlay & D.L. Reich, Traditional Celtic Fiddle Music of Cape Breton M:C| L:1/8 R:reel Z:transcribed by Jack Campin K:Amix % A lydian/major/mixolydian pentatonic; G and D gaps F|EFAB c2cf|ecBA F/F/F AF|EFAB c/c/c cf|ecBc A/A/A AF| EFAB c2cf|ecBA F/F/F AF|EFAB cB cf|ecBc A/A/A A|| c|efec eAAc|efec BABc |efec efaf |ecBc A/A/A A:|]
PUT ME IN THE BIG CHEST. AKA - "Put Me in the Great Chest," "Put me in the Meal Chest." See "Beaton's Last," "Big Coffin Reel," "Cuir Sa' Chiste Mhóir Mi," "Lying in the Coffin/Lying in the Casket," "Miss Cruickshank's Reel," "Miss Hopkin's Reel," "Old Time Wedding Reel (3)," "Primrose Girl (1)," "Put Me in the Box," "Rose in the Garden (1)." Scottish, Canadian; Reel. Canada, Cape Breton. A Mixolydian (Dunlay & Reich): A Major (Dunlay & Greenberg, Perlman). Standard or ADae or AEae tunings (fiddle). ABB (Dunlay & Reich, Dunlay & Greenberg/MacLellan): AABB' (Perlman): ABBA'BB (Dunlay & Greenberg/Campbell). Dunlay and Greenberg (1996) believe "Put Me in the Big Chest" is "barely recognizable" as being related to "Cuir Sa’ Chiste Mhoir Mi" or "Miss Cruickshank's Reel" by William Marshall. A variant of the title is "Put me in the Meal Chest," which may be a miss-hearing of the Gaelic word Mhóir, meaning 'big'. An alternate title is "Beaton's Last," a reference to the deathbed rendition of the tune by the famous Cape Breton fiddler Donald John the Tailor Beaton (1856-1919), who, assisted by his close friend and relative, Fr. Rory MacNeil, "played it with all his remaining strength just moments before he died" on Christmas Eve, 1919, at the age of 63. Another deathbed tale is connected with the tune: the Tannahill Weavers related the apocryphal, tongue-in-cheek "Robin Hood" story, that the composer of the tune lay dying and asked for a last bottle of stout. He drained it and requested that the bedroom window be opened. "I will throw this empty bottle and wherever it lands is where I wish my final resting place to be"...He was buried on top of the wardrobe.
The tune is played as the last reel in the famous and frequently recorded Cape Breton set “Old Time Wedding Reels,” following "John of Badenyon" and "Hamish the Carpenter." Paul Cranford identifies Irish versions as "Primrose Girl" and "The Rose in the Garden" (see his scordatura Cape Breton setting in Canadian Folk Music Bulletin, vol. 19, No. 5, September 1995). A pipe setting appears in Barry Shears' Gathering of the Clans Collection, however, it appears the earliest pipe version appeared in Angus MacKay's (of Raasay) Piper's Assistant 1840 (under the title "Cuir Sa’ Chiste Mhoir Mi"). Mackay’s father, John MacKay of Raasay, had been among the last of the pupils at the famous ancient piping college of the MacCrimmons at Boreraig. The younger Mackay wrote, while still in his early twenties, a book called A Collection of Ancient Piobaireachd, or Highland Pipe Music; a piper’s bible for many decades after its appearance in 1838. The song "Four Nights Drunk" is sometimes sung to this tune.