Annotation:Put Me in the Big Chest

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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). A coffin was sometimes referred to as a chest. William Makepeace Thackeray, in Cornhill Magazine, vol 19 (1892, p. 76), notes that oak chests that were used to store clothing quite probably did double-duty as coffins when needed. "A coffin is called a chest still in some parts of England, and also Chaucer uses the term--

He is now dead, and nayled in his cheste,
I pray to God send his soul good rest."

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.

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - John Campbell and Donald MacLellan (Cape Breton) [Dunlay & Greenberg]; Peter Chaisson, Jr. (B. 1942, Bear River, North-East Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman].

Printed sources : - Dunlay & Greenberg (Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton), 1996; p. 46. Dunlay and Reich (Traditional Celtic Fiddle Music of Cape Breton), 1986; p. 42. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 95 (appears as "The Big Coffin Reel").

Recorded sources : - JC 126, John Campbell- "Cape Breton on the Floor." Celtic 011 (78 RPM) CX011, CX 1, "Dan J. Campbell and Angus Allan Gillis" (1935, in “Medley of Old Time Wedding Reels”). Culburnie Records, Alasdair Fraser & Jody Stecher - "The Driven Bow" (2005). Deveron Arts Records, Ceilidhcatu - "NordEste/NorthEast" (2013). Green Linnet GLCD1182, The Tannahill Weavers - "Choice Cuts 1987-1996." Paddledoo Music PAD 105, Jerry Holland and Alasdair Fraser - "Scottish Fiddle Rally, Concert Highlights 1985-1995" (1996. Appears as "Put Me in the Box"). Rounder 7001, Joe Cormier - "Scottish Violin Music from Cape Breton Island" (1974. Appears as "Put Me in the Box"). Rounder 7011, "The Beatons of Mabou" (1978. Appears as "Big Coffin Reel"). Rounder Records 7057, Jerry Holland – “Parlor Music” (2005). Rounder Records, John Archie Gillis - "Traditional Fiddle Music of Cape Breton, vol. 2: The Rover's Return" (2002. Various artists). Wildcat Records WILDCD 101, Ronan Martin – “Ronan Martin” (2008).

See also listing at :
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [1]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]

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