Reel a Down a Mereken
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REEL A DOWN A MEREKEN. Scottish, Reel. Country dance directions to this tune have been recovered from the Holmain MS. (c. 1710-50) from Dumfries-shire. It is perhaps the same as "Reel Don ne Marachan", or the "Menzies Rant", for which dance instructions, but not the melody, appear in the Menzies Manuscript of 1749 (contained in the Atholl Collection of the Sandeman Library, Perth). The Scottish Country Dance Society Bulletin (March, 1934, p. 9) links the title with the dance "America" described in Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (in the company of Dr. Johnson):
In the evening the company danced as usual. We performed with much activity a dance which I suppose the emigration from Skye occasioned. They call it 'America.' Each of the couples after the common involutions and evolutions successively whirls round in a circle, till all are in motion, and the dance seems intended to show how emigration catches, till a whole neighbourhood is set afloat. We danced to-night to the musick of bag-pipe which made us beat the ground with prodigious force.
In the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians" re collection of Scottish Dances, a list of dances is given (dated 1675-1750) including one "Reel a down a Mereken." Directions for the dance are:--
First sett and turn twice round.
Sett to the woman, she to the man
and turn them, then sett and cross over and cast down one pair.
Then right and left,
Then sett and turn and reel the 2nd pair and she with the 1st pair.
Then sett and turn and lead up through the 1st pair.
Meet again and turn and lead
down through the 2nd pair.
Meet again and turn round your partners.
Source for notated version: