Sean Trews (1)

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X:1 T:Shaun Truish Willichan M:C L:1/8 R:Reel B:Robert Bremner – Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances (1757) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Ddor A,|D/D/D D>F E2 A,>F|F2 (ED) G/F/E/D/ CE|D/D/D D>F E2 A>E|F2 TED CA,A,:| |:G|A>cAF G>AGE|F>GFD G/F/E/D/ CG|A>cAF G>AGE|FD G/F/E/D/ CA,A,:| |:A|d/d/d d>f Te2 A>e|{de}f2 ed g/f/e/d/ ce|d/d/d d>f Te2 ce|fd g/f/e/d/ Tc>AA:| |:g|aa _b/a/g/f/ gg a/g/f/e/|ff g/f/e/d/ eccg|aa _b/a/g/f/ gg a/g/f/e/|fd g/f/e/d/ TcAA:|]

SEAN TREWS [1] (Seán Triubhas). AKA and see "Gin Ye Kiss My Wife I'll Tell the Minister," "Seann Triubhas," "Shantruish," "Shauntreuse," “Shaun Truish Willighan/Willichan” (Willie’s auld Trews), "Shaun Truish," "Dr. William Grant." Shetland, Scotland; "Double Hornpipe," Strathspey or Rant. D Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Martin): AABBCC (Bremner): AABB'CCD (Emmerson). Alan Cunningham in Scottish Songs (1825) refers to this piece as a 'popular hornpipe air'. Scottish step dances to native common-time tunes were termed 'double hornpipes' in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (Emmerson, 1971). O’Neill (1922) notes: “With this tune is associated a special Highland dance, commonly referred to as ‘Sean Truis’, but occasionally as ‘Willichan’." However there are a plethora of spelling and word variants of the title (and will be variously titled here).

John Glen (1891) finds the earliest printing of the melody in Robert Bremner's 1757 (publication dates vary from 1757 to 1768) Second Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances (as "Shaun Trush Willichan"), followed by the James Gillespie Manuscript of Perth (1768, p. 94, as "Shan Trowes"), James Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 1 (1782, p. 55, as "Shantruish"), Captain Simon Fraser's Airs and Melodies (1816), and, in a different form, in London dancing master Thomas Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room (1816). After Robert Bremner's death in 1789 his collections were reprinted by Preston, a London music publisher. Emmerson (1972) calls it a set of “De'il Stick the Minister (2),” an old anti-clerical tune that can be traced to London publisher Henry Playford's Original Scots Tunes (1700). A version, almost note-for-note with Wilson’s Companion to the Ball Room (1816) was entered into the music manuscripts of American painter William Sydney Mount, also a fiddler.

The Scottish solo dance Sean Triubhas is performed in tartan trousers rather than plaid kilts. According to Scottish dance writers Flett and Flett, the earliest mention of a "Shant Trews" being danced is in Musselburgh Town Hall, Midlothian, in 1793 in Mr. Salmon's dance class. Whether it is actually a Highland dance is conjectural at this point, although it has been adopted into Highland dance tradition where it is today commonly associated with the air "Whistle o'er the Lave O't" and features a distinctive 'side-cutting' step. According to Emmerson (1972), as a competitive dance Seann Triubhas was first introduced at the Braemar Games in 1853 alongside the Highland Fling, Reel of Tulloch, and Gille Chaluim. There are various pieces of lore associated with the dance, including that it was an expression of resistance to the 1747 Dress Act which forbade the wearing of the kilt, or that it was attached to celebrations of the repeal of the same act in 1782. As has been pointed out, however, much about the origins of the dance is speculative or conjectural, although interesting. There is a story as well that both tune and dance were 17th century imports from the Continent, brought back to Scotland by mercenaries in the service of Sweden after the Thirty Years War. At least some of the drivers for this lore can be found in 19th century (and later) romanticism of Highland culture. For example, one mid-20th century dance manual proposes that the old hornpipe, formerly known as ‘Scotch Measure’ was the only dance the Highlanders condescended to dance while wearing the grey trews (proscribed by the Dress Act), and furthermore:

...the trews in the eighteenth century were worn [mainly] by chiefs and might have been considered an honourable article of dress, but the clansmen despised them and various flicks of the fingers and quick turns of the wrists [in the dance] indicate derision and abhorrence of the tight, confining things and longing for the freedom of the kilt[1].

A Canadian interpretation is that the movements of the dance are symbolic of brushing away evil, similar to the old Scottish practice on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) of sweeping houses clean in preparation for the New Year.

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - copied from Preston’s reprint of Bremner’s Collections (London, 1789) [O’Neill]; Joseph Barnes music manuscript collection (1762, Carlisle, Cumbria) [Offord].

Printed sources : - Bremner (Scots Reels), 1757; p. 71. Emmerson (Rantin’ Pipe and Tremblin’ String), 1971; No. 34, p. 132. O’Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922; No. 103. John Offord (Bonny Cumberland), 2018; p. 40. Wilson (Companion to the Ball Room) 1816; p. 59.

See also listing at :
See Mats Melin, A Story to Every Dance: The role of lore in enhancing the Scottish solo dance tradition, 2018, pp. 23-34 for extended discussion of the origins and lore of the dance Seann Troibhas [1]

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  1. Jean Milligan and D.G. MacLennan, Dances of Scotland: Handbooks of European National Dances, 1950, pp. 10–11.