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WEDDERBURN HOUSE. Scottish, Canadian; Reel. Canada, Cape Breton. D Minor (Glen, Johnson): D Mixolydian (Little). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Glen, Johnson): AABB' (Little). Composed by Abraham MacIntosh (b. 1769), the reel appears in his Thirty New Strathspey Reels Etc. (Edinburgh, c. 1792), in the key of 'D' minor. It has been popular for generations among Cape Breton fiddlers who usually play the tune in 'D' Mixolydian.
Wedderburn Castle, a Scottish Georgian country mansion, is located in the south east Borders region near the town of Duns. Both the structure and lands have been held of the Home family from the 14th century to the present day, although the building has evolved from the original fortified tower. Mary Queen of Scots stayed there on her journey to survey the English defensive walls at Berwick-upon-Tweed.
The story of the Home family is a tragic tale. The present-day Wedderburn House was commissioned by Patrick Home of Billie, whose mother, a rich widow, had been the victim of a gruesome murder in 1751 at her home in Linthill, Berwickshire, in the Borders region of Scotland. The crime’s perpetrator really was the butler in this case, roused to the deed with the widow’s discovery of her employee, one Norman Ross, in the act of stealing from her. He cut her throat and escaped by jumping out a window, but before the Mrs. expired she was able to ring a bell and raise an alarm. Mr. Ross broke his leg during the escape and was soon caught by the servants. He was subsequently tried and hanged for his crime. The widow was victimized yet one more time; her funeral cortege set out from Lintill for Bunkle church without her coffin, and the party had to return to the house for it.
Patrick was sent to University on the Continent, at Leipzig, after which he moved to Berlin and frequented the court of Frederick the Great. There, he fell under the spell of Sophie de Brandt, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Prussia, and he determined to have her hand in marriage. Trusting that this would happen, he returned to Berwickshire and commenced building a magnificent classical home near the river Tweed, employing the finest architects and artisans he could find (the interior was designed by the famous Robert Adam). Upon its completion around 1760 Paxton House, as it was called, was reckoned the finest country house of the time. Unfortunately, Patrick’s intentions to marry Sophie met with objections in her homeland, and Patrick was unable to be granted her hand in marriage.
After some time he tried his hand in love again, and met another lady of quality whom he courted and this time did marry. Not wanting to reside in Paxton House, Patrick commissioned yet another fabulous mansion, again commissioning Robert and James Adam as designers. He wanted no part in the building, however, and left that to his nephew George Home, while he and his bride departed for a fashionable Grand Tour of the Continent. The tour took six years, with George supplying letters to update Patrick on the progress of his home. The high point of any Continental trip was Rome, and it was there that the couple befriended a Mr. Moore, also on a Grand Tour, but whose interest in architecture was not what Patrick’s was. The new Mrs. Home was by this time not so keen on ruins either, and saw that other amusements were possible. When Patrick returned early from one of his outings he found his wife and Mr. Moore in bed together. The couple, still husband and wife, returned to Scotland.
Wedderburn House, or Wedderburn Castle as it came to be called because of the crenulations just becoming popular in the mid-18th century, was justly willed to George Home, the builder. The last additions were made to the structure in the 1820’s; a front porch and two-story stair hall, where guests ascend the grand sweeping steps to the reception rooms.
Source for notated version:
Cranford (Cape Breton Fiddlers Collection), 2007; no. 104, p. 39.
Glen (Collection of Scottish Dance Music, vol. 1), 1891; p. 46.
Johnson (Kitchen Musician No. 20: A Twenty Year Anniversary Collection), 2003; p. 15.
Little (Scottish and Cape Breton Fiddle Music in New Hampshire), 1984; p. 9.
Mike MacDougall's Tape for Father Hector.
David Greenberg with Doug MacPhee – "Tunes until Dawn."
Rounder 7037, Fr. Angus Morris – "Traditional Fiddle Music of Cape Breton, vol 1" (2002).
See also listing at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index