What's a' the Steer

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X:1 T:What's a' the Steer, Kimmer? M:C L:1/8 R:Air or Strathspey B:Davie's Caledonian Repository (Aberdeen, 1829-30, p. 24) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:A B|c2 c>B c>Bc<e|c2 c>B c3e|e>fe>c f2 ec|e>fe>c {c}B2 zc| A>FE>F A2 c>B|A>FE>F A3B|c>de>c f2 A>f|e<cc>B A3|| P:Variation c|e2 e>c e>ce<a|e2 e>c e3f|e<ae<c e<ae<c|f<ae<c B2 c>B| A>BA>F A<dc>B|A>BA>F A2 A>B|c<ef>e a>ba>f|e<cc>B A3||

WHAT'S/WHA'S A' THE STEER(, KIMMER). AKA and see “Steer Kimmer.” Scottish; Air, Highland Fling or Highland Schottische (4/4 time). G Major (Balmoral, Kerr, Skye): A Major (Davie): C Major (Athole): D Major (Howe). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Athole, Balmoral, Davie, Howe): AAB (Skye): AABB' (Kerr). Steer is Scots for ‘stir’, meaning to be in a bustle, or go about in a confused harassed way. A Kimmer is a married woman, midwife or a gossip, and Charles Gore adds that it is a fairly rude word for a young woman. Nigel Gatherer suggests the translation would be “What’s all this nonsense, woman?” The tune was sometimes used to accompany the Scottish country dance "Haughs o' Cromdale." The words to the popular song "What’s a' the Steer, Kimmer?" were written around 1840 by Robert Allan (1774–1841), music by Alexander Lee, and was published as a duet:

What’s a’ the steer, kimmer?
What’s a’ the steer?

Jamie he is landed, ... [sometimes 'Charlie']
An’, faith, he’ll soon be here.
The win’ was at his back, carle,
The win’ was at his back;
I carena, sin’ he’s come, carle,
We were na worth a plack.

I’m right glad to hear ’t, kimmer,
I’m right glad to hear ’t;
I ha’e a gude braid claymore,
And for his sake I’ll wear ’t.

Sin’ Charlie he is landed,
We ha’e nae mair to fear;
Sin’ Charlie he is come, kimmer,
We’ll ha’e a jub’lee year.

The song was frequently anthologized and appears in numerous 19th century songsters and collections. "What's a' the Steer, Kimmer" was one of the tunes in the music manuscript copybook of writer Robert Louis Stevenson (who played the flageolet, a tin-whistle with keys).

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Davie (Davie's Caledonian Repository), Aberdeen, 1829-30; p. 24. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 122. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; No. 14, p. 20. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 4), c. 1880’s; No. 128, p. 16. J. Kenyon Lees (Balmoral Reel Book), c. 1910; p. 16. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 169. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 153.

Recorded sources : - Beltona 2093 (78 RPM), William ("Will") Powrie (1932).

See also listing at :
Hear accordion player Will Powrie's 1932 recording at Rare Tunes [1] [2] (4th tune, following "Haughs of Cromdale (The)," "Back o Benachie," "Pease brose again").

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