Birthday 1790 (The)
<abc float="left"> X:1 T:Birthday 1790, The M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Strathspey S:Glen Collection, vol. 2 (1895) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:D A,|D<D F>A|d>A B/A/G/F/|Ee e>d|c/d/e/c/ Ad|B>ABd|A<F E>D| A,>B,D>E|FDDA,| D/E/F/D/ F>A|d/e/f/g/ a/f/d/f/|g>fed|c/d/e/c/ Ad| BABd|B/A/G/F/ G/F/E/D/| E/A/c/e/ g/e/c/A/|dDD:| |:f|d/e/f/g/ a>b|a/f/d/f/ a>b|a/b/a/g/ f/g/a/f/|gE Ee/d/|c/d/e/f/ g>a| g/e/c/e/ g>a|g/f/e/d/ c/d/e/c/| dDD A/B/c/|d>D B/A/G/F/|BEEg| f<ae<f|dDDA,|D>A d/c/B/A/|B/A/G/F/ E>g| f/g/a/f/ e/f/g/e/|dDD:||
BIRTHDAY, 1790, THE. Scottish, Strathspey. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Composed by Lord MacDonald, the melody appears in Nathaniel Gow's 1797 collection. While any birthday may have been referenced in the title, the King's birthday was important to the Scottish gentry of the day. Henry Cockburn (1779-1854), writing in his book Memorials of His Time (published posthumously in 1856), explains:
Another [test of loyalty] was keeping the King's birthday. This day was the 4th of June,
which for the sixty years that the reign of George the III, lasted gave an annual holiday to the British people, and was so associated in their habits with the idea of its being a free day, that they thought they had a right to it even after His Majesty was dead. And the established way of keeping it in Edinburgh was, by the lower orders and the boys having a long day of idleness and fireworks, and by the upper classes going to the Parliament House and drinking the royal health in the evening, at the expense of the city funds. The magistrates who conducted the banquet, which began about seven, invited about 1,500 people. Tables, but no seats except one at each end, were set along the Outer House. These tables, and the doors and walls, were adorned by flowers and branches, the trampling and bruising of which increased the general filth. There was no silence, no order, no decency. The loyal toasts were let off, in all quarters, according to the pleasure of the Town Councillor who presided over the section, without any orations by the Provost, who, seated in his robes, on a high chair, was supposed to control the chaos. Respectable people, considering it all as an odious penance, and going merely in order to show that they were not Jacobins, came away after having pretended to drink one necessary cup to the health of the reigning monarch. But all sorts who were worthy of the occasion and enjoyed it, persevered to a late hour, roaring, drinking, toasting, and quarrelling. They made the Court stink for a week with the wreck and the fumes of that hot and scandalous night. It was not unusual at old Scotch feasts for the guests, after drinking a toast, to toss their glasses over their heads, in order that they might never be debased by any other sentiment. The very loyal on this occasion availed themselves of this privilege freely, so that fragments of glass crunched beneath the feet of the walkers. The infernal din was aggravated by volleys of musketry, fired very awkwardly by the Town Guard, amidst the shouts of the mob, in the Parliament Close. The rabble, smitten by the enthusiasm of the day, were accustomed, and permitted, to think license their right, and exercised their brutality without stint. Those who were aware of what might take place on the street, retired from the banquet before the spirit of mischief was fully up. Those who come out so late as ten or even none of the evening, if observed and unprotected, were fortunate if they escaped rough usage, especially if they escaped being "Burghered," or made to "Ride the Stang" [ed. to be carried on a pole on men's shoulders], a painful and dangerous operation, and therefore a great favourite with the mob. I forget when this abominable festival was given up. Not, I believe, till the poverty, rather than the will, of the Town Council was obliged to consent. In 1798 these civic fathers passed a self-denying ordinance, by which they resolved to ruin France by abstaining from claret at this and all other municipal festivals. The vow, however, was not kept; and so the
French were not ruined. (pgs. 63-65)
Printed source: Glen (The Glen Collection of Scottish Dance Music), vol. 2, 1895; p. 8.