A new tune for the whistle: Kate Dalrymple

The SMG whistle class this week took a look at Kate Dalrymple, well-known reel that can often be heard in ceilidhs. As was pointed out in the class, this is used as the theme tune to BBC Scotland’s Take the Floor, the Saturday night ceilidh show on the radio.

The tune is well-known and appears in various collections, including Kerr’s Merry Melodies for the Violin. Usually it is in the key of A with more parts than just the two we are learning that go with the song.

Our version of it is in the more accessible key of D and comes from Fran Gray’s book Hands on Scottish Tin Whistle, which can be found in various specialist places such as Coda Music in Edinburgh, Scotland’s Music and in Gaelic at Fèisean nan Gàidheal. I have found it to be a useful teaching tool and I use it with my Saturday morning children’s class.

Some information and another setting in A from The Session. That site quotes from The Fiddlers Companion, where is is given as being first printed in 1750 as The New Highland Laddie. It is also known as Jinglin’ Johnnie.

According to flutetunes.com, the words were written by William Watt (1792−1859), and as a song the piece becomes something of a tongue-twister for those unfamiliar with the Scots language. When I play this tune I hear Jack from Sandy Bell’s singing it to a silenced bar. Jack was a well-known figure, who I learned has since passed away.

According to Wikipedia, the Kate Dalrymple of the title was a renowned society figure of her day, although the words of the song are less than flattering. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other titles were also associated with songs.

The Fiddlers Companion makes a reference to Kate Dalrymple having a portrait by Gainsborough in the National Portrait Gallery in London. I couldn’t find it online, but the one included above is also by Gainsborough, possibly of a relative, Grace Dalrymple Elliot, who has her own colourful history.

Resources for this tune can be found at The Flow.

Portrait of  Grace Dalrymple Elliot by Thomas Gainsborough from Wikipaintings, public domain.


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