I first heard this air played by Alasdair Fraser. A beautiful tune.
I’ve added a setting without the chords.
Composed by James Scott Skinner, and originally published as a pastoral air "Roualeyn’s Plaid", with (somewhat contrived) words by "W D Jeffrey". It was said to be dedicated to Roualeyn George Gordon-Cumming (1820-1866) who was an eccentric individual, who spent much of his relatively short life murdering lions in Africa, and wrote several books on the subject. He would be seen strutting around Fort Augustus in full Highland garb.
Sometime later, Skinner changed the name to "Bovaglie’s Plaid". This is the name given to the woodland around Bovaglie, in Glen Girnock in the parish of Crathie in Deeside. It is said (though not confirmed) that Queen Victoria likened the woodland to a Highland plaid. There is a local saying that the wood ‘haps, shelters, Bovaglie ferm like a plaid’, which might or might not be independent of Victoria’s supposed observation.
My own feeling is that the dedication is not to the woodland, but to a particular inhabitant.
Glen Girnock, and the neighbouring Glen Muick, were well known for illicit stills and whisky smuggling (even bank note forging, so it is told). Those involved were mainly of the Gordon clan. The glen was more or less tamed by the middle of the 19th century, but one individual stood out - Donald Gordon (1811-1897) of Bovaglie (known as "Auld Prodeegous"). Donald was a bit of a rogue, who is said to have cheated his brother from his share of the inheritance of the farm. He was nevertheless much in favour with Queen Victoria, and supplied mutton to the royal households in Balmoral and Abergeldie. Like "Roualeyn", he would be seen stravaiging around the place in full Highland garb. He was also the tenant of Wester Morvern, further north across the Dee and the Gairn, as well as having a "winter abode" for his family to spend the cold months in Dee Street, Aberdeen (where he would also be seen wearing his Highland dress). He modelled for Kenneth McLeay’s "Highlanders of Scotland" :
Visiting Bovaglie and the neighbouring Camlet in Glen Girnock today, it would be easy to relate this tune to the area. These places were once "cottar touns", where several people were employed and lived to run the farms. The glen would have bustled with life, but is now desolate. However, in Skinner’s time, these cottar touns would still be thriving, and his marking the tempo as "grave" would not seem to reflect a place like Bovaglie.
I think it is more than coincidental that Skinner changed the name from "Roualeyn" to "Bovaglie" around the same time as Donald of Bovaglie died. It is very likely that the two knew each other, as Donald would have been a visitor to Balmoral Castle when Skinner was employed there as a dancing teacher. I think the tune relates more to Donald than the trees surrounding his farmstead, though possibly both.
It should be noted that this tune requires playing beyond first position on the fiddle. Skinner indicates the fingering, both in the published editions and his manuscript.
Piper Friendly Version
This is just a beautiful fiddle slow air by Scott Skinner I have added this piping friendly version, which still sounds lovely.
My last post for this tune sits lovely on my 14 key Northumbrian chanter, great to be able to get down to that low B.