This is a classic pipe tune, presumably Scottish in origin.
The four parts are basically variations on a theme. The end of each part is always the same, so the tune isn’t as hard to learn as it at first seems.
This jig has a range of just one octave all the way to the fourth part where it drops down to a G. The G is natural, although the tune is in the key of A major.
If you feel up to playing a marathon set, you can play this jig with that other four-part tune, the jig of slurs.
I’ve played this song as a march, mainly because that’s the way I learned it. It makes a great march, with the Scottish ornaments, it was orginially a bagpipe tune, I believe.
P.S. I’d heard rumors that this was played as a jig, now I know they’re true.
It is Scottish, it’s the kind of tune i think everyone knows & plays. I only play it if I’m playing for dancing.
The Atholl Highlanders
This was originally a march,written for the Duke of Atholl’s regiment,which still is the only private army in Britain.The Boys Of The Lough recorded it a long time ago on their album,The Piper’s Broken Finger in a set with another march,Colonel Robertson,both played at a funereal pace compared to the way you hear it in sessions nowadays.Dave Swarbrick used to play it fairly slowly too. David Meredith
I learnt this one originally as the Atholl Gathering - I think the source was one of the Kerr’s books but I can’t be sure as it was a long time ago. It only included the first two parts which is how I prefer to play it. It’s probably just a subjective thing but I feel that the 4 part version is two parts too far. For what it’s worth, I also feel the same way about the Mason’s Apron and the Ship in Full Sail ( I feel the third part doesn’t add anything to this jig) just to let you know where I’m coming from!
Jocklet - you think the "Boys of the Lough" and Swarbrick play it slow ? If you ever get the chance , listen to the trio "Kirkmount" on their CD "The Robin". They play it as a slow air/lament, using fiddle, clarsach and cello, and the track is 10 minutes long - it works , too. [ With apologies to Will Harmon ! ]
Atholl Highlanders (Scots Guards version)
I learned this tune way back in my early piping days from the Scots Guards setting which has SIX parts….all variations. Although I play it as a march, I find that audiences unfamiliar with celtic music quickly ‘tune in’ to its repetitve pattern and often dance…it’s a crowd pleaser. My band is now working on it with chords etc. to see how far we can take it. (!)
I play an interesting variation of Atholl Highlanders. After playing it through in A major, I play it in A minor (raising the seventh to G#). Then I play it in A major again with open E double stops.
I like to play this tune in the following set: Irishman’s Heart to the Ladies/Atholl Highlanders (Major/Minor/Major)/Scatter the Mud. Gaelic Storm does this set on their self-titled CD (without the Minor variation of Atholl Highlanders).
This is indeed as pipish as the Pipe in Rhum. A regimental classic, too. I have played this with Irish groups, without prior rehersal, and it works well. Only the jig version is rounded (but not 100%), of course, Highland pipe marches being heavily pointed. Funny how the multi-octave fiddle and accordian players love these pipe marches so much. At a wedding ceilidh last year in Dunblane, most of the accordian/fiddle tunes played were from the pipes.—Atholl Highlanders being a most popular classic.
To add to the Scottish flavor of the tune, continually bow the A and E strings, keeping the string that isn’t carrying the melody open. This "works" for large stretches of the tune.
In the final two measures that do not vary between parts, try treating the initial E as a grace-note for the immediately following high A. It won’t matter if everyone in the session does this or not.
Variation tunes of this kind are <i>invitations to improvise</i>. Once the harmony of the tune gets into your head, you can invent new parts easily. See if you can convince your session to go around the circle contributing improvised parts.
“The Athole Highlanders” / “The Duke of Atholl’s March” ~ other ways with it
T: Athole Highlanders, The
T: Duke of Atholl’s March, The
|: (3B/c/d/ |\
e2 e e>cA | e>cA B>cd | e3 e>cA | B>cd c2 B |
e3 e>cA | e>cA B>cd | c<ae f>ed | c<dB A2 :|
|: E |\
A>ce A2 e | A>df A2 f | A>ce A2 e | B>cd c2 B |
A>ce A>ce | A>df A>df | c<ae f>ed | c<dB A2 :|
|: e |\
a2 e e>dc | a2 e e>dc | a>ee e>dc | BB/c/d c2 B |
a>ee e>dc | a>ee e>dc | c<ae f>ed | c<dB A2 :|
|: A/B/ |\
c>Ac c>Ac | d>Bd d>Bd | c>Ac c>Ac | B>=GB d>cB |
c>Ac c2 A | dB/c/d d>cB | c<ae f>ed | c<dB A2 :|
A Fatal G Sharp!
I have an anecdote concerning this tune.
A band that I was with in the 1970s included a melodeon player and a fiddler, amongst others. One evening, when playing for a ceilidh, we used Atholl Highlanders as the last tune for a dance set. It was a 48-bar dance, so we weren’t playing the fourth part of the tune, but ending it on the "C" part. The last time through the tune, the melodeon player, instead of playing cdB A3, played EF^G A3.
A very heated discussion then took place between the fiddler and the melodeon player.
The fiddler said that there were no G#s anywhere else in tune, so the melodeon player had no business to introduce one. The melodeon player argued that the tune was in A-Major, so it was OK to play a G#.
The fiddler then said that the tune wasn’t A-Major, but Mixolydian mode with a missing seventh. The meleodon player said that he had no idea what Mixolydian mode was. The fiddler then said that he woudn’t stay with the band, in the face of such ignorance!
So the fiddler left the band - and I haven’t seen him since that night at the ceilidh.
For my money, the fiddler was quite correct. But has anyone else heard of someone leaving a band following an argument concerning just one note?
Played in U.S.???? Is it played in Irish sessions on the East Coast???
First , Mix, love your name and the story!
I’m constantly amazed at the arrogance and nasty narrow mindedness of many musicians, supposedly involved in a CREATIVE art. (No pianos allowed, no guitars allowed, too many bodhrans, blah blah blah,play it my way or leave)
My main question thought to those here who attend sessions in the U.S,
Is this a tune , that will be known if I start it in session??
I don’t know about the US but you would find it known in most (I’d say all, but you never know!) english sessions - though perhaps more often in G (for the box players) and not necessarily with the Fnat.
I got this name from a ceili band recording. They only play the first two parts, as a jig. In A.
But note - there is another tune on this site called Peggy’s wedding https://thesession.org/tunes/8630
Atholl Highlanders bowing tips
Does anyone have bowing tips for the B part? I’m still squeaking on the E string. (dang).
Here is the transcription of a lovely alternative 3rd part
(it displaces the usual 3rd part on ceili’s version -which you can hear on the banjo, and at a lovely laid-back pace, on his website; http://www.mckenna.dk/musik_dk.htm)
T: The Atholl Highlanders
|: ecc acc|acc Bcd|ecc acc|Bcd cBA|
ecc acc|acc Bcd|eae fed|cdB A3 :|
it can also be used as a 3rd part with the usual 3rd & 4th parts played as the 4th & 5th ones.
I really like this tune. Bouncy, fun, enjoyable to listen to and fun to play with all the repetition.
Sounds great on a mandolin too!
The Atholl Highlanders, X:6
Setting as played at the Golden Guinea pub session, Bristol (UK).
Tin Whistle version here
The Atholl Highlanders, X:7
This is how I know Atholl Highlanders after a childhood of dancing "Flora MacDonald’s Fancy" to it. 🙂 Plus, a little adaptation in the 4th part to keep it all on A and E string for teaching to my students.
Re: The Atholl Highlanders
It sure is a tune to get people out of their seats and on to the dance floor, when played as a jig, or as a dotted 6/8 march as we do it for a Military two-step.
But have to say I do love the slower versions, when played as a dotted 6/8 slow march: and where better than at Blair Castle in Perthshire, where a military pipe band (Not Vale of Atholl band) did it just that way before a military ball on a very cold night in November a couple of years ago. (We were there to play for the dancing later!)
Re: The Atholl Highlanders
we play this tune for the Cumberland Square ,which requires a 64 bar tune so we play it at moderate jig speed.
Perfectly playable in A on a D/G melodeon, all the notes are there on the D row - playing in G is just copping out [and spoiling the tune]
Re: The Atholl Highlanders
This is a nice banjo tune, and it also sound amazing on the Low-D whistle.
I play this one often with a slide known as "The Dancing Dog."
Re: The Atholl Highlanders
What a tune. The D part is especially stomping. I like playing Cock o’ the North after this, in fact I can’t see them as anything but inseparable. Out of all the tunes I know those two match so well together. Not to mention the Jig of Slurs. I love these Scottish piping jigs. They’re the funnest type of jig for me personally.