The Blooming Heather strathspey

Also known as Dark Loch Na Gar, Dark Lochna Gar, Dark Lochnagar.

There are 18 recordings of this tune.

The Blooming Heather has been added to 1 tune set.

The Blooming Heather has been added to 50 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: The Blooming Heather
R: strathspey
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:A>F|D2D>F A2A>B|d>ef>e e<dd>B|A>Bd>B A<FF>D|E>DE>F E2A>F|
D2D>F A2A>B|d>ef>e e<dd>B|A>Bd>B A<FF>D|E>DE>F D2:|
|:A2|d2f>e e<dd>A|B2d>B A<FF>G|A<F F/ED/ D<dd>B|A<FF>D E2f>g|
a>g f/e/d/c/ e<dd>A|Bg/f/ e/d/c/B/ A2F>G|A2B>A (3ABd a>g|f2e>d d2:|

Fifteen comments


This tune is a Schottische, and so is played a little faster than a Strathspey.

Dark Lochnagar

This is the waltz Dark Lochnagar, very clevery crafted into 4/4.
I like it.

Dark Lochnagar

Is it plausable that the waltz is dereived from the Schottische, rather than the other way round?

Lochnagar - did you know……..?

………that Lochnagar is not a loch at all, but rather a mountain (in fact at 1155m, it is a ‘munro’), lying in the Cairngorms between Braemar and Aberdeen in Scotland .

Prince Charles wrote a very good children’s book called ‘The Old Man of Lochnagar’ (the mountain is near the royal family’s residence at Balmoral Castle)

There is also a very fine malt whisky called Royal Lochnagar

Anyway, enough! What a fine tune!

Yes! my first experience of Scottish mountaineering (at least, under my own steam rather than on my dad’s back) was up Lochnagar, when I was about 4. It was in the middle of summer and was absolutely freezing!


As Dark Lochnagar is a song, I suspect the tune comes from the waltz - the strathspey would be a sod to sing.
The song is pretty widely sung in Scotland but I have never heard this “variation” before.

Yesterday I was leafing through a Scottish songbook and came across the song Lochnagar (or Dark Lochnagar) written to strathspey rhythm.


I read somewhere that Sir Henry Bishop, composer of “Home Sweet Home” wrote the tune. Hmmm, maybe. But it has a real Hebridean feel to it, in my tin ear opinion. It could well have been dance tune first. Burns was fond of slowing down dance lively dance tunes and giving them melancholy lyrics. Byron could have done the same with this one, but I’m not sure how well the lyrics stand up. (When I hear “where the snowflake reposes” I always see a snowflake resting on its elbow.)

Calum Kennedy managed to convert the thing into fine art. I never heard anybody sing it better, though there is a heroic YouTube version by a guy giving his all to bunch of noisily indifferent drinkers in a Scottish club.

The tune was written by D C Ramsay of Glasgow. I know very little about him apart from that he lived in the second half of the 19th century; he wrote this; he also wrote ‘4 Diagrams Illustrative of Intervals, Scales, and Chords (Glasgow)’ in 1860, and he worked on my fiddle in 1884 and left his label on the inside saying ‘Reconstructed in Glasgow by D C Ramsay 1884’.


Kevvyf - where did you get your information, as a matter of interest?

Re: The Blooming Heather

Sorry Nigel for taking 3 years to reply. I hunted DC Ramsay down to find out more about the guy who worked on my fiddle. Here’s one clue -

Dark Lochnagar, Words Lord Byron, Music D.C. Ramsay (Ian Bruce Band - Linn Records)

There’s others, just put Dark Lochnagar D C Ramsay in Google.

Re: The Blooming Heather

Thanks, Kevvyf. The tune certainly has a confused history. Some people credit the tune to a woman called Isabella Mary Scott (c1786-1838), later known as Mrs Patrick Gibson, who was a singer and player of the harp from Edinburgh. She is said to have contributed the tune for Vol.6 of The Scottish Minstrel, published in the 1820s. Scott Skinner annotated it “tune by Miss Gibson, 1841” (which means she wrote it three years after she died). Other sources credit Sir Henry Bishop (1786-1855).

However, the tune - as “Loch-na-gar” - was published in the second volume of the Edinburgh Repository of Music, dated 1825. If D C Ramsay lived in the second half of the 19th Century, the dates don’t quite match up.

Whichever the source of the tune, it would appear to have been written specifically for the poem by Lord Byron, which was published in 1807.

Re: The Blooming Heather

There are at least 3 “Dark Lochnagars” out there, 2 in Ireland which have nothing at all to do with this particular air to my ear at least. There is a slow air, I think largely associated with Willie Clancy, and I think the same air was recorded by Liam O’Flynn. Micho Russell had an air by that name, which he once played specifically for me, when I was seated opposite him at a session in Cleary’s at the Willie Clancy School in the early 1980s, when he picked upon my accent - “I’ll play a tune for the Scotsman, this is an air called ”Dark Lochnagar" - and he did 🙂
He came over to Scotland a few year later and played it again at a concert I was at - here it is on “Youtube” :

I’m sitting to the left of Micho in the photo, playing flute.
[ A bit of a sidetrack here - I don’t see any relation between the tunes apart from a shared title ].

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Re: The Blooming Heather

PS - the above clip is audio only - no mobile phones in those days, and very few video cameras.

Posted by .

Re: The Blooming Heather

Thanks for this Kenny,

I came looking for the air, not the strathspey. My family is originally from Aberdeen and I’m always on the look out for nice Uileann pipe tunes connected with the area.