The Bonny Highland Laddie reel

Also known as Cairney Mount.

There are 3 recordings of this tune.

The Bonny Highland Laddie has been added to 21 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: The Bonny Highland Laddie
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:dB|A2D2 F2A2|BAGF E2dB|A2D2 F2A2|BcdA F2A2|
D2d2 d2ef|e2E2 E3D|F2A2 BcdB|A2D2 F2:|
|:A2|d3e defd|gfed e2fe|d2A2 F2A2|BcdA F2A2|
D2d2 d2ef|e2E2 E3D|F2A2 BcdB|A2D2 F2:|

Three comments

Bonny HIghland Laddie

This is from Gow’s Collection. I posted it because it is on one of the recordings in the Session. It’s a lovely, light tune. I can’t decide if it is a reel or strathspey. Can it be both? I listed it as a reell because in the only recording I know of it, it is played rather fast for a strathspey.

It’s not a Strathspey. I would class it as a Lowland Scots reel (like tunes such as The White Cockade, The Flowers of Edinburgh, My Love is But a Lassie Yet). I believe the term ‘single reel’ is sometimes applied to these, although that is sometimes applied to another type of tune. In Ireland, tunes such as these sometimes get classified as hornpipes or polkas.

But I think you have categorised it correctly.

Bonny HIghland Laddie: A Scots Measure

I think it’s safe to say that this tune is a “Scots Measure”, (quite distinct from reels, hornpipes and strathspeys). In fact the other tunes mentioned ‘The White Cockade’ & ‘My Love is but a Lassie Yet’ are also Scots Measures. And even ‘The Flowers of
Edinburgh’ (which is now generally played as a reel) started its life as a Scots Measure. They can be in part identified by their typical ‘anacrusis’, lead-in notes preceding the first measure of the tune, as well as their distinctive rhythmic structure.

[Unfortunately, there is no category for Scots Measure here. Likewise, there is no category for ‘Highland’, which means that people woefully miscategorize them as reels, hornpipes, or even polkas (rather than the closest alternative: ‘strathspey’). The absence of a category for ‘March’ is also regrettable.]

Here’s the entry describing the “Scots Measure” from The Fiddler’s Companion:

A generic form of Scottish melody written in a slow or leisurely paced common-time hornpipe rhythm. The Scots Measure form has an eight-bar phrase structure and emphasizes the first three beats of the bar, with the phrase beginning on the upbeat. Emmerson (1971) explains that in certain bars the second and third beats are frequently stressed by use of the same note, and the phrase usually ends in the repetition of three same notes for emphasis. The origin of the name is uncertain, and may have been a dance or a distinctive type of tune, and in fact, the pavan and bass dance in the courts of Elizabeth and James were known as ‘measures’, and thus the Scots Measure may have been an English description of a dance thought to have originated in Scotland. D.G. MacLennan, in his Highland and Traditional Dances of Scotland describes it as ‘a pleasing type of dance tune to which was danced a Twosome or Twasome Strathspey, and in this form the Highland Schottische evolved’. The musical form actually dates from the 17th century (it can be found, for example, in Playford’s Apollo’s Banquet), but the appellation ‘Scots measure’ is more recent, having been coined in the following (18th) century. One of the first tunes with this name is “Queensbury’s Scots Measure”, printed in Margaret Sinkler’s MS. Music Book (c. 1710). James Oswald also published “A Scots Measure” in his 1744 A Second Collection of Curious Scots Tunes, although John Purser says he may not have composed the tune himself. He later called this tune “Aberdeen’s Scots Measure.”

Here’s the link: