Scots are a curious people. In foreign parts they are considered
dour, and yet no dancing is more full of life and sparkling vigour
than our traditional Highland dancing. And there always seems
to have been this urge towards a natural, spontaneous form of
Highland dancer needs the physique of an athlete, coupled with
grace of movement, a sense of rhythm and considerable imagination.
The best Highland dancers can give a performance that few classical
ballet dancers could surpass, for the will and the spirit to dance
is there, as well as the ability.
In the lowlands of Tayside, as well as in the Highlands, there
has always been an instinctive desire for music, dance and song.
In the old days people had to make their own entertainment, and
in social gatherings round the fireside there was scope for local
talent. Many country songs and ballads, sung in kitchens
and bothies a century ago, are still being sung. They may deal
with love and marriage, convivial nights, farm life and work.
As a rule the bothy song describes a mood, the ballad
tells a story. Some of the melodies, handed down from generation
to generation, are admirable.
most bothies will be found a fiddle or an accordion, and many
a ploughman is a musician of considerable skill. These men have
known the old Scots airs since childhood; their forbears listened
and danced to the spirited strains of Neil Gow, Scott Skinner
and other Strathspey Kings of the past. Many of them
can compose new tunes in the same idiom, for the music is born
When wark is ower and supper dune,
The bothy band comes on the scene;
At jigs, strathspeys and Hielan reels
Theres few can beat the bothy chiels.
music has been said to date from the time of Culloden, when
the pipes were forbidden and dancers could only use a word-rhythm
that in a way reproduced the pipes, and kept alive the traditional
tunes. But probably mouth music is as old as the pipes
song, written by Mrs Agnes Lyon, a native of Dundee, is another
great favourite, Neil Gows Farewell to Whisky.
Whisky o, whisky o,
A drap o Heilan whisky o,
Ill sing ye a sang or dance ye a reel,
For a drap o Hielan whisky o.
may be lyrical, but many are more inclined to be boisterous. The
Ball o Kirriemuir, describing a barn dance, is known
the world over. How many verses it has nobody knows. It goes on
for ever, like Auld Esk or Prosen Proud!
best of this music and song may be said to have sprung from the
soil, and despite its artistic limitations, it should certainly
command a place in these notes on our folklore.
But to end this brief note on song and dance, I should like to
mention that fine old ballad about Leezie Lindsay, who was the
lovely daughter of Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick Castle, in
the Braes of the Carse. This ballad tells the tale of a wandering
outcast who woos and wins this fair lady, then proves to be a
ye gang tae the Hielans, Leezie Lindsay,
Will ye gang tae the Hielans wi me,
For I am Lord Ronald MacDonald,
A Chieftain o high degree.
one of many stirring tales associated with these parts, and no
doubt it will long be remembered and sung.