Francis MacDonald | Bowing Down Home

Francis MacDonald, 1991

Biography

Francis MacDonald comes from a long line of fiddlers on both sides of his family. In fact, family lore has it that his fiddling ancestors were on the very first boatload of Scottish settlers that landed at Tracadie Bay in the 1790s.

Francis’ father Ronny MacDonald was a noted local fiddler. His family often held house parties; there was also dancing at schoolhouses, and at community fund-raisers such as socials and church picnics. Sometimes of an evening Ronny would invite a few other fiddlers in to swap tunes; Francis would be in bed upstairs listening to the music and yearning to play it himself. He took up the fiddle in earnest at about the age of 9 or 10.

MacDonald’s father showed him how to use the bow; from that point he learned by watching his father and the other older fiddlers, including Joe MacDonald, Hector MacDonald, and Victor McPhee (an uncle of Angus McPhee). Once he got started, playing technique seemed to come naturally; he then expended his repertoire by listening to other players and to radio broadcasts.

In the 1970s, Francis fell in with the Eastern Kings Fiddlers and began to systematically pursue the Cape Breton playing style and repertoire. He still plays plays powerful, lively versions, however, of such local favorites as Farmer’s Reel, Ottawa Valley Reel, Princess Reel, and Paddy on the Turnpike.

MacDonald played regularly at commercial dance halls in northern Kings and Queens Counties from the 1950s into the 1980s. In the early 1990s, he  played regularly at a weekly dance in Tracadie. In 2006, he was often the featured fiddler at the Goose River and Lorne Valley Dances.

Tune Selections

MacDonald, Francis - Big John MacNeil Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Caber Feidh Accompanied by: unacc
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - FMacdonald Jig 3 Accompanied by: unacc
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Farmer's Reel / Princess Reel Accompanied by: unacc
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Flowers of Edinburgh Accompanied by: unacc
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Johnny Cope Reel / Pigeon on the Gatepost Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - King's Reel / Lasses of Glenalladale Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Miss Lyall Reel / Fmacdonald Reel 4 / Fmacdonald Reel 5 / Big Coffin Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Ottawa Valley Reel / Princess Reel / Farmer's Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Sheehan's Reel / Pigeon on the Gate, G-Setting / Paddy on the Turnpike Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - White Cockade / Mrs. McLeod of Rasay Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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Oral Histories

Dances around St. Peters Lake House parties at his house quite often; then in the 1950s they had dances in the schoolhouses: socials and cards then a dance after; also had church picnics info and transcript
Developing the urge to play Started at 9 or 10; he liked fiddle music every since he could remember; as a small child he'd be in bed and hear the music waft up from fiddlers who visited father info and transcript
Fiddlers in the family Who played in his family; had fiddling on both sides info and transcript
MacDonalds come to PEI Can trace his family back to South Uist and the very first Scottish settlers on PEI info and transcript

Video Clips