Big John MacNeil | Bowing Down Home
About this tune
Big John MacNeil is one of the most widely played tunes on PEI. It is particularly popular in the western half of the Island, where it is highly favored for accompanying step-dancers. The selections here range from “Old Peter” Chaisson’s stately and elegant rendition to the highly syncopated West Prince versions of Louise Arsenault, Victor Doucette, David Gaudet, and Dennis Pitre.
Composed by an early teacher of James Scott Skinner, this tune was originally entitled simply John McNeil. According to The Scottish Tune Index, its probable first publication was in Middleton’s Selection of Strathspey’s, Reels, Etc. [. . .](1870); it was later re-published in James Scott Skinner’s Harp & Claymore (1903-4). It has since become popular among fiddle music enthusiasts throughout Britain, Ireland, and North America.
The tune has probably been in circulation on PEI since the 1920s. It formed part of the repertoire of early radio performer Lem Jay, and in the late 1930s it was played on radio station CFCY, Charlottetown by fiddler George Chappelle. It was recorded around this time as Big John McNeil by Don Messer & the Islanders.
Notation for this tune as played by Francis MacDonald is in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.