Duke of Gordon's Birthday | Bowing Down Home

About this tune

The Duke of Gordon’s Birthday is one of the few strathspeys that have acquired a true Island character. Comparing the versions of both “Old Peter” and “Young Peter” Chaisson with that of Eddy Arsenault offers a sense that a completely original Island style for playing strathspeys is in the process of developing.

Composer William Marshall was a long term recipient of Gordon family patronage, and dedicated quite a number of tunes to the Duke and his family. Probably the first appearance of the tune in print was Marshall’s Scottish Airs, Melodies [. . .] (1822). It has subsequently appeared in numerous other works, including the Gow Repository, Lowe’s Collection of Reels, Strathspeys, Jigs [. . .] vol. 1 (1844), and Kerr’s Merry Melodies for the Violin (1875).

The Duke of Gordon’s Birthday may well have been in long circulation on the Island, but certainly recordings and broadcasts from Cape Breton have also been major factors in promoting the tune’s local popularity. Among the many fiddlers from Cape Breton (and the nearby Antigonish area) who have recorded the tune since the 1920s are Donald Angus Beaton, Colin Boyd, John A. MacDonald, Joe MacLean, Donald MacLellan, Carl MacKenzie, and Buddy MacMaster.

Notation for this tune as played by “Young Peter” Chaisson is in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.

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