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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

John MacAlpine

This tune is very versatile. It is popular as a strathspey, but when the rhythm is ‘ironed out’ it is also used as a march, a polka and as a song tune.

The ballad 'The False Knight on the Road' is sung to this tune. A school boy meets the devil in disguise as a knight. He tries to trick the boy with hard questions.

Another song sung to this tune is 'The Bog Down in the Valley', which begins with a 'tree in the bog' and adds all kinds of other things, like the branch on the tree, the limb on the branch, eventually on into a nest with an egg, a bird inside it, a feather and a spot on the feather, and all the elements are added together to make a very long 'cumulative' song.

'John MacAlpine', performed as a strathspey by Colin Campbell, fiddle, and Katherine Campbell.
From 'Traditional Scottish Songs and Music', Gallus Recordings.

  • John MacAlpine