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Spootiskerry (G)

Spootiskerry (G) is a Shetland reel composed by Samuel Ian Rothmar Burns, known as Ian Burns (1932-1995).  It was written in the early 1960s, and published along with many other tunes he wrote on a self-recorded cassette entitled “Spootiskerry” (1980). Ian Burns lived in Tingwall, but the title of this tune is the name of his family croft (i.e., farm) near the town of Sullom, in the north west of the Shetland Islands – though the Burns family is from Unst in the far north of the Shetland Islands. It was originally spelt “Spootskerry”, but over the years an “i,” an “a,” or an “o” has been added.   So it will show up as “Spootiskerry,” “Spoot O’Skerry,” “Spoot Askerry,” and sometimes mistakenly as “Spoots O’Kerry,” or some other strange thing.  Spootiskerry was an early composition of Ian Burns, and it has become extremely popular throughout the world.  A “skerry” is a group of rocks a few feet below sea level, but sometimes visible at low tide.  Razor clams (Ensis directus), or what the French call couteaux (knives), are long cylindrical clams having shells with sharp edges, and known in the Shetland islands as “spoots” – they spit out water as a defense mechanism. Roof gutters are also called “spoots” in the Shetlands and its vicinity. In Scottish sessions this tune is often paired with another Shetland reel, “Willafjord.”  At sessions in Canada it is often paired with “Reel de Montreal” (G) – which is the reel version of the hornpipe “Navvies on the Line” (G).

For the ABC, click Spootiskerry

Spootiskerry, med tempo (tenor guitar)



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