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Atholl Highlanders (Amix)

Atholl Highlander

John MacPherson, Pipe Major of the Atholl Highlanders (1858)

The four-part jig “Atholl Highlanders” is originally a Shetland tune, and originally called “The Three Sisters.”  I don’t think anyone has called it by the original name for a very long time, however. It is a characteristic Scots pipe march, though there are some odd things about it. As a pipe march it is known as “The Gathering of the Grahams,” and came to be played by the 77th Regiment of Foot, formed in 1778.  This is a bit surprising, though not unheard of, as a march in 6/8 would usually have been played for cavalry. The 77th Regiment was disbanded in 1783, then reformed in 1839 with a more ceremonial function, and recruited from The Scottish Horse.  Though they rarely parade, the Regiment did participate in the Year of Homecoming (2009) when all of Scotland’s clans took part in a parade in Edinburgh.  The tune is also popular among dancers and dance musicians, who will refer to it by its associated dance “The Duke of Gordon’s Reel,” which could be pretty confusing as this is a jig.  There are several versions of this jig, which is not at all surprising given its age, but most of them are pretty close.  Often paired with “Jig of Slurs” in sessions, also forming a popular set for contra dancing, on the album Fiddlesticks: Irish Traditional Music from Donegal (1991) they put “The Irish Washerwoman” between these two tunes, which is surprising as that middle tune was usually held to be a melodia non grata even in the early 1990s. As for influential sets with this tune, an early one is The Tannahill Weavers who pair it with “Johnnie Cope” on Tannahill Weavers IV (1981).  On the other hand,  on the Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy album Ceol Aduaidh (1983), which is one of my favorites,  they play the set “Pet in the Kitchen > An Fathach Éireannach > Atholl Highlanders.”  So, it depends on the direction you like best. The “Atholl Highlanders” is in Phil Rubenzer’s Midwestern Irish Session Tunes(2000), so it has been played in the Midwest for a long while.

For the ABC click Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders, slow tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Atholl Highlanders, med tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Atholl Highlanders, the dots

Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders, Jig in Amix


  • nelliegirl
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    I,also, just discovered this excellent site. I greatly appreciate having both the slow tempo and the sheet music because I can’t learn from either one alone. Although it’s not necessary for learning, the history of the traditional tunes is wonderful to have.

    • Bruce Graham
      Posted January 4, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Nice one Nellie ! Being a Graham masel’ A’m set aboot learning tae play “Gathering of The Grahams ” an ma wee Fiddle. Ah have nae the wind fer The Pipesn an’ leave arl tha’ tae ma son wha plays them ! Cheers the ‘noo, Bruce Graham
      Sorry about my ” Nutty Humour !”

  • Posted March 25, 2015 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Just the learning site I would hope for.
    Thank you.

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