MacFarlane Manuscript


Collection is available here.


The Young MS, commonly referred to as the ‘MacFarlane Manuscript’ (for whom it was written), dates from c. 1740. Little is known of MacFarlane himself, but the manuscript is thought to have been made widely accessible across Edinburgh by its patron (Johnson 1997, 11) and its material widely disseminated throughout Fiddle repertory of the later 18th century.

Based on records held by the National Library of Scotland, one may date the manuscript as having been completed around 1740. There were, at one point, three volumes to this manuscript, containing around 700 pieces of music in all. Unfortunately, however, one of the manuscripts was lost c.1806 and has not been seen since. MS 2084, the work presented in this edition, is therefore the second of three volumes produced by Fiddler David Young for his patron, Walter MacFarlane of MacFarlane.

The purpose of this edition is essentially to make the Young manuscript easily accessible. While a considerable proportion of the MS may be read without any difficulty, about 25% of the volume is damaged to varying degrees by bleed-through, while a smaller proportion is completely, or almost completely unreadable. In putting together this edition, contemporary works such as Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion (Ed. John Purser) have been consulted, where reconstruction of fragments of some of the works contained in this MS has been required.

To the best of my abilities, I have detailed most musical and extra- musical features in the MS, which may come in useful in further study. It would be beneficial to obtain clearer understanding of how these works may have been performed (with reference to repeat figurations on Jenny Jo! for example) and indeed, conduct further research into David Young and ascertain how he became acquainted with his sources, some of whom have been attributed in the manuscript.

There are another two manuscripts by David Young that I am familiar with. One resides in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, dated around the same time as this MS and one in Glasgow, date unclear. I had the opportunity to see the Bodleian MS (MS.Don.d.54) and ascertained it to be of the same hand as the one held by the National Library of Scotland. Indeed, most of the tunes that appear in the NLS MS also appear in the Bodleian MS.

There have been, to my knowledge, no attempts to compile the entirety of the Young manuscript and make it accessible to scholars and musicians (Personal communication, John Purser: 19 March 2013). There are some sources on the internet, for example, which offer fragments of some of the works in this edition – but are no authoritative editions as of yet, of the Young MS.


Notes in the appendix will only accompany works where additions, changes or adjustments cannot be sufficiently highlighted in the music itself. Additions not ordinarily be listed in the appendix are limited to:

  • Noteheads in brackets: these indicate, to a certain degree of accuracy, a note which has been added where –
    • A note’s pitch is ambiguous, from it sitting between two possible values;
    • A note’s pitch could only be determined from its shadow from the other side of the page;
    • The notehead is, itself, missing though its most likely position could be determined from its beam’s angle, or from logically following the patterns in the melody and variations.
  • Slurs: On occasion, some slurs are apparently omitted in the source. These are most obvious in long passages with repeated gestures. Though no effort has been made to provide bowings beyond directions provided in the MS, any additional slurs are always dashed.
  • Beaming: Young does not follow a discernable pattern to beaming groups of notes. I have therefore beamed all works in simple time by the crotchet and those in compound time by quaver groups. Beams have only been broken for anacruses.

Longer passages, where parts of a page are completely missing, or the music is difficult to copy with any degree of certainty, will always be listed alongside the work name in the Critical Commentary, following the referencing mode outlaid in the beginning of the commentary section.

Any non-bracketed text which appears in this edition is original. This includes tempo markings and the attributions given by Young to some of the melodies.

Young uses accidentals somewhat inconsistently throughout this work. In many cases, he has clearly been very meticulous, going to some length so as to detail ornamentations — graces and turns, specifically — with the required accidentals. In addition, cautionary accidentals, in one or two cases, have been provided by Young and he may state the same accidental more than once in the same bar. There do, however, seem to be points where the accidental has been omitted, though this is a judgement that may only be made by playing through the tunes and trusting one’s own ear. I have clarified some passages by the inclusion of cautionary accidentals and, on occasion, specified accidentals that may have been added by the performer at the time. All these are, of course, bracketed.

In some works, occurrences of the lower seventh in the MS have been flattened while the sevenths on the higher octave has been sharpened. On first impression, this pattern could feasibly relate to the scale used by the bagpipe, though due to uncertainties in how the bagpipe was tuned and indeed, physically constructed, further research would be necessary to establish this link. In cases where this pattern has been clearly established however, in pipe tunes such as Caber-Fei for example, I have assumed the scale-template to remain constant throughout the work and so any accidentals will follow this pattern.

The collection

Page Title Page 01 Dainty Davie Pages 02-06 Rattling Roaring Willy Pages 06-08 Lass of Livingston The Lass of Livingston Pages 08-12 Cailleach Ouir Pages 12-13 New Claret Pages 14-15 Pease Strae Pages 16-17 Lord Forbes’s March Pages 18-22 Leith Wynd Pages 22-25 John Ochiltree Pages 26-29 Jenny Jo!