Lawrence E. Bethune’s

M.U.S.I.C.s Project

Musical • Unique • Scottish • Identifiable • Characteristic

A Dissertation Tracing Scottish Folk Music from 18th Century Scotland to Colonial Carolina
through a system analyzing and categorizing melodic phrases called MUSICs.

The purpose of this study is to investigate the proposition that Scottish traditional songs folk tunes (from now on referred to as “Scotunes”) carried by emigrants from Scotland to America 1750-–1800 survived to influence American folk music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The writer believes that melodic forms, fragments, and tendencies from these Scotunes also survived to influence today’s contemporary popular music and produce what modern listeners recognize as fragments or forms that “sound Scottish.” That will be the foundation for further study. This study will conclude with following these tunes into the Early American Period just after the Revolutionary War at the end of the 18th Century. Two principal methods, justified later in the thesis, will underpin the study.

First, in order to document such a musical migration and show evidence of the manifestation of the Scottish tunes in newly created “American” music, it will be necessary to develop a catalog of Scotunes common to Scotland and America during this period. Second, it will also be necessary to develop a system of analysis and classification of melodies and melodic fragments and phrases for identification and comparison, and to trace the Scottish elements into the American tunes.

It is hoped that these systems will aid in further investigation, beyond this dissertation, following these melodies and melodic fragments as they evolve through American popular and folk music through the 19th and 20th centuries up to present time.

Additional benefits of this study will be to better understand how folk composers composed tunes or melodies. Much attention has been given to the evolutionary and participative “community” process of “composing” folk songs. But, much of this research uses the term “composing” almost entirely to describe the developing and varying the text of these songs. Very little attention has been given to the composing and evolution of the melodies. Almost all variations of folk songs are text variations. The melodies remain amazingly intact or, perhaps it is better to say, the variations of the tunes for each song are much less dramatic and dynamic than the variations of the words.

Of course, this is because almost all people are able to speak and to create stories. Very few can create melodies and record their creations for others to hear and play. Therefore, it is easy to surmise that there are very few melodies compared to stories, and that for each composed tune , there can be several sets of texts applied to it. Accepting that proposition, we can see the possibility that many tunes, phrases, and smaller tune fragments have deep roots into humanity’s distant musical past. Through this investigation, it is hoped that by developing a system tracing motifs forward from just 200 years ago, we may be able to use that system to go back 200, 400, 600 years or more to identify the spawning grounds of today’s English, Celtic, and American melodies.

Folk musics of each culture have always accepted “foreign” music into their creations of new music. However, until recent times, cultures were far more isolated and the mixing of folk musics took place slowly and in seemingly small increments.

Today, pop and folk composers in our pluralistic Western society borrow freely from several folk musics to compose a single song. In 1999, British composer Sting combined American, British, African, and Algerian musical elements in his song Desert Rose (Brand New Day, Interscope Records, Santa Monica, California 1999). Shakira, in her album “Laundry Service” (Epic Records 2001) combines Brazilian, American, African, English, and Middle Eastern musical elements. Loreena McKennitt frequently combines American, British, Celtic, African, and Middle eastern elements in most of her music. There genres called Afro-Celt, Cajun Bluegrass, Tex Mex, and so on. Songs are composed with phrases, sections, and influences of more than one isolated culture or music.

Three Paths to Creating “New” Scottish Traditional Music

As a composer himself, the writer believes there are three prevalent ways through which a contemporary composer derives his or her foundation for creating new popular songs that sound “Scottish” in nature: 1) direct transmission via a direct oral-to-aural transmission of a Scotune from generation to generation from 18th century Scotland to current time; 2) indirect transmission via hearing contemporary recordings or live performances of “revived” Scotunes where the listener/composer has not had the experience of the Scotune being passed to him or her directly from the original 18th century sources; 3) via strict adherence to the rules of Scotune composition derived from or present in 18th century Scotunes

Let us explore these three paths.

Direct Transmission

This path is perhaps the most common path for most all folk musics. A mother sings a lullaby to her daughter, who, in turn, sings the same lullaby to her daughter. A father teaches a fiddle tune to his son, a fiddler, who then teaches it to his friends, and so on. Many complete Scotunes immigrated to Colonial North Carolina and were passed on pretty much intact via oral and written transmission. Hundreds of school and other published songbooks from the 18th century to present date can be found that have Scotunes within them (Boni 1952, Brown 1952, Brown 1962, Dann 1935, Hudson 1962, Ives 1953; McConathy 1910). Ergo, the writer assumes, and intends to prove, that whole Scotunes and fragments of Scotunes that are uniquely identifiable as “Scottish” in sound can be traced from 18th century Scotland through Colonial America and up to the present generation.

Indirect Transmission

Today, a composer in Nairobi, Kenya can immerse himself or herself in 18th century Scotunes simply by obtaining a library of Scotunes from recordings or through downloading them from the Internet; never having left Nairobi nor hearing live Scotunes performed. This composer cam then compose new tunes that sound like Scotunes via intuition and matching his or her composition to the “rules” he or she heard implied by these recordings. Also, one can attend concerts of contemporary bands that play tunes they also learned indirectly (as just described). Scotune collectors such as John and Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson (Lomax 1998) have had their collections and recordings published several times and these have helped to revive Scotunes from the 18th century. The folk song revivals of America and Britain of the past sixty years has also brought Scotunes into the awareness of the composers of the pasthalf century. These composers have not received Scotunes in a direct manner, however, the effect on their composition as compared to direct transmission may be the same.

The Limits or “Rules” of the Music

Folk composers have always composed within the limits set by their audience. What are those limits? Where is the center, the “safe” place? Where are the edges, the gateway to the uncharted territory? How far can the composer go away from the accepted center and still be composing music of his or her folk audience? What tools does the composer need to compose music that fits the accepted idiom?

And the rhetoric of questioning continues when we consider the focus of the present study. What would be the rules for 18th century Scotunes found in the Highlands? What would be the rules for late 20th century pop and folk music in America that audiences declare “sounds” like it came from Scotland? Are there connections between the two? Can evidence of these “rules” be found in new music of Colonial America that can be traced to Scotunes? Can these rules be traced through the evolution of American popular music even up to the late 20th Century? What would be included in a set of rules for use by today’s composers who wish to create music sounding like 18th century Scotunes?

Also, music technology has changed the music. It has always been an interesting study to identify where the instrument has dictated the music, and vice versa. If a flute had five holes, did the number and distance dictate limitations for the composer or were the number and distance dictated by the music heard in the mind’s ear of the composer?

Just as the introduction of the guitar or the piano has “straightened out” many ethnic musics that came to America, what other new instruments and technologies altered the music? Guitars create harmonic progressions for tunes that either had no harmony or perhaps implied a harmony that was not picked up by the arranger who used the guitar. The piano’s tempering also “fixed” notes that perhaps were always meant to be in the cracks.

A clear example is found in the evolution of the blues in America. Principally starting as a Western African vocal music, the music changed slightly when songsters started using one-chord guitar accompaniment. Later, more Western European harmony influence affected the music and the composers started using typical harmonic progressions such as tonic-dominant-tonic. Eventually, the marriage of African song and Western harmony yielded the classic blues progression I-IV-I-V-IV-I (Bethune, 1989).

Melodically, the “blues” notes and the bending and melismatic motifs were a strong characteristic of the blues. Not hampered by the limitations of an instrument with set tones, the singer had all frequencies available and could easily “slide” between target notes and create smooth movements within their tunes and interpretations. But, adding the guitar created the need to straighten out some melodies to fit the tuning of the guitar. Going from a solo vocal blues to a group of musicians made it necessary to define and agree upon the form of tunes and even agree upon the scale and other elements that would used, further restricting the free improvisation of the singer.

When the blues “moved to the city,” even more technological restrictions occurred. One could “bend” a note with one’s voice. The guitar could bend notes. Sliding around all the frequencies between the natural and flatted third of the scale was a staple of vocal blues. But, the piano could not bend the notes. So we started hearing the piano’s attempt to duplicate the idiom through playing both the flatted and natural third degree at the same time, or making quick grace notes of the flatted third moving to the natural third.

It is interesting to note that a similar evolution or dialectic process happened to Gaelic vocal music. It, too, displayed melodies that allowed the singer to slide around and bend notes and sing “in the cracks.” It is possible that when this music met African music in Colonial Carolina, songsters from both cultures found a common ground. There may be connections there worth exploring. But, the Gaelic songs also slowly became assimilated and dominated by a stronger culture in Colonial Carolina. Slowly, the Gaelic language moved to become English language. The free movement of the melodies, both in pitch and in meter, became corralled and tempered, resembling more and more its English cousin.

In some cases, the English and the Scottish melodic elements were the same. In others, where they were different, which of the Scottish survived the dialectic to become part of the new Colonial American music?

Today, we have instruments that can replicate instruments such as bagpipes, but without the technical limits of the pipes. A synthesizer can sound like pipes (even using the “sampled” sound of actual pipes) yet play all the notes in between and have greater range. It could even harmonize in four parts. Ergo, it sounds like pipes…but not really. The audience knows something is not right. We have reached the edge and beyond of established territory for sounding like bagpipes. So, what are the elements beyond timbre and the other qualities of sound that define what sounds like bagpipe music? This is the same territory for folk song that we wish to explore.

Scots to Colonial North Carolina Before 1775; Society and Culture in Colonial Cape Fear Valley

If one wants to trace Scottish folk song melodies from Scotland into Colonial North America, it seems logical to locate the largest concentrations of immigrant Scottish populations and to attempt to understand their culture, the cultures in which they found themselves, how they interacted with those culture and musics, and how this synthesis affected the newly created melodies.

Approximately 1.5 million Scots have immigrated to America (Gormley, 2000). Today, the state of North Carolina has more citizens of Scottish ancestry than any other state or country, including Scotland (Highlander, 2000).Where did those early immigrant Scots settle in North America, and when? How many were there? Why did they leave Scotland for such treacherous, wilderness territory?

The main thrust of this section of the study is to follow Scottish Highlanders and their music into the North American colonies. But, it is also necessary to trace Scottish Lowlanders and Scotch-Irish, as many musical characteristics of their folk songs will be found to be similar to the Highland. True, there are differences, but, together, they all form a “Celtic” influence on the new American music of the late 18th century.

Brief History of the Founding of North Carolina

Giovanni da Verrazonoa was the first European explorer of North Carolina in 1524. The territory was named Carolana after King Charles I of England. (Carolus means Charles in Latin.) In 1663, King Charles changed the spelling of the name to Carolina.

In 1729, King George II took Carolina over and split it into North Carolina and South Carolina. Farmers from Virginia migrated to settle in North Carolina because it had a warm climate and good soil. Most of North Carolina became plantations.

Colonial North Carolina had three geographic regions: the Coastal Plain, the Appalachian Piedmont, and the Appalachian Mountains. These regions still exist, today.

The Immigrants of Colonial North Carolina

In addition to the Highlanders, there were several other ethnic groups who had migrated to colonial North Carolina from Europe and Africa including English, Lowlanders, Scotch-Irish, Germans, Welsh, Swiss, and Africans. While there seem to be no accurate records of the exact numbers of each group, it does appear that the English made up the vast majority of European immigrants, followed by the Scottiesh (Scotch-Irish, Lowlanders, and Highlanders), and far fewer Irish, Germans, Africans, Swiss, French, and Welsh (United States Historic Census Data Base 2002).

There is a lot of confusion in early American history regarding the similarities or differences of the Scots. This makes it difficult to get a clear picture of “Scottish” immigration, though there are many clues that can help unravel the mess. Highlanders, Lowlanders, and Scotch-Irish are often grouped together as “Scots.” Sometimes the Irish and Scotch-Irish also get mistakenly mixed. A great number of Scotch-Irish (also often called Ulster-Scots), migrated to North America. The Scotch-Irish, Highland Scots, and Lowland Scots became a dominant ethnic group in the Colonies.

The largest influx of Irish into North Carolina was in the form of Protestants — largely Presbyterian but also Anglican — who became known as “Scotch-Irish” or “Scots Irish,” since their ancestors originated in Scotland. (Powell, 1999) The term “Scotch-Irish” is an Americanism, generally unknown in Scotland and Ireland, and rarely used by British historians. In American usage, it refers to people of Scottish descent who, having lived for a time in the north of Ireland, migrated in considerable numbers to the American colonies in the eighteenth century.

According to the United States Historical Census Data Base (USHCDB) (2002), the ethnic populations in the American Colonies of 1775 were:

  • English  48.7 %
  • African  20.0 %
  • Scot-Irish  7.8 %
  • German  6.9 %
  • Scottish  6.6 %
  • Dutch  2.7 %
  • French  1.4 %
  • Swedish  0.6 %
  • Other  5.3 %

NOTE: Combined, the total of Scots and Scot-Irish of in this census is 14.4%.

The following sections give some information about the major ethnic groups in colonial North Carolina (all the ones in the list above except Dutch and Swedish).

English and Welsh

The main English immigration to North America began in the early seventeenth century. From this time until the Revolution, the English were the largest group in the colonies and certainly in North Carolina. Due to industrialization and less religious persecution there had been an improvement in living standards in England and this led to a relative decline in the English emigration the eighteenth century.

There were English immigrants in all the North American colonies and in the West Indies. In the seventeenth century they mainly settled the East seaboard areas in the colonies. In the New England colony all the states had ninety percent or more population of English and Welsh origin. In 1790 the state of Massachusetts had the largest number of people, 93%, of English and Welsh ethnic background. In Pennsylvania, English and Welsh inhabitants made up about 58% of the total population. In the southern colonies, the British and Welsh immigrants were the majority, and in North Carolina they were 56% of the total population.

Though the governing of the colonies was mainly in English hands, there were several British government leaders from Scotland and Ulster. The culture of North Carolina was decidedly British, mainly English. The other ethnic groups maintained strong cultures within their own contained communities, but had marginal influence, at first, on English-dominated rule and society. However, little by little, the influence of the Scotch-Irish and Highland Scots in particular became evident, as we shall see later in this paper.

Scottish Lowlanders

There were Lowlanders in this area before 1700. Tracing Lowlanders is more difficult than tracing Highlanders because the Lowlanders were much more willing to disperse themselves within the various communities than were the clansmen. However, there are clear records of Lowlanders in North Carolina before 1700. Lowlander names appear in pre-1700 Carolina records and the first governor of the colony, William Drummond, was a Lowlander (Myer, 1957).

Scotch-Irish and Irish

To the west and east of these Highland settlements were large settlements of Scotch-Irish. One area directly to the west of the Cape Fear settlements was even called “Scotch-Irish Mesopotamia.” Most of the Scotch-Irish landed at Philadelphia and came south into North Carolina as early as 1740. After 1750, a steady stream flowed into the Colony. In 1751 Governor Gabriel Johnston of North Carolina reported to the Board of Trade that “Inhabitants flock in here daily, mostly from Pennsylvania and other parts of America . . . and some directly from Europe, they commonly seat themselves toward the West and have got near the mountains.” (Saunders, 1886-90).

The Scotch-Irish were Protestant, as compared to the smaller number of Irish in Carolina, who were Catholic. In the seventeenth century a large amount of the Irish immigrants were situated in the West Indies, but in the eighteenth century there were Irish settlements in North America. Pennsylvania was in 1790 the colony that had most persons of Irish nationality, but it was mainly in the nineteenth century that the mass immigration of Irish Catholics to North America started.


The German immigrants came mainly from the areas of the river Rhine, the pre industrial south-west parts of Germany, but also from the German speaking areas of Switzerland.. The constant warfare in these parts of Europe made immigrants drawn towards the North Atlantic colonies.

The Germans settled mainly in Pennsylvania and by 1790, they represented more than one fourth of the total population. There were also some German settlements in Maryland, North and South Carolina and New York, but these numbers were small compared to the German population in Pennsylvania.

The following information explaining German immigration to North Carolina is from historian Guion Griffis Johnson (Johnson, 1937):

Following the same route traveled by the Scotch-Irish, several thousand Germans also came into North Carolina between 1745 and 1775. Like the Scotch-Irish, they were thrifty and fervently religious, but instead of representing one communion as in the case of the Scotch, they were members of three different branches of the Protestant church: the Lutheran, the German Reformed, and the Unitas Fratrum, or Moravian Church…Both the Scotch and the Germans preserved their native customs for several generations.” [A. L. Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, I, and “The Moravian Contribution to Colonial North Carolina,” NCHR, VII, 1-–14.]


There were also in this area enslaved Africans who worked in the houses and plantations of the European settlers. According to the Federal Census of 1790, one of four Highland families had slaves and, of those who owned slaves, the average was almost 5 slaves per family (Myer, 1957). In North Carolina, enslaved Africans were also about one out of every four persons (regardless of ethnicity):

North Carolina Census Data

Total 393,751

Free white persons 288,204 (72%)

All other free persons 4,975 (12%)

Slaves 100,572 (26%)

It is also interesting to note that by 1775, Africans were the second largest ethnic group (20.0%) in the United States, behind the English (48.7%), and there were three times as many Africans as Scots (6.6%). (If you combine the Scots and Scot-Irish of this census, the total would be 14.4%.) Most all Africans were enslaved and the vast majority were in the south in states like North Carolina (reference needed).

French (Huguenots)

French immigrants, who were called the Huguenots, also found their way to colonial North Carolina. These French Protestants had to migrate because they were persecuted by the French king Louis XIV. French Huguenots immigrated mainly to New York and South Carolina, but some found their way into North Carolina. They assimilated easily by learning English and integrating with the other groups in the community (reference needed).

Scottish Highlanders in Carolina

At the time of the first federal census in the United States, (1790) people of Scottish (including the Scotch-Irish) origins made up more than six percent of the population, numbering about 260,000. According to this census, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina had the highest proportion of Scottish stock among their populations. The settlements of the Highlanders were the Cape Fear River and its tributaries in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. A number of other Scots made their homes in the Mohawk Valley of New York, New Jersey, and the Caribbean islands such as Barbados. And, smaller numbers of Scots were found in all the 13 states.

The migration of Scottish Highlanders, in particular, to North Carolina began in about 1729 (Conner, 1919) and grew steadily until the outbreak of the American Revolution. The first few Highlanders appear to have settled in the Cape Fear area in 1732. The first large group of Highlanders settled here in 1739, numbered 350, and were from Argyllshire (Myer, 1957).

The fastest growth appears to have been just before the Revolution in the early 1770’s. According to the Earl of Selkirk, by the end of the 18th century, the settlement of Scottish Highlanders in North Carolina was the largest on the North American Continent (Myer, 1957). Thomas Garnett, in his Tour, published in 1800, estimated in 1800 that 30,000 Highlanders had immigrated to America between 1773 and 1775, alone (Adams, 1919).My research uncovered estimates anywhere from 6,000 to over 50,000. The writer believes the number of 30,000 by Garnett is most accurate, if not slightly overstated. Lower estimates seem to leave out departures that list no departure port, but clearly left Scotland, or left Ireland or England as a last port and were populated with mostly Scottish surnames. The highest seem to accidentally have combined two estimates for the same period.

The Highlanders settled in the sand hills area near the upper Cape Fear River of the Coastal Plain, which ran inland to about 100 miles from the ocean. Since the vast majority of Highlanders that settled in this area had come from an agricultural society, and because the land was plentiful and fertile, most became farmers.

The main trading town in the sand hills area at this time was Cross Creek. It was established in 1746 (Ashe, 1908) about 90 miles up the Cape Fear River, close to the merge of the Cape Fear River and the Cross Creek. In 1762, Campbellton was established near Cross Creek. In 1778, the towns were combined. After the Revolution, in 1783, the name Cross Creek was changed to Fayetteville, after the French general, Lafayette who assisted the Americans in defeating the British.

The Highlanders preferred to live among those who spoke their language and shared their customs, and usually settled in groups (Myer, 1957). Yet, almost immediately, Scotch-Irish slowly mixed in to the Highland settlements and continued to do so over the last half of the 18th century.

There were so many MacDonalds in the Cape Fear region that, during the American Revolution, the MacDonalds, who were loyal to the Crown of England, attempted a march to the sea, but were defeated at Moore’s Creek. This was known for generations as “The Insurrection of the Clan MacDonald” (Graham, 1956)

When Samuel Johnson made his famous journey through the Highlands with James Boswell in 1773, he remarked in his journal that there was an “epidemick of desire of wandering which spreads from valley to valley” (Johnson, 1924). Also in his journal, Johnson states that, wherever he went in the Highlands, people were contemplating emigration to America. The Reverend Alexander Pope in 1774 wrote that half the population of Caithness would have left for America if they could have obtained the shipping (Myer, 1957). James Boswell tells of people on the Isle of Skye in 1774 who were performing a dance called “America.”

Each of the couples…successively whirls round in a circle, till all are in motion; and the dance seems intended to show how emigration catches, till a whole neighborhood is set afloat. (Boswell, 1924, p. ?)

Many historical sources state that a good number of the Highlanders came to North Carolina after the 1745 defeat of the Highlanders at Culloden by the English British government troops. It is true that many defeated Scots were banished to the colonies, but very few seem to have showed up in North Carolina, and it seems these reports of Highlanders leaving directly due to the defeat at Culloden is exaggerated.

It appears that the main cause of most of the emigration from Scotland during this period was due to the rapidly deteriorating economy and standard of living in the Highlands and the lure of economic relief and the promise of a golden future in America as communicated through letters from America to Scotland. Letters written from North Carolina to friends and relatives in the Highlands spurred an almost continuous flow of newcomers until the movement stopped by the Revolutionary War (Lefler & Powell, 1973).

An examination of ships’ records shows that most Highlanders reported leaving Scotland because of high rents on their land and “oppression” or “high rents & Better Encouragement” (Graham, 1956).

The writer’s family was part of this mass exodus of the 1770’s. The Bethunes came from Skye to Kintyre in the mid-1600s and then emigrated from the port of Greenock on August 26, 1774. They arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina on the ship Ulysses on October 17, 1774 and settled in the Cape Fear area known as the Argyll Colony (Bethune Family records).

The Highlanders did not mix easily with the other groups in the area such as the English, Irish, Scotch-Irish, Germans, or the smaller groups of Huguenots, Welsh, and Swiss. As explained in Ian Charles Cargill Graham’s Colonists from Scotland: emigration to North America, 1707-1783:

They [the Highlanders] were then as much a race apart as the Germans, less amenable to assimilation than the Lowland Scots, and far less so than the Scotch-Irish with their hostile attitude to the British government. Like the Germans, they spoke a strange tongue, but unlike them, they respected the authority of the Crown…They were clearly distinguished from other colonial peoples by their dress and demeanor. (p. ?)

Though the Highlanders spoke Gaelic, they did begin to use English more and more in order to conduct business with the majority English population and the Lowlanders and Scotch-Irish. But, in the Highland households that had slaves, the enslaved Africans even spoke Gaelic. The following excerpt tells the story of a Highland lady in Colonial North Carolina:

As she disembarked at the wharf, she was delighted to hear two men conversing in Gaelic. Assuming by their speech that they must inevitably be fellow Highlanders, she came nearer, only to discover that their skin was black. (Name, year, p. ?)

Gaelic and German were rapidly giving way to English by 1825 (Gehrke, 1847). However, there are several documented reports of Gaelic still spoken in areas around the Cape Fear as late as 1886. The writer’s great-great grandparents spoke Gaelic until that time (Bethune Family History).

After the Revolution, interaction among these peoples was still not frequent. There existed a division between the eastern and western counties. They did not grow the same crops or market their produce at the same towns. The East was settled chiefly by the English, while in the West there was a large proportion of Scotch and German settlers who still retained many of their native customs. For many years after the War, poor roads and the lack of good transportation kept the two regions apart. It would be a long time before these different people would come to know one another.

Because the Highlanders were adventurous, didn’t mix well with the other populations, preferred to speak Gaelic, and were seen as supporters of the now-defeated Crown of EnglandBritain[It was after 1707!], many sought to “escape” unfriendly territory and struck out to tame the western frontier. Many became famous pioneers in Kentucky, Tennessee, and as far west as Texas. However, at the same time, Highlanders who had settled in the northern states started migrating south to North Carolina because it was seen as a land with better farming and a close-knit Highland community. Ergo, the Scottish population continued to grow in Carolina, despite the exodus of the Highland western pioneers.

Most of the Scottish (Highland and Lowland) settlers who came prior to 1854 came from the region of Glasgow, Lanark, Renfrew, and Ayr (21.7%) or Argyll (13.9%). Others came from Edinburgh and Lothians (10.6%), Inverness (9.3%), Southwest (8.9%), and Perth (8.7%) (Gormley, 2000). Many, if not most of the Highlanders in Cape Fear were from Argyllshire, which was overwhelmingly Presbyterian by 1750 (4,000 Catholics and 62,000 Presbyterians). Further, there is no evidence of any churches other than Presbyterian in this area and time (Myer, 1957). The importance of this religious distinction will be explained later in the paper where the music of the Cape Fear region will be discussed.

Myra Vanderpool Gormley (2000) explains that Scots were generally well educated and the newly immigrated Scots worked to bring even more Scots to the new land.:

It was said in 1773 that the Virginians imported all their tutors and schoolmasters from Scotland. Education was widespread in Scotland and you will find most of your Scot ancestors were literate. As early as the 17th Century the immigrants were writing letters home telling of their success and prosperity and describing the beauty and richness of their settlements. Many successful settlers sent funds back to the old country to enable family members to follow — wife or sweetheart, brothers and sisters, and sometimes ultimately the parents as well. The Scots tended to immigrate as families rather than individuals.

Scottish immigration had a fair chance of finding fellow Scots when they arrived and frequently obtained assistance from some of the Scottish societies that had been formed here to assist newcomers. Knowledge that such societies existed may well have helped to focus the minds of emigrants on certain areas. The Scots Charitable Society of Boston, founded in 1657, was the forerunner of associations whose purpose was partly charitable. These associations helped to smooth the path of emigrants from Scotland. Others were located at Philadelphia, New York and Savannah, Ga. The first St. Andrew’s Society is believed to have been founded in New York in 1763.(Name, year, p. ?)”

The steady flow of Highlanders into North Carolina (and into the new United States) ended with the onset of the Revolutionary War. Almost all Highlanders in North Carolina were Loyalists, supporting the Crown of EnglandBritain. During and after the War, most Highlanders emigrating from Scotland went to Canada, which was still part of the British Empire. After the War, the Whigs in North Carolina (anti-British) confiscated estates of Loyalists and many Scottish Highlanders migrated from North Carolina to Canada, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas (even though, as tensions lessened over the next generation, many Scots in Canada did make their way to the United States). Still, North Carolina maintained the greatest number of Highlanders and Scots of all the states and Canada.

Scotunes: Into the Crucible

Scotunes Migrate to the Crucible

What Scotunes survived the journey from Scotland to Colonial North Carolina and were established and took root in the new land? We must remember that a primary objective of further study is to eventually arrive at identifying those musical elements that are recognized by the modern listener as being “Scottish.” Ergo, it is less important that we absolutely prove that the elements existed in Scotunes in Scotland, since elements may sound Scottish or be recognized as and pronounced “Scottish,” yet have originated in Ireland, England, Scandinavia, or even Phoenicia. Nonetheless, by determining what Scotunes came from Scotland—at least were established enough in Scotland to be considered Scottish by the Scots of the 18th Century—and survived the journey to Colonial North Carolina to take root there, we may be able to track the elements of the Scotunes that evolved into Early American music and eventually up to contemporary popular music.

Before we begin to establish the rules for the Scotunes of Colonial North Carolina, we will follow the path of direct transmission of these Scotunes from the people of Scotland to the new colonists in North Carolina.

Having firmly established that Highland, Lowland, and Ulster Scots migrated from 18th Century Scotland to Colonial North Carolina, and that they became established as one of the largest, if not the largest, populations of Colonial North Carolina, we next turn our attention to establishing whether or not they carried with them the popular Scotunes of Scotland and whether these tunes took root in their new “ground.”

As we have established, just as all of Colonial America quickly became a mixed garden of European cultures, along with African and Native American cultures, this Cape Fear Valley area became a virtual crucible for the mixing and transformation of cultures and, therefore, the music of these cultures. As we have seen, some cultures mixed more than others, some resisted assimilation, and some dominated. Perhaps their musics followed similar paths and dynamics.

Scotunes Widely Known in 18th Century Scotland

What were the Scotunes that were likely in the popular music of the areas of Scotland from which came the immigrant Scots of Cape Fear? Was the music of each area, including the Highland and island areas from which many Cape Fear folks emigrated, isolated and common only to those folks or did music travel the from one area to another? In other words, if a Gael came to Cape Fear, would he have had Lowland and Irish tunes in his repertoire? Did Highlanders sing Lowlander songs, and vice versa? Irish songs? Not to mention German songs, Spanish songs, Arabic songs.

While the writer will not delve into the fascinating genealogy of tunes that were in existence in 18th Century Scotland, he has no doubt that some or many of those elements we consider so characteristic of those Scotunes in fact originated in some other culture and were adopted over the centuries by the Scottish tunesmiths. Just as the Scottish nation itself is made up of several intermingled peoples such as Scots, Picts, Irish, Norwegians, French, Flemish, Italians, and so on (Bond 1993), so too the music is formed and reformed by the influences of the music from these peoples. Further, Scotland, though perhaps more isolated inland and in the Highlands than around the ports, was always involved in trade with far off distant lands as well as her neighbors of England, Wales, and Ireland. Even in Prehistoric and Biblical times, such international commerce has been noted.

One can find a plethora of references to the travels among the peoples of Scotland and the British Isles and beyond. Even though literature often paints pictures of isolated clans and peoples of Scotland, the truth is that, while perhaps not nomadic, there is ample evidence of trade and discourse as well as relocation all over what is now called Scotland. In the period we are exploring, Scots carried tunes from place to place within Scotland and between Scotland and Ireland, England and Wales. Certainly, there must have been Scotunes that were local and did not travel and were perhaps not even popular, but there is evidence that the tunes did travel. From the “Songs of Craig and Ben by Arthur Geddes (1951), one finds the following representative example of such movement around the country:

This great tradition of song revolution [Larry’s note: “is seen”??? sloppy handwriting lost this word; find it upon return to Anderson Library] the poetry and music of Europe from the publication, a few years after 1745, of James MacPherson’s free prose renderings of the lays of Ossian, the legendary Homer of the Gael. As a lad, MacPherson had heard these traditionally sung in his native Strath Spey where his Chief was hiding among his clan folk with a price upon his head…Later, he listened to these in the Hebrides, where you may still hear them magnificently chanted by unwritten tradition. (p. ?)

The Lowlanders also borrowed many tunes from the Highlanders, as is evidenced in this passage from Brown (1877):

The Highlanders borrowed none of their melodies from the Lowlanders, but the Lowlanders borrowed so many from the Highlanders that perhaps as many as one half of the Scottish tunes now current in the world had their origins among the Gael. (p.iv)

Examination of ships’ logs (Tepper 1979) shows that many of the Highlanders who migrated from Argyll Scotland to the Cape Fear area of North Carolina came from Kintyre, just north of Kintyre, and the islands in close proximity of Kintyre (Jura et al.). The peninsula of Kintyre is just across from County Antrim in Ireland. This seaway has been in heavy use between Kintyre and Antrim since prehistoric times (Henderson 1979). The writer feels one can assume that the tunes must have traveled this seaway as well.

While we are mainly exploring a music that the “folk” performed, as compared to professional tunesmiths, singers and musicians, there were trained or highly skilled poets and tunesmiths who came to Carolina from Scotland, as well. To be sure, most songs were passed from common folk to common folk—weavers, farmers, and so on—but there were extant in the Carolina Scottish population well-respected and well-known quasi-professional poets, singers, and musicians. One such songwriter is John MacRae (1719-1782), who was a bard of considerable merit and great popularity before he emigrated from Kintail (Argyll) to North Carolina in 1774. MacRae wrote several songs while in America (MacDonell 1982).

In Songs of the Charter Colonists (Hudson 1962), Arthur Palmer Hudson sets out to ascertain what songs the Carolina Colonists may have sung. He finds some evidence in the printed records of the times and in collections of folksongs extant. His research concludes:

The existence of a song in Scotland or England during 1663-1763 may be taken as establishing the possibility that some of the colonists could have known and sung it. The fact that a song originating in the century or earlier is still sung in the Carolinas may suggest that it was known to people who brought it to America and handed it down to their posterity.(p. vii)

Ergo, as the Scottish population of Colonial North Carolina included thousands of Highlanders and Lowlanders as well as Scots-Irish, the writer’s assumption is that many tunes present in Carolina would have included both the widely popular tunes of 18th Century Scotland and the locally popular tunes of each area. Further, it seems reasonable to assume that, to a lesser or greater, each influenced the other. As the writer shall document later in this work, there is evidence of complete tunes and variants of tunes directly linked to the same tunes in18th Century Scotland that were to be found in the same period in Carolina.

Which Scotunes Journeyed to the Crucible?

In order to begin to develop a catalog of tunes from Scotland that could be found in Colonial Carolina, one may use four excellent sources: Bertrand Harris Bronson’s The Ballad as Song (1969), Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads(2001), and Arthur Palmer Hudson’s The Songs of the Charter Colonists 1663-1763 (1962), Newman Ivey White’s (Ed.) The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore Volumes II, IV, and V (1952, 1957,1962), and Arthur Palmer Hudson’s The Songs of the Charter Colonists 1663-1763 (1962).

Childs collection contains 305 distinct ballads and about 50 tunes. Hudson discerns that, of the 305 ballads, 125 were definitely in America. North Carolina, Maine, and Virginia each had over 50 of the collection in oral tradition, and Child’s collection, all 55 from North Carolina existed before 1663. Frank C. Brown’s various collections have more than 300 British songs and more than 800 songs; some from British background but most newly composed in America with some or many (yet to be determined) based on Scottish or English songs and tunes.

From these songs, the writer chose XXXX to be included in this study, all of which either are proven to have existed in Scotland during this period or before or can be reasonably assumed to have existed and emigrated to Colonial North Carolina. In both cases, fact or assumption will be so noted.

Songs of the Carolina Charter Colonists

The following is a draft list of tunes that may be used to develop the catalog of tunes existing in Colonial North carolina. It may be used for choosing tunes to analyze for further devloping the “rules” for composing Scotunes. Most of this information was derived from the Songs of the Carolina Charter Colonists 1663-1763. Hudson (1962).

BCNCF: The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore,

BMCB: Bertrand E. Bronson. The Music of the Child Ballads

BABS: Peter Buchan. Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland Hitherto Unpublished.

CESPB: Francis James Child. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. 5 vols. Boston, 1882-1898.

HJRS: James Hogg. The Jacobite Relics of Scotland….Edinburgh, 1821.

HFC: The Arthur Palmer Hudson Folklore Collection

HFM: Arthur Palmer Hudson. Folksongs of Mississippi and Their Background.

JSMM: James Johnson. The Scot’s Musical Museum.

MJSB: G. S. Macquoid. Jacobite Songs and Ballads. London, n.d.

NCF: North Carolina Folklore, journal of the North Carolina Folklore Society, vol. I (1948); II-X (1954-1962).

REG: Allan Ramsay. The Ever Green…. Edinburgh, ca. 1724-1737.

RTTM: Allan Ramsay. The Tea-Table Miscellany … nineteenth edition. Dublin, 1794.

SEFSA: Cecil J. Sharp. English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians,.

These collections are pertinent to our purpose in:

1) that they indicate what songs were current in oral tradition in England and Scotland during our century;
2) that they show what songs were available in written or printed form to people who cared to learn them in that way; and
3) that they serve as a means of checking the provenance and chronology of songs in oral tradition in North Carolina during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first fifty or sixty years of the twentieth.

Several of the collections—notably, those of Percy and Ramsay—were popular in the eighteenth century. The core of Percy’s Reliques was the Percy Folio Manuscript, dating ca. 1650, and the forty-five ballads he took from this were much earlier than 1650. Ramsay’s The Tea-Table Miscellany and The Ever Green were published about midway in the century we are surveying. They were widely known and used in Scotland and England; The Tea-Table Miscellany went through at least nineteen editions. It is an interesting coincidence that the nineteenth edition, published at Dublin in 1794, a copy of which is in the University [x] of North Carolina Library, appeared in the same year in which Old East Building, on the campus of the first state university, was completed. How the Library obtained this copy is not known, but it may well have been brought to North Carolina by an English or a Scottish emigrant, just as the earlier editions were probably brought over by the first settlers. We can be certain that Colonists who brought any books of a popular nature had one or both of Ramsay’s songbooks in their luggage, and that if so those brought over were used much more frequently than we in the days of paper backs use particular books today. True, the music was not included in these two. But the tunes to songs, often referred to after the titles, were known to everybody.

Chapter I

Old English And Scottish Ballads

The standard, definitive, almost exhaustively-complete collection of the old English and Scottish traditional songs telling stories is that by Francis J. Child. It contains 305 distinct ballads in about 1100 versions and variants, with about 50 tunes. Of the 305 ballads, about 125 have, at one time or another, been in oral circulation in the United States. North Carolina shares with Maine and Virginia preëminence in the number of Child ballads reported from tradition—over 50 in each state, many, of course, in common among the three. Evidence indicates that all of the 55 ballads reported from North Carolina existed before 1663, some of them from two to three centuries earlier. The indications are that they were preserved in North Carolina, as in the other states, by oral transmission largely, rather than by writing or print.

THE BABES IN THE WOOD: See the treatment of it under IV. Nursery …

BABYLON; OR, THE BONNY BANKS O FORDY: CESPB 14 (from Scotland, latter part of 18th c., but much older); BMCB.I.248-252 (music); BCNCF.II.44-46.

BONNY BARBARA ALLAN: CESPB 84 “…especially her little Scotch song of `Barbary Allen’”; BCNCF.II.111-131 (31 versions and variants) , IV.57-69 (music)

THE BONNY EARL OF MURRAY: CESPB 181 (referring to troubles at the Scottish court in December 1591); RTTM, 1750 ed.; BCNCF.II.160-161, IV.83 (music).

THE BROWN GIRL: CESPB 295 (1788, related to older ballad);


[5] CAPTAIN WEDDERBURN’S COURTSHIP: CESPB 45 (a very old story, first appearing in recorded ballads of the 18th c.); BMCB I.362-375 (music); BCNCF II.48-49, IV.25-27 (music).



[6] THE CRUEL BROTHER: (earliest text 1776, but ballad much older); BCNCF II.35-38.


THE DEATH OF QUEEN JANE: Not in BCNCF, but recorded in NC


EDWARD: BCNCF II.41-44, IV. 23-24 (music).

THE ELFIN KNIGHT: BCNCF II.12-15, IV.3-4 (music); Usually known as “The Cambric Shirt.”


[8] THE FALSE KNIGHT UPON THE ROAD: not in BCNCF but well known in N. C

GEORDIE: BCNF II.168-169, IV.91-95 (music).

GET UP AND BAR THE DOOR: BCNCF II.183-185, IV.112 (music).

THE GREY COCK: Not in BCNCF, was recorded in Hot Springs, N. C

THE GYPSY LADDIE: BCNCF II. 161-169, IV.84-91 (music);



KING HENRY FIFTH’S CONQUEST OF FRANCE: not in BCNCF, but in Folksongs from the Southern Highlands.


LADY ALICE: BCNCF II.131-140, IV.69-74 (music).


LAMKIN: BCNCF II.140-143, IV.74-76 (music).

THE LASS OF ROCH ROYAL: BCNCF II.88-92, IV.47-48 (music).


[13] LORD LOVEL: BCNCF II.84-88, IV.43-47 (music.

LORD RANDAL: BCNCF II.39-41, IV.19-24 (music).


THE MERMAID: BCNCF II.195-198, IV.124-125 (music)..

OUR GOODMAN: BCNCF II.181-183, IV.103-111 (music).


RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED: Known in North Carolina as “The Devil’s Nine Questions.”



SIR HUGH; OR, THE JEW’S DAUGHTER: BCNCF II.155-160, IV 82-83 (music.

[17] SIR LIONEL (OLD BANGUM): “Old Bangum,” as it is known in North Carolina.

SIR PATRICK SPENS: BCNCF II.63-65, IV.29 (music).

THE SUFFOLK MIRACLE: BCNCF II.180-181, IV. 102-103 (music).


SWEET WILLIAM’S GHOST; BCNCF. II.92-94, IV.48 (music).

THOMAS RYMER: BCNCF II.46-47 (no music).


TROOPER AND MAID: BCNCF II.198-199, IV. 124-125.

THE TWA SISTERS: II.32-41, IV.13-18.



THE WEE WEE MAN: BCNCF II.47-48 (no music).


THE WIFE WRAPT IN WETHER’S SKIN: BCNCF II.185-188, IV.113-116 (music).

WILLIAM HALL: BCNCF IV.348-350 (te. and tu.).

YOUNG BEICHAN: BCNCF II.50-61, IV.27-30 (music).



Chapter II

Jacobite And Whig Songs

CHARLIE IS MY DARLING: HJRS 92-93. So popular in the South that it has gone over into a play-party or dance song. [music on page 30 of SCCC]


FLORA’S LAMENT: MJSB, pp. 266-267.

[36] IT WAS A’ FOR OUR RIGHTFU’ KING: HJSR 26. [music on page 36 SCCC]

[37] KILLIECRANKIE: HJSB 40-41 (one version pub. in JSMM). not in BCNCF, but it has been in oral tradition in North Carolina by emigrants from the Highland Scots. [music page 37 SCCC]

[38] LASSIE, LIE NEAR ME: HJRS 211-212. [music page 38 SCCC]

LOGIE O’ BUCHANS JSMM (1781-1803, from oral tradition in Mississippi, which drew a considerable percentage of its population from North Carolina.

O’ER THE SEAS AND FAR AWA: HJSB 51. [music page 40 SCCC]

Chapter III

Love Songs

THE BANKS OF CLAUDIE (CLOUDY): Not in BCNCF but well known in the South,

CAROLINE OF EDINBURGH TOWN: BCNCF II.358-359; Widely known in this country.


DUNT, DUNT, PITTIE PATTIE (Tune, “Yellow-hair’d Laddie”): RTTM 382:



[47] OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY (Tune, “Over the Hills and Far Away”): RTTM 372.

PRETTY FAIR MAID: BCNCF II.304-305, IV.169-178 (music).

SALLY IN OUR ALLEY: RTTM 204-205; by Henry Carey (1696-1743),



THE TRUE LOVER’S FAREWELL: Not in BCNCF but it is well known in the South. For a beautiful handling of the traditional form, play “Fare Thee Well” in Joan Baez’s Vanguard Album VRS-9078.

VILLIKINS AND DINAH: BCNCF II.482-484, IV.203-204 (music).


WALY, WALY, GIN LOVE BE BONNY: RTTM 153-154. traditionally sung in North Carolina … a man in that county sing “Waly, Waly,” with the remark that he had learned it from his mammy.

[52] THE WEXFORD GIRL (THE OXFORD GIRL, etc.): BCNCF II. 240-246, IV.139-l44 (music).

Chapter IV

Nursery Dance And Game, Comic and Humorous Songs

[54] AMERICA: See pp. 27 and 46 (note on the hymn “America”), supra.

THE BABES IN THE WOOD: Derived from a ballad, “The Norfolk Gentleman, His Will and Testament,” etc., “The Babes in the Wood” was praised by Joseph Addison (Spectator No. 85, 1712) as “that darling song of the English common people.” BCNCF II.388.

BOBBY SHAFTO: Northumberland song known in North Carolina and most other states.

COCK ROBIN: BCNCF IV.330-331 (te. and tu)..

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN: RTTM 260; an old drinking song.

DROP THE HANDKERCHIEF: BCNCF I. 81-82. Some pleasant folk verse—“A Tisket, a Tasket,” etc.

[56] EARLY ONE MORNING: “A traditional English song, probably seventeenth century” (

FROGGIE WENT A-COURTIN’ (THE FROG’S COURTSHIP): BCNCF III.154-166, V. 85-96 First mentioned in The Complaynt of Scotland, 1548, under the name “The Frog came to the myl door.”


GREEN GROW THE RASHES O: Words by Robert Burns to an old Scotch air.

HOG DROVERS: See note on history and forms of it in B. A. Botkin, The American Play-Party (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1937), pp. 205-206.


THE JOLLY MILLER (THE MILLER BOY): BCNCF III. 108-109, V. 54-55 (music).

KILLIECRANKIE: known in the Middle West, Kentucky, and Tennessee, as “Kila Ma Cranky,”


“LET’S GO A-HUNTING,” SAYS RICHARD TO ROBERT (THE HUNTING OF THE WREN). (An old nursery song long known in England and Scotland): BCNCF II. 215-216.



OLD, BLIND, DRUNK JOHN: Not recovered from North Carolina oral tradition, but known in Mississippi. One Scottish version cited says, “Four and twenty Hilandmen chasing a snail,” etc.

OLD GRUMBLE IS DEAD: [probably English] one American version is Old Cromwell.’” BCNCF I. 46-48.


SHULE ARON: BCNCF II. 362-365 (an old Jacobite song trimmed down to suit the nursery). Gaelic version in Journal of American Folklore XXII. 387-388. North Carolina version scrappy.

SKYE BOAT SONG: A Book of Scotland (London and Glasgow: Collins, 1959), p. 137. The boat song for the children of the nobility is an ancient type of folksong, especially in countries like Scotland in which the clan is the social unit.


WEEVILY WHEAT: BCNCF V. 521. Described by Botkin (The American Play-Party Song, 345) as “A Virginia reel related to the Scotch Weaving Game…. Based on a Jacobite song of Bonnie Prince Charles Stuart, the Pretender.” Compare “Come Boat Me O’er” and “Over the Water to Charlie.”

Chapter V

Religious Songs

[62] The religious songs that the Charter Colonists “sung, or would, or could, or should have sung” are represented in oral tradition today 1) by some texts and tunes of carols and hymns which had their origin in the Middle Ages, 2) by hymns connected with the Reformation, and 3) by hymns growing out of the Methodist and other religious movements of the first half of the eighteenth century. The history of the first three is pretty well indicated by various folksong collections made in America and Britain.

There was, however, a development in church and revival singing (camp meetings, etc.) which was not generally known until George Pullen Jackson, of Vanderbilt University, began publication of his researches with White and Negro Spirituals in the Southern Uplands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1933). This work he continued in several other substantial volumes with texts and music and extensive historical and critical notes. One significant fact demonstrated by Professor Jackson was that the hymn writers of the first half of the nineteenth century, unwilling for “the devil to have all the pretty tunes,” turned to folk tunes— the old ballad and dance tunes, such as “Barbara Allan”— for their hymns. Thus it is that many of the hymns sung in North Carolina churches today go back, sometimes in patterns and poetry, but often in music, to songs known to the Carolina Charter Colonists, 1663-1763. A few instances will be noted.

Two old hymns in shaped notes from The Sacred Harp, first published in Hamilton, Harris County, Georgia, in 1844, and many times revised and reprinted. The photographed page (36) is from Original Sacred Harp (Denson Revision), etc. (Haleyville, Alabama: Sacred Harp Publishing Company, Inc., c. 1936), which the author of the present booklet purchased from participants in a special Sacred Harp [64] convention organized by Dr. George Pullen Jackson which met and sang at the Brown County State Park near Bloomington, Indiana, in the summer of 1950, in honor of the International Conference on Folklore held at Indiana University.

Both hymns, it will be noted, are by the famous hymn writer Isaac Watts, and are dated 1719 and 1707, respectively.

It is possible, even probable, that the music to “America” [page 63 of SCCC] is that of the dance mentioned by James Boswell to which inhabitants of the Isle of Skye, in the Western Island (Scotland), were dancing while they were working up spirit to emigrate to America (North Carolina in particular). (See p. 26, supra). Professor Jackson, in the works cited, has shown that many hymns got their tunes from old dances or ballads, and vice versa. It would seem probable that a tune called “America” would have been so called from some special occasion or event, and no such event connected with America was more important in Scotland between 1732 and 1763 than emigration to America. The tune, then, may well have got its title from the dance.

THE DILLY SONG BCNCF II. 199-205, IV. 126-128 (music). Sometimes called “The Ten Commandments,”


THE LITTLE FAMILY: BCNCF III. 648-652, V. 378-379 (music).


[65] THE TWELVE BLESSINGS OF MARY: BCNCF II. 206-208, IV. 128-129 (music).



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