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Dance Miss Murray of Ochtertyre 4559

Reel · 16 bars · 3 couples · Longwise - 4   (Progression: 213)

Devised by
John Bowie (1798)
  • Highland, Skip-Change, Slip-Step
Published in
Recommended Music
Extra Info
Miss – and Mrs –

Fascinating though it might be to have a glimpse into the life of the ladies of the 18th and 19th centuries in whose honour scores of dances entitled “Miss –'s Reel or Jig” or “Mrs –'s Fancy or Strathspey” were devised, this is very nearly impossible. Therefore, we must assume that the young ladies were all fair of face, charming of manner, graceful and vivacious in the ballroom and that they all made splendid marriages. As for the married ladies, we must think of them all as beloved wives, doting mothers, excellent hostesses, devoted to their friends and charitable to the poor. We can only believe the best of them and be reconciled to knowing little of the truth that would give them sufficient substance to cast a shadow. We shall never know their faults, their sorrows, their joys or their triumphs.

Life in the 18th and early 19th centuries was not easy. Sickness and death took away many promising children, the management of a house involved more effort than efficiency and the national upheavals of the times often had an adverse effect upon individual lives and whole families. On the brighter side, most of the gentry spent the better part of the year on their estates where their entertainment consisted chiefly of visits to and from friends and neighbors and an evening’s amusement for young and old alike was music and dancing. Travel was tedious and difficult and visits to friends and relations who lived at any great distance meant a house-party of some duration. Such lengthy stays generally occurred at times of family celebrations, hunts or the regional meetings or b alls. Part of the year was often spent in a townhouse, owned or leased, in Edinburgh or Glasgow or Inverness. There wardrobes could be replenished and lessons in the social arts provided for the young people. Dinners and tea parties, concerts and routs, private dances and balls in the assembly rooms were highlights of a season in town.

Life in those days held one benefit that we lack today. Time. There was time to read great books, time to contemplate nature and the beauty of the countryside, time to devote to one’s family, time to enjoy the company of friends. Pleasures were simple by today’s standards, but the music and dancing which contributed so much to the leisure hours of the 18th or 19th century lives were excellent by any standards and to the initiated they provide as great joy today as they did two hundred years ago.

We are not left in total darkness, though, as to the identities of some of the ladies.

Mrs MacLeod (Mrs MacLeod of Raasay)
Miss Isabella MacLeod
Thanks to James Boswell and Robert Burns we know a good deal about these ladies of Raasay. Boswell visited the family of John MacLeod of Raasay in September, 1773. “We were welcomed upon the green, and conducted to the house, where we were introduced to Lady Raasay, to Miss Flora Raasay (as she is called in this part of the world for distinction), the eldest daughter or Princess, and to nine other young ladies, viz. Janet, Katherine, Margaret, Isabella, Jane, Julia, Anne, Mary, and Christian. Raasay also has three sons, James, Malcolm, and John, all boys.” Boswell comments later that “we had a company of thirty at supper and all was good humour and gaiety” and that “they dance every night all the year round”.

Flora MacLeod, the “Princess”, who died in 1780, married James Mure Campbell, 5th Earl of Loudon (1726–1786). The earl shot himself on 28 April, 1786, according to Robert Burns “out of sheer heartbreak at some mortification he suffered owing to the deranged state of his finances”. The Countess of Loudon died in giving birth to a daughter, Flora, who at the age of six, upon the death of her father, became Countess of Loudon. She was brought up by her many aunts and in 1804 she married Francis Rowdon Hastings, Earl of Moira and Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Scotland, who subsequently became first Marquess of Hastings.

Robert Burns was a friend of Isabella MacLeod and of her brother, John MacLeod, an amateur composer whom he met through Gavin Hamilton, Lord Loudon’s factor on his Ayr estate.

The crimson blossom charms the bee,
  The summer sun the swallow;
So dear this tuneful gift to me
  From lovely Isabella.

Her portrait far upon my mind
  Revolving time shall mellow,
And mem’ry’s latest effort find
  The lovely Isabella.

No Bard nor lover’s rapture this
  In fancies vain and shallow!
She is, so come my soul to bliss,
  The Lovely Isabella!

1786 and 1787 were sad years for the MacLeods of Raasay. The Laird of Raasay died in 1786 and the death in that same year of the Earl of Loudon occasioned a poem by Burns, “Raving Winds Around Her Blowing”, which he sent to Isabella. John MacLeod, Isabella’s brother, died a year after his father, in 1787, and Burns wrote another poem, “On Reading in a Newspaper the Death of John M’Leod, Esq.”, which he also sent to Isabella.

Miss Murray of Lintrose
Miss Murray of Ochtertyre
Miss Euphemia Amelia Murray was deservedly known as “The Flower of Strathearn”. Born in 1769 she was the daughter of Mungo Murray of Lintrose and a cousin of Sir William Murray of Ochtertyre in Perthshire. Robert Burns numbered Sir William among his friends and it was while he was visiting Ochtertyre in 1787 that he met Miss Murray of Lintrose. For “this well-known toast”, Burns wrote .“Blythe was She”.

By Oughtertyre grows the aik,
  On Yarrow banks the birken shaw;
But Phemie was a bonier lass
  Than braes o’ Yarrow ever saw.
Blythe, blythe and merry was she,
  Blythe was she butt and ben,
Blythe by the banks of Earn,
  And blythe in Glenturit glen!

Her locks were like a flow’r in May,
  Her smile was like a simmer morn.
She tripped by the banks o’ Earn
  As light’s a bird upon a thorn.

Her bonie face it was as meek
  As onie lamb upon a lea.
The evening sun was ne’er sae sweet
  As was the blink o’ Phemie’s e’e.

The Highland hills I’ve wander’d wide,
  As o’er the Lawlands I hae been,
But Phemie was the blythest lass
  That ever trod the dewy green.

In 1794 Miss Murray married David Smythe of Methven Castle, a 17th century mansion about four miles from Perth, an estate purchased from the Stewart Dukes of Lennox in 1664 by Patrick Smythe of Braco. David Smythe assumed the style of Lord Methven when he was appointed to the College of Justice. Lady Methven died in 1845.

Sir William Murray of Ochtertyre was married to Lady Augusta Mackenzie, the youngest daughter of George, 3rd Earl of Cromarty, the Jacobite leader attainted for his part in the Rising of 1745. (See “The Glasgow Highlanders”) Lady Augusta was described by Burns as “a most engaging woman, very happy in her family”. One of their daughters, Isabella, married James Glassford in 1808 and died in 1809. Another, Augusta, married General Duncan Campbell of Lochnell in 1808 and died in 1846. One of their daughters was an amateur composer, but it is as difficult to say which was the composer as to say which one was “Miss Murray of Ochtertyre”.

It is indeed tragic that we know so little of the ladies to whom the dances were dedicated for what better way to see and understand a bit more of the life of at least a certain level of Scottish society in a time when music, poetry and dance were in full flower.

Miss Murray of Ochtertyre 3/4L · R16
1s+2s circle 4H round for 2 slip steps & 2 cross jumps twice, repeat back to places
1s lead down between 3s, cast up to 2nd place, dance up between 2s & cast to 2nd places

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