John Miller MS, Perth, 1799
“John Miller his book of music for the fyfe”
VMP CODE “JMP” IN TITLE
The John Miller MS is in the A.K.Bell Library, Perth, Scotland, accession number possibly 34685, which is inscribed on the fly-leaf. We have worked from a good photocopy. We do not at present have a context for how the MS comes to be in Perth, other than the obvious martial nature of it and the fact that Perth is I believe the home of the Black Watch.
Music manuscript book, 7.5″ wide, 3.75″ tall, apparently hard – bound. 4 pre-ruled staves per page.
Inscribed (repeatedly) prominently on the flyleaf and elsewhere “John Miller his book of tunes for the Fyfe” often along with dates from August 1799(most often) to 1801. Also postings in Ireland, “Strabane May 12th 1800”, “Stranorlar”, “Londonderry”. Ireland had been and still was in some considerable turmoil at this period……1798 rising, etc. Some of the tunes herein may still have some resonance today, particularly played by a fife & drum band, as it was intended by Mr.Miller.
There are 117 Musical items surviving, at least two pages are missing, the book is otherwise in good condition.
Also several times in the book the name Alex Duff is written. One of the tunes, Catren Haie(?) JMP.042 is apparently also known nowadays as Sandy Duff’s Reel. This may be a coincidence. Or not.
Also the name Daniel R(?) appears.
Neither of these two latter names seem to imply that they were responsible for pricking out any of the tunes.
The handwriting is consistent through the book.
It would seem then that John Miller wrote the book, that he was a Fife player, rank unknown, probably in the Regimental Band, but I would not at this stage like to form an opinion as to which Regiment, even if Perth was the home of the Black Watch. Somebody with a knowledge of Military History may be able to throw some light on this if they were so inclined.
117 musical items surviving, some barely legible.
26 common time marches (or serving as)
11 6/8 marches (or serving as)
14 English hornpipes, all well known
1 slip jig
25 sacred items, psalms
I would suspect that most of the non-martial and non-sacred tunes would be Lowland rather than Highland in nature. The most remarkable feature to us is the number of tunes marked as being for marches, but this would not be remarkable I suppose for a member of a Regimental fife band.
It has been possible with most of the tunes to make a reasonably sure attempt at editing into playing condition. Where this is done in the tune itself, the changes have been indicated above the printed note/s(eg cr or qu indicates that the note was originally a crotchet or quaver in the MS, etc) or in the “Notes” Blue Box. A rest has infrequently been added at the beginning of a phrase to make repeats add up. Where this does not affect how you would read the tune normally this has not been indicated. If a note length has been changed this is always indicated. With a small number of tunes the notes have faded away beyond recall, leaving only an indication of their nature. Many of the tunes have been given the key of G, but we suspect that this is arbitrary, as other versions are known in other keys. where the key has been changed et. this is always indicated in the transcription.
The transcription has been done by Cherri Graebe and checked by Chris Partington.
This introduction by Chris Partington, village music project, 2002