c. 1741 – David Young (Y3)

NLS ms 2085. A Collection of Scotch Airs with the latest Variations. Written for the use of Walter Mcfarlan of that ilk by David Young W[riting] M[aster] in Edinburgh. Deposited by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Several manuscripts survive in beautiful calligraphy by the fiddler and ‘Writing Master’ David Young. Two in the National Library of Scotland (Y2 and Y3) were prepared for the chief of Clan MacFarlane, an industrious antiquarian; these are widely referred to as the ‘MacFarlane Manuscript’. There were originally three volumes containing about 800 tunes, but volume 1 was last seen in 1806. Volume 2 (dated 1740) contains 250 tunes and is available in an online edition by Ronald MacDonald (2013). Volume 3 (undated) was produced immediately after volume 2; it contains 297 tunes, three of which relate to settings of pibroch by pipers. High resolution images of these are published below with support from the Louis Sterne Trust and the kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

It is a mistake to call Young’s settings ‘pibrochs’ – this implies that they come from Highland piping tradition when in fact they belong to a parallel Highland fiddle tradition. Chasing the question of whether these particular ‘Airs with the latest Variations’ flow from a bagpipe, fiddle, harp or song source is futile – Scotland’s musicians intermingled and their patrons regularly employed artists from abroad. Influences surely flowed in multiple directions, stimulated by international interactions in every generation. Rather than transcribing what a piper played, Young is presenting music for fellow fiddlers, taking something old and without hesitation making it new. His title page suggests that his settings reflect the latest fashion in Edinburgh – a cosmopolitan tradition – more strongly than anything archaic. In this he differs from Joseph MacDonald who like an ethnomusicologist set out to document a ‘native’ tradition verbatim.

Other music manuscripts by Young are in Crieff (private collection of the Earl of Ancaster, Drummond Castle; photocopy in NLS, Acc.7722), in Oxford (Bodleian Library, MS.Don.d.54, transcribed into ABC notation by Jack Campin in 1998) and in Berkeley (University of California, Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library, MS 957). Only Y3 contains music concordant with notations of pibroch. 

Barnaby Brown, 2016

PDF of 3 variation sets relating to pibroch (36 MB)
For PDFs of individual pieces at lower resolution, see below.
Permanent link: https://pibroch.net/y3
Online since: 2016-05-12
All uses of these images should acknowledge The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
in the caption. For commercial uses, contact The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Made available
with support from
the Louis Sterne Trust

This source contains material relating to 3 pibrochs:

Y3.176: 138  PS 295  Sherriffmuir / Index: Sherriff Muir
Y3.270: 250  PS 145  Failte mhic-Gilleoin / Index: Failte mhic Gilleoin
Y3.284: 262  PS 200  Cumh’ Mhic-o-Arrisaig O Hara’s Lament / Index: Cumh’ Mhic O Arrisaig

[source abbreviation].[tune number]: [page number]


McGregor, Aaron (2009) The McFarlane Manuscript: European influences on 18th century Scots fiddle music. BMus thesis, University of Edinburgh.

—— (2020) Violinists and violin music in Scotland, 1550-1750. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 254-66, 461-7.

—— (2021) MacFarlane Manuscript 3. HMS.scot, https://hms.scot/manuscripts/sources/24/ [accessed 24 March 2022].


2022-03-24 Bibliography added by BB

2016-05-12 First published by BB