Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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I                   THE BLUE BELLS OF SCOTLAND.
Annie McVicar was born in Glasgow, Scotland, February 21,1755. Her father was an officer in the British army, and the fortunes of the service brought him to America when his daughter was two years old. One day the little Annie was found trudging along a mile from home, and when a friend picked her up she said, " I am going to America, to see papa." A year later, the mother and daughter landed at Charleston, and rejoined the soldier father in a fort at Albany. Here Annie grew to girlhood. She had a play-room in which she kept two treasures besides Indian trinkets and relics of Scotland—Milton, and a dictionary. The " Paradise Lost" she knew by heart, and the good and evil angels were her playmates, instead of French dolls. A singularly apropos quotation from Milton so delighted Madam Schuyler, then the Lady of the Land, that she took the little girl under her own roof. When Annie was thirteeen years old, the family returned to Scotland, and spent three years on the banks of the Cart, near Glasgow, when they removed to Fort Augustus. Here Miss McVicar married Rev. James Grant, chaplain of the fort, who was appointed minister at Laggan, in Inverness-shire. Mr. Grant died, leaving his wife with eight children dependent upon her. In this emergency, her old knack at rhyming came into her mind, and she collected her poems and published them successfully by subscription. A few years later she published three volumes entitled " Letters from the Mountains," which passed through several editions. Two years afterward she brought out the " Memoirs of an American Lady," the most interesting of her works. Other volumes of prose and verse followed, and, with a pension granted her by the government, she passed the rest of her days in comfort, sur­rounded by warm friends, in the city of Edinburgh. She reached the age of eighty-four, with faculties almost unimpaired. Professor Andrews Norton, of Cambridge, writes her from this country, " It was delightful to find you in old age, after such severe trials, so supported and strengthened by the power of God—not resigned merely, possessing not the calm benevolence of age alone; but the kindlier feelings in their freshness and flower which, beautiful as chey are in youth, become so much more deeply interesting when we know that care and sorrow had no power to wither them." Mrs. Grant died November 7, 1838. She wrote " 0 where, tell me where" on the occasion of the departure of the Marquis of Huntly for the continent with his regiment, in 1799. Ritson, in his " North Country Chorister," printed in 1802, has this song under the title " The New Highland Lad." He says, " The song has been lately introduced upon the stage. It was originally 'The Bells of Scotland,' but was revised by Mrs. Jordan, who altered the words and sang them to a tune of her own, which superseded the old air." When Charles Mackay and Sir Henry Eowley Bishop were arranging old English airs, this song came under discussion. Mackay says, " The Blue Bells of Scotland is almost invariably spoken of as a Scottish air; but Sir Henry found reason to suspect that it was English, and urged me to write new words to it, to dispossess, if possible, the old song of Mrs. Jordan. He was induced to form this opinion by receiving from Mr. Fitzgerald,' a Sussex tune' to a song commencing: ' Oh, I have been a forester this many a long day.' Three or four bars of the melody were almost identical with the second part of * The Blue Bells of Scotland,' but as the remainder bore no resemblance to that popular favorite, and the whole tune was so beautiful that it was well worth preserving, I so far complied with Sir Henry's wish as to write 'The Magic Harp' to Mr. Fitzgerald's kind contribution to our work. Sir Henry wrote under date of the 22d of October, 1852,' I am strongly of opinion that when Mrs. Jordan composed " The Blue Bells of Scotland" she founded her air upon that rescued from oblivion for us by Mr. Fitzgerald,—or rather that she originally intended to sing it to that tune, but finding some parts of it too high for her voice, which was of a very limited compass, she altered them,and the air became that of the "Blue Bells of Scotland.'""