The Rothiemurchus Rant

The tune that you hear in this video is a strathspey called the Rothiemurchus Rant, taken from Angus Cumming’s book, A Collection of Strathspeys or Old Highland Reels. In 2019 I carried out a project for my fourth-year final recital, researching music related to the concept of “home”. This research included music from Lochaber and the Western Isles, tracing back my family ties to Islay, as well as music from my native Strathspey.

One of Strathspey’s most prolific composer was Angus Cummings from Grantown on Spey, who published his collection of music in 1780 and was regarded as one of the best strathspey players around during his time. Back then Strathspeys were referred to as Strathspey Reels, and it is thought that they originated from the area after which they’re named. Another notable family was the Brown of Kincardine, who were thought to be the originators of the “strathspey style”, and it’s from them that Angus Cummings learnt his style. This style of playing and composing was later carried on by another well know composer by the name of William Marshal.

“Laird of Grant’s Piper, William Cumming” – Richard Waitt – Oil On Canvas – 213 x 154 cm – 1714 – (National Museum of Scotland (Scotland))

Although claimed as a Scottish tune, the Rothiemurchus Rant, commonly known as the Grants of Spey, appears frequently in the Cape Breton tradition both as a reel and a strathspey, and was most likely taken over during the time of the clearances. Another variation of the tune is very commonly heard in Ireland where it’s played as a reel under the name of the Graf Spee, lost in translation from the Grants of Spey.

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