Today is Burns Night, so what better tune to look at than “Rory Dall’s Port”, as used by Burns for the original setting of his lovely poem “Ae Fond Kiss”.
The only source for this tune I have ever found is two publications by James Oswald. I do not know the exact date of either of these books; they are both from around 1750.
This is the famous “Caledonian Pocket Companion” (book 8, p24):
And here it is with a baroque bass for harpsichord or cello, in “A Collection of 43 Scots tunes with variations”:
This tune is often claimed for either Ruaidhrí Dall Ó Catháin or Rory Dall Morrison. On the other hand, various authors including John Purser and David Johnson have suggested that it looks more like Oswald’s own work.
I have played this tune for a while – I included a complete version with Oswald’s variations on Clàrsach na Bànrighe, and I have played it to accompany Sheena Wellington singing “Ae Fond Kiss”, but have always thought it was not particularly convincing as a piece of ancient harp idiom. My suspicion was strengthened when I read recently about Oswald’s common use of pseudonyms when publishing tunes (a common enough thing in mid 18th century Scottish literary circles I understand). Perhaps we should simply add “Rory Dall” to the list of Oswald’s pseudonyms alongside “Rizzio” and “Dottel Figlio”.