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> Issue 53 > Page 9 - Our Uncle, Dan R. MacDonald From Talks with John Donald and John Allan Cameron

Page 9 - Our Uncle, Dan R. MacDonald From Talks with John Donald and John Allan Cameron

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1990/1/1 (336 reads)

seemed to move with ease from home to home. He was at ease with that. It wasn't like, "I have to get home tonight.") No. It seemed to be that way. Up until he went overseas. In the Second World War, he was in Germany. He was in a forestry batta? lion, cutting lumber. Even in Germany he was composing tunes. He composed one called "The Walker Road Jig" for some place back here. And he composed a tune called "The Rae Reel." He called it "The Reichswall Forest," for where he was cutting lumber in Germany for the Canadian troops! And he sent it on to Scotland, to J. Murdock Henderson, who was a professor of music. And (Henderson) thought it was a terrific tune. But he said, "You shouldn't be composing tunes for the enemy, though!" So he renamed it "The Rae Reel," after Thomas .Sinclair Rae, who was president of the Edinborough Strathspey and Reel Socie? ty. But Dan R. continued to call it "The Reichswall Forest." done by Don Messer, two Ontario fiddlers, two fiddlers in the States--was commonly known in Cape Breton as "Heather on the Hill," on the Key of G. And the story be? hind that tune--I don't know if you know it. Dan R. was working in the woods in Scotland. And he was always whistling. (Whistles.) And he got an idea. He was cutting down these large trees, and they were building bridges at that time. And a tune formed in his head. And he took a pencil, and he wrote it on this large tree stump. And there was a hill nearby with a lot of heather on it. And he called it "Heather Hill." And it later became "Heather on the Hill." And the next morn? ing he came back with his fiddle, and he played it off the stump. And that tune has become--I mean, everybody has taken it for granted. I mean, it's a great, great tune. John Donald: (The titles, then, aren't just titles. When a tune is named, those names often mean something.) Absolutely. Dan R.--after he came back from overseas--he wrote a tune called "The Dismal Reel," which--Dan R. not having any great education, perhaps "dismal" was a word he liked! I don't know why he called it that, but he did. And he sent it over to Henderson. And Henderson just was amazed with it. He said, "It's a great tune." He wrote back to him and he told him, "Don't call that 'The Dismal Reel.' It's so good," he said. "I can't understand how you can com? pose such good music when you're not educated in music. How can you do it?" So he said, "But re? name that tune." He said, "I'm giving it a new name. I'm calling it 'The Devil's Delight.'" So that's what he did. They called it "The Devil's Delight" because of how lively it was. (We have no real idea why Dan R. called it "The Dismal Reel." then.) No, no. It's just perhaps a word he liked; I don't know.... John Allan: Probably one of the most famous tunes that Dan R. wrote--it was BATTERED WOMEN AND YOUR CHILDREN: If you need help, call 539-2945 TRANSITION HOUSE Of course, a lot of the tunes he named for people that he had met. Sometimes peo? ple '11 exaggerate and say that he used to go to the graveyard and look at head? stones, and name tunes after those--that's just fiction, as far as I'm concerned! People exaggerate stories about Dan R., sometimes, because he was a bit of a char- Emploi;ees Are Educators, Too! At U.C.C.B. CO-OPERATIVE EDUCATION WORKS It works for students And it works for ;ou: As a Co-op employer, you will benefit from: • Reduced Hiring Risks • Reduced Recruitment and Training Costs ?? Higher Employee Retention • Students Available on a Year-Round Basis • Better Utilization of Personnel • You will work with U.C.C.B. to develop a highly trained work force, keeping our Technology Programs relevant to YOUR needs. Information & possible funding: j'y. Co-operative Education Department ''' University College of Cape Breton P.O. Box 5300, Sydney, Nova Scotia B1P 6L7 (902) 539-5300 ext. 129/374 Indusmj &' Education iVorking Together! icude: • "'""t Technology
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