An evening with the traditional music of the Clan Fraser

Throughout the Scottish Highlands are dotted the stone keeps of the various adminstrations that existed to regulate trade, codify weights and measures, and collect taxes. These keeps have well made Roman foundations, overlain with renovations from various architectural periods, be they MacGregor, Balliol, Bruce, or Stewart. In that time, the traditional music of the multi cultural country of Scotland could often be heard across the hills and glens, as the various communities (known by a diversity of names as MacDonald, Sinclair, Ross, and Fraser)  was played by peace loving farmers who went about their business, pursing such activities as cattle rearing, fishing, raising wheat, and reiving * .

On market day, sometime in the 1640’s (the written text from which I refer is unclear) a message was delivered to the village leader, an elected representative of the immigrant population which lived behind the stone curtain wall, settled there by some distant power acting on the designs of the nations capital in Edinburgh. It could have been Ottawa, for the policy of settling office workers and ancillary support staff was as common to whoever was holding the keys to that past power in Edenburgh, as it was to the modern progressive state of Canada. The village leader was not of the same heritage as the surrounding agricultural community. He lived in some fine rooms in the keep, he wore fine clothes (he had three cloaks, servants which he called assistant and secretary, and a horse hair bed) and was quite the richest man in town. The original capitalists of the area had long ago had their ill gotten capitalist wealth redistributed; they lived in the hills, and never complained about losing their wealth to the central state. They were learning to embrace diversity, and the village leader was there to guide them along the path of political correctness. He oversaw the collection of taxes, levy of fines, and the enforcement of building codes. His name is unimportant, except to the point that he was not a Scot, neither a lowland Scot, and certainly not a highland Scot.

The messanger seemed agitated. He pushed his way to the throne that the village leader sat upon (a smaller version of the chief tax collectors in the capital city) and spun some tail of smoke on the horizon, screams in the blowing wind, and running horses without riders. The village leader was unconcerned. He waved off the concerns of his fellow immigrant administrator: the natives in the area were still unassimilated into the ways of political correctness, and reacted to collectivist wisdom with surly indifference. There was ever a racist or sexist sentiment on their lips when the wealth redistribution team arrived in villages and hamlets.

The Clan Fraser has risen. the note read. The village leader turned pale. He stood up and waved his hands around, silencing his clerks who were tallying a green fee on cabbages and peas. Gather in the livestock, he said, bring the hay and oats into the walls, then he turned to his human rights chief, a Saxon martial arts teacher, and said, fill the moat with gunpowder.

There was much hustle and bustle as the multi cultural community prepared for the coming music festival. The reputation of the Clan Fraser preceeded itself. Their musicians, a variety of skilled artists with the drum, fife, harp, and bagpipe, had tunes easily recognized.  Other communities had other tunes.  From the distinctive tunes growing louder in the distance, everybody knew it was them, the Fraser. People gathered their belongings and prepared festive gear: they donned coats of mail over leather jerkins, wore party hats of iron, girded bar-b-que tools around their waists (axes, dirks, poignards, hammers, and swords) and prepared festive noise makers (muskets). As this was a music festival with the Clan Fraser, they put two lead balls in each musket.  One ball would not do the job.

The village leader noticed that the people outside the walls were not rushing to bring their festive materials within the walls of the keep. He blinked twice, then he shouted  close the gates. He ran towards them himself, and then stopped dead. There was a sudden increase in the volume of the music selections: the Fraser had been hiding in the village surrounding the keep: they appeared suddenly when the gate started to close. The village leader pushed one of his larger assistants towards the gate, then turned one hundred eighty degrees and ran to the central strong building of the administration complex.

Of course, it was all good fun. Totally in keeping with the cultural norms and moral value system of the times. A good quarter of the village leaders administrative staff made it to the central strong building, where the tax records were kept for safe keeping. The Fraser kept up a merry serenade of their favorite tunes, all the while livening up the event with noise makers and traditional shouts of delight. They piled wood around the central strong building, and set it alight. This was not done very often, and was reserved for special occasions. The village elder peeked out at the festivities through a loop hole, at least until the merry makers began to pile horse hair mattresses, wet straw, and manure on the fires, in celebration of recycling, which was on their mind.

By repetition, the village leader soon was familiar with all the favorite and traditional tunes of the Clan Fraser. The smoke from the fires had driven the village leader to the flat roof of the stronghold, where he could watch the traditional games and events the Fraser shared with others, especially administrators from abroad who oversaw regulation and wealth redistribution.

Our records of this music festival ends at this point. According to tradition, some intrepid buskers of the Clan Fraser climbed to the roof of the stronghold and no more is heard of the village leader again. Perhaps he was pensioned off, have used up his bankable sick days. The keep was redeveloped by the Hanoverian school of architects, but the music of the Scottish people can be heard to this day. You can listen to it as you drive through the night, perhaps with your windows rolled down in the sweet evening air. You can wake up the spirit of those times as you do.

I, Fenris Badwulf, wrote this. I care.

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