December 31, 2000

Jenny Dang the Weaver

One of the greatest little tunes, the reel “Jenny Dang the Weaver,” is a staple in the repertoires of many pipers. It was first printed in the Orpheus Caledonius Collection in 1733. But what on earth does the name mean? Is it about someone named Jenny Dang? Was she a weaver? Was she prone to swearing like some hillbilly?

In truth, the composer of this tune was one Reverend Garden, of Birse, Aberdeenshire. Garden was born in the early 1700s and died at Birse in 1777. Not only was Garden a man of the cloth, but he also played the fiddle very well and composed many tunes.

One evening he was preparing for the service of the following day in his study, which looked into the courtyard of the vicarage, where his wife, Jenny, was peeling potatoes. On a break from writing his sermon, he started to play an air he had recently composed.

Suddenly an altercation arose between Mrs. Garden and the local handyman, who was a weaver from a nearby village, who had come in from plowing the field.

Jenny Garden asked the handyman if he would clean the minister’s shoes. “Na,” said the weaver, “I’ll dae nae sich thing. I cam here to be your ploughman, but na yer flunkey, and I’ll be damned if I wipe the minister’s shoon.”

“Damn confound your impudence,” said the enraged Jenny, as she “danged” him with a heavy kitchen tool, and gave him a sound thrashing, thus changing his mind.

The minister, watching the row, decided to name his new tune, “Jenny Dang the Weaver.” So there you go.


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