Tune of the Day: The Flowers of Edinburgh
The earliest appearance in print of this reel (although it is commonly played as a hornpipe at Irish sessions) is in James Oswald's collection of Curious Collection of Scots Tunes, which appeared in London around 1742 and contained this tune as a song entitled “My Love's bonny when she smiles on me”.
As regards the title, the form “Flower of…” usually referenced a woman, although in the case of “Edinburgh” the plural form was appended at some point and stuck. Scottish fiddler Niel Gow noted, however, that the “flowers” of Edinburgh did not refer to women, but in fact referenced the magistrates of the town. It has also been suggested that the title refers to the stench of the old, overcrowded urban Edinburgh, a city fondly referred to as “Auld Reekie”, with reference to the pall of smoke (røyk in Norwegian) that once hovered over the city. Finally, the “flowers of Edinburgh” has also been taken to refer to the contents of chamber pots which were, in the days before modern sewage systems, once disposed of by being thrown into the city streets... with or without warning!