Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Cauld Kail

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

CAULD KAIL (M-8x(S16+R16)) 3C (4C set) RSCDS Book 9

1- 8 1s+2s RH across and LH across back to place
9-16 1s set, cast 1 place and R&L with 2s (one step to each hand)

17-24 1L dances a Fig of 8 round 2M+3M while 1M dances round 3L+2L, start by giving RSh to 1st corner and ending facing 1st corners
25-32 1s dance 'Hello-Goodbye' setting ending with a clap and petronella turn to 2nd place

(MINICRIB. Dance crib compiled by Charles Upton, Deeside Caledonian Society, and his successors)

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

Cauld Kail - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

Cauld Kail is the title of this dance medley (16 bars strathspey/16 bars reel).

Have you not previously heard of it? Well it is hardly new; in fact Cauld Kail was first published in RSCDS Book Nine around 1934, in the very good company of other far more well-known dances such as Dalkeith's Strathspey, Cadgers In The Canongate, and The New Rigged Ship.

I very much doubt that any of us, or our parents, even those of us who have long been enjoying the world of codgerdom, were giving much thought to SCD at that point in time.

Cauld Kail! Those who derive the utmost pleasure of deciphering the songs and verse of Scotland's Bard will twig on to this name in a heartbeat. Well of course, it's from the Robbie Burns Cauld Kail In Aberdeen - Song.

Cauld kail in Aberdeen,
And custocks in Strathbogie,
But yet I fear they'll cook o'er soon,
And never warm the cogie.

Translation please?

Cauld (cold) is somewhat self-evident. Kail is a veggie from the Brassica family, a.k.a. cabbage. Spell it "kale" and you get the picture. Castocks are the stems of cabbage. Strabogie is the valley (strath) of Aberdeenshire's River Bogie, and coggie is a small wooden vessel for holding anything in semi-liquid form, like stew for example. Put it all together and you have a broth of cabbages and other greens. Sounds delicious, doesn't it!... except for the cold part!

So, what would have encouraged Robbie Burns to write a song about cauld kail in Aberdeen? It was a considerable distance to travel from Ayrshire, especially in those days. It seems that he set out on a tour of the Highlands around 1787 and arrived in the city of Bon Accord in early September. The purpose of his visit was to meet with certain Aberdonians in the academic world, including other poets and like-minded folk.

In his Journal, he described Aberdeen as a lazy town. Tsk! Tsk! He must have been forgiven for those words because in 1892 a statue was commissioned to commemorate his work and presumable past presence in the city. It is located just by the Union Terrace Gardens, perhaps known for the profusion of their "Blooms".

As a final thought, since Robbie travelled far afield to sample the culinary delights of Aberdeenshire, I wonder if kail, cauld or otherwise, was a dish known in or around Alloway, or indeed anywhere in Ayrshire?

The Barry Pipes Canon 053- October, 2012.

(Dance information from set and link, RSCDS Toronto Newsletter - What's In A Name? The Barry Pipes Canon 2005-2018, reproduced here with kind permission. Copyright Barry Pipes. All rights reserved)

Cauld Kail In Aberdeen Song - Information Video

Cauld Kail In Aberdeen printed copy of the song
Cauld Kail In Aberdeen, From Glen Collection Of Printed Music, Illustrations Of The Lyric Poetry And Music Of Scotland, Page 150, 1853

Image copyright (cropped) under this Creative Commons Licence 4.0.

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