Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Rock And The Wee Pickle Tow

Scottish Country Dance Instruction


1- 8 1s cross RH, cast 1 place, ½ turn LH and lead (LH) up to top, staying in middle facing down
9-16 1s+2s circle 4H round and back
17-24 1s lead down the middle and back
25-32 1s+2s dance Poussette. 2 1

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

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

The Rock And The Wee Pickle Tow - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

The title of this dance, The Rock And The Wee Pickle Tow, comes from Rock And Wee Pickle Tow - Song written by Alexander Ross (1699-1784) which Robert Burns (editor and contributor) included in the Volume Five of "The Scots Musical Museum" (song 439), a collection of Scottish songs.

The melody is believed be very old, having been first published by John Playford in his "Musick's Hand-Maid" as A Scottish March (1663), then later in his "Musick's Recreation" (1669) as "Montrose's March". It appears as A Rock and a wi Pickle Tow in Mitchell's "Highland Fair" (1731) and as Rock and a wi Pickle Tow in publisher James Oswald's "Curious Collection of Scots Tunes" The melody was also used in other tunes (e.g. Pretender's March, and Carawith Jig).

The song describes a woman drop spinning, her frustrating problems with it and the inevitable loss of her temper.

Rock is a distaff or spindle for spinning.
Pickle refers to a small quantity of something, a little.
Tow is a small tuft, lock or bundle of fibre such as wool or flax, prepared for spinning by scutching.

The first verse of Ross' song is:

There was an auld wife had a wee pickle tow,
And she wad gae try the spinnin' o't;
She louted her doun, and her rock took a-low,
And that was a bad beginnin' o't.
She sat and she grat, and she flat and she flang,
And she threw and she blew, and she Wriggled and wrang,
And she chokit and boakit, and cried like to mang,
Alas, for the dreary beginnin' o't!

The Rock And The Wee Pickle Tow Song - Information Video

Rock and The Wee Pickle Tow

Image copyright Holbein [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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