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 - YouTube Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

The Rock and The Wee Pickle Tow is a song by Alexander Ross (1699-1784) which Robert Burns (editor and contributor) included in the second Volume of "The Scots Musical Museum", 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 Scotish 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 spinning o't,
But looten her down, her rock took a low,
And that was an ill beginning o't.
She spat on't she slet on't and tramp't on its pate
but a' she could do it wad hae its ain gate,
At last she sat down on't and bitterly grat,
For e'er having try'd the spinning o't.'
('Grat' means wept)

Rock and The Wee Pickle Tow Image

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

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