Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Tam O' Shanter (Keppie)

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

Tam O' Shanter
Maggie and Duncan Keppie Burns Night In The Annapolis Valley:
32 bar jig
Couple facing couple round the room, Join hands in circles of 4 people (2 couples) for a round-the-room dance, men in the inner circle, women in the outer circle. N.B. walking steps may be used throughout.

  1-8   CIRCLE: all circle and back;

  9-16 TURN AND DO-SI-DO: all turn partner with right hands, and then dance back-to-back with partner;

17-24 WHEELS: all dance right hand across and back with left hands;

25-32 CLAP AND PROGRESS: face opposite couple and clap for 4 bars (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap), then pass opposite person by the right shoulder to end facing next couple.

Repeat with next couple.

(Dance crib compiled by the devisers, Maggie and Duncan Keppie)

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

Tam O' Shanter (Keppie) - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

Also see the dance Tam O' Shanter (Malley) by Ann Malley.
Also see the dance Tam O' Shanter (Priddey) by Barry Priddey.

The title of this dance, Tam O' Shanter, comes from the Tam O' Shanter - Poem written by Robert Burns in 1790, while living in Dumfries, Scotland.

First published in 1791, it is one of Burns' longer poems, and employs a mixture of Scots and English.

The poem describes the habits of Tam, a farmer who often gets drunk with his friends in a public house in the Scottish town of Ayr, and his thoughtless ways, specifically towards his wife, who is waiting at home for him, angry. At the conclusion of one such late-night revel after a market day, Tam rides home on his horse Meg while a storm is brewing. On the way he sees the local haunted church (Alloway Kirk) lit up, with witches and warlocks dancing and the devil playing the bagpipes.

Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillion brent-new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock bunker in the east,
There sat Auld Nick in shape o' beast:
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge;
He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.

Tam is still drunk, still upon his horse, just on the edge of the light, watching, amazed to see the place bedecked with many gruesome things such as gibbet irons and knives that had been used to commit murders and other macabre artifacts. The witches are dancing as the music intensifies, and, upon seeing one particularly wanton witch in a short dress he loses his reason and shouts,'Weel done, cutty-sark!' (cutty-sark - "short shirt"). Immediately, the lights go out, the music and dancing stops and many of the creatures lunge after Tam, with the witches leading. Tam spurs Meg to turn and flee and drives the horse on towards the River Doon as the creatures dare not cross a running stream. The creatures give chase and the witches come so close to catching Tam and Meg that they pull Meg's tail off just as she reaches the Brig O' Doon.

A tam o' shanter is also the name of the most common Scottish bonnet worn by men. The name derives from Tam o' Shanter, the eponymous hero of the 1790 Robert Burns poem.

The tam o' shanter is a flat bonnet, originally made of wool hand-knitted in one piece, stretched on a wooden disc to give the distinctive flat shape, and subsequently felted. The earliest forms of these caps, known as a blue bonnet from their typical colour, were made by bonnet-makers in Scotland.

Tam O' Shanter Poem - Information Video

Tam O' Shanter And The Witches Print
"Tam O' Shanter And The Witches" John Faed (1819-1902), Print, c. 1892

Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Tam O' Shanter (Poem) article on Wikipedia.
Text from this original Tam O' Shanter (Cap) article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright John Faed [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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