Brig O' Doon

Bridge Day

Mar 4

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane of the brig:
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross."

~ Tam O'Shanter, Robert Burns, 1790

The Brig o' Doon, sometimes called the Auld Brig or Old Bridge of Doon, is a single arched late medieval bridge in Ayrshire, Scotland, still standing, made famous as one of the settings in Robert Burns's famous poem Tam o' Shanter. In the tale, after another late-night revel at a public house , drunken Tam rides home on his horse Meg while a storm is brewing. On the way he sees the local haunted church lit up and hears strange music! Peering through the window, he sees witches and warlocks dancing and the Devil playing the bagpipes! Exclaiming aloud upon one particularly scantily clad witch, he is spied and set upon and chased by the supernatural revelers! In the ending verse, Tam is on horseback and is being wildly pursued by Nannie the witch. . He is just able to escape her by crossing the bridge (over a running stream), narrowly avoiding her attack as she is only able to grab tail of Meg, Tam's horse, which comes away in her hands! Burn's poem made use of the double belief that witches and warlocks were thought to avoid crossing of running water as well as being easily confounded by the "cranked" and crooked cobbles in the bridge's roadway!

Brig O' Doon

Bridge Day, celebrating construction of bridges large and small is celebrated on the March 4, 1890  anniversary of opening of The Forth Bridge, a cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth.  It was voted Scotland's greatest man-made wonder in 2016.

A lesser Scottish bridge, however, has made its name in popular culture, due to the 1947 Broadway musical, Brigadoon, about an enchanted village, trapped in time.  The name was allegedlyinspired by the actual Brig o' Doon (sometimes called the Auld Brig or Old Bridge of Doon) a late medieval bridge in Ayrshire, Scotland.

This single arched bridge, with a steeply humped span of 72 feet and a rise of 26 feet, it is believed to have been built in the early fifteenth century which by 1593, fell into disrepair and was described as "ruinous." 

 

The line of the cobbles in the roadway are deliberately crooked,  due to the old belief that this pattern would stop witches from crossing! 

The bridge is famous as the setting for the final verse of the Robert Burns's poem Tam o' Shanter. In the poem, Tam is on horseback, being chased by Nannie the witch. He is just able to escape her by crossing the bridge (over a running stream, another witch-barrier) narrowly avoiding her attack as she is only able to grab the horse's tail which comes away in her hands.

And for more about the the bridge, click the painting by Scottish painter John MacWhirter (1839-1911) also showing the Burns monument.

Brig O' Doon
Brig O' Doon

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