The Tumbling Lassie

The Tumbling Lassie

"an unusual and superb piece of work", The Scotsman

Music by Tom Cunningham

Libretto by Alexander McCall Smith

This musical play or mini-opera is based on a true story – that of the Tumbling Lassie, a child gymnast who was displayed in a travelling show in late seventeenth century Edinburgh. This child was seen by a woman from the Borders, Mrs Scot, who rescued her from her exploitative circumstances and took her off to live in the Borders. The showman, a Mr Reid, complained that the child was his property and that she had been stolen from him. He took the matter to the Court of Session, where the judges turned down his claim – effectively giving the first ruling in a Scottish court that slavery could not exist in Scotland. The child was released: history does not record what happened to her; the assumption is that Mrs Scot took her back to the Borders where once again she enjoyed the love she had not had in her previous life.


Narrator (tenor, speaks some lines and also sings where indicated)

Soprano (sings some of the narration and can also sing the Tumbling Lassie Voice)

Tumbling Lassie (a gymnast acts the role; if desired, she can also sing the part)

Tumbling Lassie Voice (can be sung by the gymnast, the Soprano or another female singer)

The Mountebank Reid (baritone)

Mrs Scot (mezzo-soprano)

Judge (tenor, usually sung by Narrator)

The minimum number of performers is therefore four.

Duration: approximately 35 minutes.

First performance 14th April 2018.

You can read more about the story and the modern implications here.

You can read a press article here. Similar articles appeared in The Scotsman, The Herald and The Times.

You can listen here to a 10 minute extract from BBC Scotland's Afternoon Show, when Janice Forsyth interviewed Alan McLean and Tom Cunningham. You can watch here a 3-minute preview from BBC TV's Reporting Scotland.

Tom and Sandy at the première

The cast take a bow