MacPherson's Fareweel

Danny Couper & Carol Anderson from Aberdeen: On Autumn Harvest ah010: Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: Hurrah Boys Hurrah! Live from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2010.

The ballad of McPherson's Rant, Lament or Farewell was made famous in the 1960s folk revival from the singing of two of Scotland's great source singers - Jimmy McBeath (1894-1971) and Auld Davie Stewart (1901-1972). The original text was said to have been composed and written by MacPherson himself and was printed soon after the execution that took place on 7th November 1700. In 1788 Robert Burns published a version as McPherson’s Farewell in Volume II of the Scots Musical Museum. Danny's version pays tribute particularly to Auld Davie - it has all the poise and style of the great traveller singer. Davie usually accompanied himself on the accordion and could be heard from the 1930s to the 1960s singing at country fairs and feeing markets and latterly in the back courts of Glasgow, the Overgate in Dundee or the Castlegate in Aberdeen. Jimmy McBeath and Auld Davie both appeared regularly at the Aberdeen Folk Club and as guests at the St Andrews folk club. Auld Davie was on several occasions paid to busk the queue at the opening sale of the St Andrew's Woollen Mill in the late 1960s and in 1972 he died shortly after a last appearance at the St Andrews Folk Club (Roud 2160).

James MacPherson's long career of robbery culminated in a reign of terror in the markets of Banff, Elgin and Forres. Apparantly under the protection of the laird of Grant, he and his band of followers would come marching in with a piper at their head. MacPherson and his band were convicted of being Egyptian rogues and vagabonds, of keeping the markets in their ordinary manner of thieving and purse-cutting, also being guilty of masterful bangstrie and oppression. It was also said that they spoke a strange language and spent their nights in singing, dancing, and debauchery. The song relates the tradition that a reprieve was coming from the south but, that as the rider could be seen approaching the bridge across the river from MacDuff to Banff, the town clock and thus the hour of execution was put forward and MacPherson was hanged. An instrument that purports to be his has been preserved at the Clan McPherson Museum, Newtonmore, Inverness-shire.

1: Fareweel ye dungeons dark and strong,
Fareweel, fareweel tae ye;
MacPherson's time it'll nae be lang,
On yonder gallows tree.
Sae wantonly, sae rantinly, sae wantonly gaed he,
He played a tune and he danced aroond,
Aye, below the gallows tree.

2: It was by a woman's treacherous hand,
That I'm condemned tae dee;
Below her window ledge I stood,
And a blanket she threw o'er me.
Sae rantinly, sae wantonly, sae rantinly gaed he,
He played a tune and he danced aroon,
Aye, below the gallows tree.

3: "Aye, there's some come here for tae see me hang,
An some tae buy ma fiddle;
But before that I wad pairt wi it,
I wad brak it though the middle."
Sae rantinly etc

4: Aye, tak off these bands fae off ma hands,
And gie tae me ma sword;
And there's nae another man in aa Scotland,
That will tak me at my word."
Sae rantinly etc
5: He's taen the fiddle intae baith his hands,
He's broke it o'er a stane;
For there's nae a another man in aa Scotland,
That'll play when I am gane."
Sae rantinly etc

6: Aye, little did my mither think,
When first she cradled me;
That I wad turn a roving boy,
And die on the gallows tree.
Sae rantinly etc

7: The reprieve it wis comin o'er the brig o Banff,
Tae let MacPherson free;
But they put the clock a quarter afore,
And they hung him fae the tree.
Sae rantinly, sae wantonly, sae rantinly gaed he,
He played a tune and he danced aroon,
Aye, below the gallows tree.

In the chorus the words, rantinly, wantonly and
dauntinly are somewhat variable.

c p 2011 Autumn Harvest :