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Destitution Road

[Alistair Hulett]

Danny Spooner sang Alistair Hulett’s song Destitution Road on his 1978 album Danny Spooner and Friends. This track was also included in 2007 on his anthology Years of Spooner. He noted:

In his book The Highland Clearances, John Prebble tells how, after the defeat at Culloden (1745), the chieftains sold out the highlanders who had fought so valiantly by driving them off their lands so they could rent it to lowlanders and English sheep farmers in what became known as Blaidhna nan Caorach, the Year of the Sheep. This awful time is magnificently summed up by Alistair Hulett, a Scot who spent a number of years singing and writing in Australia.


Danny Spooner sings Destitution Road

In the year o’ the sheep and the burning time
They cut our young men in their prime,
And the old Scots ways was a hanging crime
For the Gaels of Caledonia.
There’s a den for the fox and a set for the hare,
A nest in the tree for the birds of the air;
But in old Scotland there’s no place there
For the Gaels of Caledonia.

Chorus (after each verse):
But there’s no use getting frantic
It’s time to hump your load
Across the wild Atlantic
On the Destitution Road.

Well the bailiffs came wi’ a writ and a’
And the gallant lads o’ the Forty Twa;
And they drove ye oot in the cold and snaw,
The Gaels o’ Caledonia.
And they burned your hame and ye’r crops as well,
Ye stood and wept in the blackened shell,
And the winter’s moor was a living hell
For the Gaels o’ Caledonia.

Well, the famine and the plague they dragged you down
As you made your way to Glasgow Town,
For you’d heard o’ a ship that was sailing soon
For the shores o’ Nova Scotia.
And you sold your gear and you paid your fare,
Your head held high, though your heart was sair.
And ye bid farewell for evermair
To the shores o’ Caledonia.

The land was cleared and a deal was made,
Now an English lord in a tartan plaid
Struts and stares while the memories fade
Of the Gaels o’ Caledonia.
And he hunts the deer in the lonely glen
That once was a home for a thousand men,
And the wind on the moor sings a sad refrain
For the Gaels o’ Caledonia.