> Folk Music > Songs > Drumdelgie


[ Roud 2180 ; G/D 3:384 ; Ballad Index DBuch66 ; Mudcat 54108 , 133485 ; trad.]

Norman Buchan: 101 Scottish Songs John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads

Jimmy McBeath sang Drumdelgie to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson in Turiff, Scotland, on 17 July 1951. This recording was included in 2002 on his Rounder anthology Tramps and Hawkers. This may also be the recording included in 2018 on the Greentrax anthology Scotland’s Voices. Jimmy McBeath also sang The Hairst of Drumdelgie on his 1967 Topic album Wild Rover No More. Peter and Arthur Argo commented:

Two forms of ballad are peculiar to the bothies—those giving a list of the farm personalities, and those giving a chronological picture of a farm servant’s life throughout a day or a term. For obvious reasons the latter type have greater survival value and Drumdelgie is one of the best of these. This simple account of farm life is controlled and yet so vivid that it provides one of the most effective protest songs ever written. Possibly the air of Drumdelgie was brought from Ireland in the early part of the 19th Century, though as it is widely known throughout Britain and is used for two Child ballads in Aberdeenshire it may well have been current before that time.

Davie Stewart sang Drumdelgie in December 1957 to Alan Lomax. This recording was included on the album Jack of All Trades (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 3; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

John Mearns sang Drumdelgie in ca 1965-5 on his Scottish Records EP Folk-Songs of the North-East.

Dave Campbell sang Drumdelgie in 1965 on his family’s Topic album The Singing Campbells. Peter A. Hall and Arthur Argo commented:

Like this one, most bothy ballads either give a straight-forward account of a day’s work at the particular farm or the story of the term’s hiring. The farm servant was fee’d by the half year at the hiring fair where he would be promised easy work and good conditions. If he got a bad bargain, he could do nothing but wait for the end of his term and sing out his discontent. However, the North-easter, always a fair man, would just as readily praise a good farm and a fair farmer as he would condemn a bad one and there are numerous bothy ballads to show this. The tune, sometimes called The Irish Jaunting Car, is probably the best known one in Aberdeenshire. It is also common in England, Wales and its native Ireland.

Norman Kennedy sang The Hash o’ Drumdelgie in 1968 on his Folk-Legacy album Ballads & Songs of Scotland that was also released on Topic as Scots Songs and Ballads.

Ian Manuel sang Drumdelgie in 1972 on his Topic album of bothy songs and ballads, The Frosty Ploughshare. A.L. Lloyd commented:

One of the best favourites of the whole bothy repertory. An epic description of winter work on the Northeastern farms, showing more pride in the horses than liking for farmer or foreman. Whether Scottish or Irish in origin, the tune has turned up far and wide. Kipling heard it from soldiers in India as The Sentry Box; a sprightly version appears in Levey’s Dance Music of Ireland (c. 1870) as Gentleman Soldier; it has also been used for the music hall song, Cassidy Brought Me Home. But for most folk it’s firmly associated with the late nineteenth century recital of work and days on Drumdelgie, just beyond Huntly, on the border between Aberdeenshire and Banff.

Charlie Allan sang Drumdelgie on his 1979 cassette of bothy ballads, Blue Grey Coo.

Willie Clark sang Drumdelgie in 1984 on the Springthyme anthology Bothy Greats.

Joe Aitken sang Drumdelgie in 1990 on his Springthyme cassette If Ye’ve Never Been tae Kirrie.

Isla St Clair sang Drumdelgie in her BBC Radio 2 series Tatties & Herrin’, transmitted in 1995. This song was included in 1997 on her accompanying Greentrax album Tatties & Herrin’: The Land.

Frank McNally from Huntly sang Drumdelgie in 2000 on the Sleepytown anthology The Bothy Songs and Ballads of North East Scotland Vol. 2

Shona Donaldson sang Drumdelgie in 2010 on her Deveron Projects CD of original material and songs from the Greig-Duncan Collection, Short Nichts and Lang Kisses. She noted:

Greig and Duncan found this to be the most popular bothy ballad and recorded 21 versions of it. It was the biggest fairm-toon in the North East and although the land is not farmed any longer the bothy ballad remains just as popular.

Geordie Murieson sang Drumdelgie in 2017 on his Tradition Bearers album The Term Time Is Comin Roon. He also sang it live at St Andrew’s in the Square, Glasgow, during Celtic Connections 2018, which was released in the same year on the TMSA DVD 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book 3.

Jock Duncan sang Drumdelgie in a field recording made by Peter Hall on the 1995 anthology of songs from the Greig-Duncan Collection as performed at the Edinburgh International Festival, Folk Songs of North-East Scotland. He also sang it in 1996 on his Springthyme CD Ye Shine Whar Ye Stan. The liner notes commented:

Perhaps the most legendary bothy ballad of the lot, this song gives a description of a day in the life of one of the largest ferm touns in the North East. Drumdelgie is in hilly country between Huntly and Keith, the farm buildings now holiday homes and the near thousand acres converted to forestry.

Jock: That’s an interesting song. It has a bit of history aboot it. The song speaks about the water mill: “It took four men tae mak tae her.” They made hand windlins o straw at the tail o the mill. The straw cam oot loose and they made small bunches wi their hands—fit ye call windlins. We didna dee it in my time [at Faddenhill] but ma faither had tae dee it fen he wis young. A windlin wis ration for two beasts for a day. They thrashed a ruck o corn most mornings at Drumdelgie to supply the strae requirements for the byres.


Jimmy McBeath sings Drumdelgie

Come all ye jolly ploomon lads
An’ hearken untae me
An’ I’ll sing ye Drumdelgie
Wi’ muckle mirth on’ glee

There is a toon in Cyarnie
lt’s kent baith for an’ wide
Tae be the hash o’ Drumdelgie
Upon sweet Deveronside

We rise at five in the mornin’
An’ hurry doon the stair
Tae get some corn for wir horse
And likewise stracht their hair

Half-an-’oor in the stable
It’s to the kitchie goes
Tae get some breakfast for wirsel’s
Which generally’s brose

We’ve hardly gotten wir brose weel supt
An gi’en wir pints o tie
When the grieve he says: “Hallo, my lads
The ’oor is drawin’ nigh

“Sax o’ you’ll ging toe the ploo
An’ two will ca’ the neeps
An’ the oxen they’ll be efter you
As seen’s they tak’ their neeps”

Pittin’ on their harness
An’ drawin’ oot tae yoke
The drift an’ snaw dang on sae thick
That we were like tae choke

An’ than the frost it did stick in
The ploughs they wouldn’t go
So we’d tae yoke the dung cairt
Among the frost and snow

I will praise my beasties
Though they be young on’ sma’
They’ll tak’ the shine aff o’ Broadlan’s horse
Who gang sae full on’ braw

Ye daurna swear aboot the toon
It is against the law
An’ if ye use profanities
Then ye’ll be putten awa’

O, Drumdelgie keeps a Sunday School
He says it is but richt
Tae preach unto the iggerant
Send them Gospel licht

The term time is comin’ on
We will get wir brass
We’Il gae doon tae Huntly toon
Get a partin’ glass

We’ll gae doon toe Huntly toon
Get upon the spree
Than the fun it will commence
The quinies for tae see

Sae fare ye weel Drumdelgie
For I’m gyon awa
Fare ye weel Drumdelgie
Wi’ yer weetie weather an a’

Fare ye weel Drumdelgie
An’ I’ll bid ye’s all adieu
An’ I’ll leave you as I got you
A dashed infernal crew

Ian Manuel sings Drumdelgie

There’s a fairmer up in Cairnie, that’s kent frae far an’ wide
Tae be the great Drumdelgie by yonder Deveronside.
Noo, the fairmer o’ you muckle toon, he is baith hard an’ sair,
An’ the cauldest day that ever blaws, his servants get their share.

At five o’clock we quickly rise and hurry doon the stair;
It’s there tae corn oor horses, likewise tae straik their hair.
Syne, after workin’ half an hour, each tae the kitchen goes;
It’s there to get oor breakfast, which is generally brose.

Noo we hadna gotten oor brose weel supped, an’ gi’en oor pints a tie,
When the foreman he cries: “Noo, me lads, the hour is drawin’ nigh!”
At six o’clock the mill’s put on, tae gi’e us a’ strait wark;
It tak’s four o’ us tae mak’ her, till ye could wring oor sark.

But when daylicht begins tae peep, and the sky begins tae clear,
The foreman he cries: “Noo, me lads, ye’ll bide nae langer here,
It’s six o’ you will gae tae the ploo, twa will ca’ the neeps,
And the owsen they’ll be after ye when they get on their feet!”

But lang ere we were gannin’ forth and turnin’ oot tae yoke,
The snaw cam’ on sae thick and fast that we were like tae choke.
The frost it bein’ so very bad, the ploo she widna go;
Aye, and so our cairtin days commenced among the frost an’ snaw.

Oor horses bein’ sae young and sma’, the shafts they widna fill,
And they oft required the saddler tae help ’em up the hill.
But we will sing oor horses’ praise, tho’ they be young and sma’,
For they far outshine the Broadlands anes that gang sae full an’ braw.

Noo, fare thee weel, Drumdelgie, for I maun gang awa’.
Oh, fare the weel, Drumdelgie, your weepie’ weather an’ a’.
Noo, fare thee weel, Drumdelgie, an’ I bid ye a’ adieu,
An’ I leave ye as I got ye, a maist unceevil crew.