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My Last Farewell to Stirling

[ Roud 5160 ; G/D 8:1534 ; Ballad Index PASB023 ; trad.]

Charlie Murray of Forfarshire sang the transportation ballad My Last Farewell to Stirling on the anthology Bothy Ballads (Scottish Tradition 1; Tangent 1971; Greentrax 1993)

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Last Farewell to Stirling on his 1978 album Ballad Singer.

The Battlefield Band sang My Last Farewell to Stirling, in 1979 on their Topic album Stand Easy. This track was also included in 1993 on their Topic anthology Opening Moves. Their sleeve notes commented:

The theme of the transportation ballad My Last Farewell to Stirling is a fairly common one and the tune can be found in various guises in Scotland and Ireland. The version we use here comes from Australia.

Gordon McIntyre (husband of Kate Delaney, died 1999) sang My Last Farewell tae Stirling, in 1978 on his and Danny Spooner's Larrikin album Revived and Relieved!.

Geordie McIntyre sang My Last Farewell tae Stirling in 2007 on Alison McMorland's and his Greentrax CD White Wings.

Jimmy Hutchison sang My Last Fareweel tae Stirling at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife, in May 2011. This recording was included in the following year on the festival CD The Little Ball of Yarn (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 8). The album's notes commented:

Jimmy learned his version of the song from Charlie Murray of Craigeassie by Forfar when he was a guest at the early TMSA Blairgowrie Festivals in the 1960s. Charlie was born in 1916 in the Black Isle, Ross-shire, and worked on farms there, in the Lothians and in Forfar. He remembered hearing the song in his younger days, but he learned the words from a version printed in Ewan MacColl’s book Scotland Sings (1952). That version had been collated by Hamish Henderson from two versions he had recorded for the archives of the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh.

Mick West sang My Last Farewell to Stirling in 2009 on his Greentrax CD Sark o' Snaw. The album's booklet noted:

The theme of this transportation ballad is a fairly common one; the tune can be found in various guises in Scotland and Ireland. Transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) was a punishment frequently inflicted on poachers and on other lawbreakers. In this way, Australia quickly found a new population with the courts’ vicious sentences which ripped families and communities apart in all parts of the empire, usually for crimes as trivial as poaching or the theft of a bread. Many thousands more were punished in this way—fifteen thousand in one four year period alone. It was not finally abolished until 1853.

Gavin Greig noted of this song “It is rather difficult to get a complete copy of it, or to be sure of some of the lines and expressions. One can see that the song has been fairly well put together to begin with, which might be a century or more ago; but traditional handling has produced the usual effects; and we must now take things as we get them.”

Mick remembers hearing this sung by the late fiddler and singer Willie Beaton, at a singaround in the village hall in Plockton; later Willie suggested to Mick that he should learn it.

Ian Bruce and Ian Walker sang My Last Farewell to Stirling on the 2014 Greentrax anthology The Scottish Diaspora.

The Australian quartet Co-cheòl augmented by Matthew Lykos sang My Last Farewell tae Stirling in 2016 on their CD Stay a While. They commented in their liner notes:

This is one of the few transportation songs from Scotland and was first introduced to us by Matthew Lykos. This song has developed a life and meaning of its own and is very precious to us.

Lyrics

Jimmy Hutchison sings My Last Fareweel tae Stirling

Nae lark in transport mounts the sky,
Or leaves wi early plaintive cry;
But I maun bid my last goodbye,
My last fareweel tae Stirling O.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Though far awa ma hert's wi you,
Our youthfull hours upon wings they flew;
But I maun bid my last adieu,
My last fareweel tae Stirling O.

Nae mair I’ll meet ye in the dark,
Or gang wi you to the king’s park;
Or hunt the hare oot o his flap,
When I am far fae Stirling O.

Nae mair I’ll wander through the glen,
And raise the roosts o pheasant hen;
And chase the rabbit tae his den,
When I am far fae Stirling O.

There’s one request that I do have,
And that is tae my comrades all;
Ma dog and gun tae keep for me,
Till I come back tae Stirling O.

Noo fare ye weel my Jeannie dear,
For you I’ll shed a bitter tear;
And I hope ye find anither dear,
When I am far fae Stirling O.

So fare ye weel for I am bound,
For twenty years tae Van Diemen’s Land;
But speak of me and what I’ve done,
When I am far fae Stirling O.

Final Chorus:
Though far awa my hert's wi you,
Our youthfull hours upon wings they flew;
But I will bid a last adieu,
My last fareweel tae Stirling O.