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The Earl o Errol

[ Roud 96 ; Child 231 ; G/D 7:1366 ; Ballad Index C231 ; trad.]

Alexander Keith: Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger sang The Earl of Errol in 1964 on their Folkways album Traditional Songs and Ballads.

Dick Gaughan sang The Earl of Errol in 1977 on his Highway/Trailer album Kist o’ Gold.

Alistair Hulett sang The Earl of Errol in 1996 on his and Dave Swarbrick’s album Saturday Johnny & Jimmy the Rat.

Isla St Clair sang Earl of Errol on her 2000 album Royal Lovers & Scandals.

Sheena Wellington sang The Earl of Errol in 2003 on her Greentrax CD Hamely Fare. She noted:

Errol is on the rich farmland of the Carse of Gowrie, some miles east of Perth. In January 1658 Sir Gilbert Hay, 10th Earl of Errol, was married to Lady Catherine Carnegie, younger daughter of the Earl of Southesk. It is said that he had actually wanted to marry her older sister but was too late with his offer. Carnegie attempted to withhold the tocher or dowry charging that the Earl could not consummate the marriage, and matters went to a bitter public hearing in February 1659. There were no children of the marriage and the Earl died in 1674.

The story in all its scandalous detail passed into local folklore. Some three centuries later my grandmother, reading a newspaper retelling of the murder of a later Earl of Errol in Kenya’s Happy Valley, recounted the earlier case ending with the immortal words “Ach, the Hays were aye gie kittle cattle!” (“always very strange beasts!”)

Battlefield Band sang The Earl of Errol in 2004 on their Temple CD Out for the Night.

Lucy Pringle & Chris Wright sang The Earl o Errol on their 2010 CD The Speaking Heart. They noted:

This song tells the true story of the marital strife between Gilbert Hay, 10th Earl of Errol, and Lady Catherine Carnegie, who were married in January 1658. Catherine’s father had Errol sign a marriage contract promising to repay the paid part of the dowry should Catherine die childless. After more than a year of marriage with no issue, rumours began to surface that the Earl was unable to father a child. According to the ballad below, when Errol demanded the full dowry be paid, Catherine refused, and the couple went to court…

Barbara Dymock sang The Earl of Errol on her 2016 CD Leaf an’ Thorn.


Sheena Wellington sings The Earl o Errol

Lord Errol’s place is a bonnie place that stands on yonder plain
But what’s the yase o Errol’s place when he’s no like ither men.

Chorus (after each verse):
Wi the rantin o’t an the dantin o’t, according as ye ken
The thing they cry the dantin o’t, Lady Errol lies alane

“As shair’s yer name’s Katie Carnegie an mine is Gibbie Hay
I’ll gar yer faither sell his lands yer tocher for tae pay.”
“Tae gar my faither sell his land wid that no be a sin
Tae gie them tae a nochtless lord that couldnae get a son!

Now she has gaen tae Embro toun for tae try the law
An Errol’s followed efter her his manhood for tae show.
Up an spake her sister whas name was Lady Jane,
“Had I been Lady Errol I’d ne’er shamed my ain guidman!”

Now Errol’s taen it intae his mind tae find a maid himself
An he’s taen in a country lass come in her milk tae sell.
“Look up, look up, my weel faurd lass, look up an think nae shame
For I’ll gie ye five hunder merks gin ye’ll bear me a son.”

Noo they were intae ae bed laid an a the lairds looked on
An a the fufteen vowed an swore, “Lord Errol, he’s a man!”
He’s locked his Peggy in a room three quarters o the year
An when three quarters they were dain a braw young son she bore done.

“Noo haud yer tongue ye boorish bitch, sae loud I hear ye lee
For yonder sits Lord Errol’s son upon his mither’s knee!
Tak back yer dochter, Carnegie, an set her in a glen
For Errol canna please her, nor ony o his men.”

Lucy Pringle & Chris Wright sing The Earl o Errol

The Earl o Errol has a fine big hoose
It stands in yonder glen
But whit’s the guid o an Earl’s hoose
When he’s no like ither men?

Chorus (after each verse):
O the rantin o’t, the dantin’ o’t
Accordin as ye ken
O the thing they ca the dantin o’t
Lady Errol lies her lane

“As shair’s yer name is Kate Carnegie
Mine is Gibbie Hay
I’ll gar yer faither sell his lands
Yer tocher for tae pay!”

“Tae gar ma faither sell his lands
Wid that no be a sin?
Tae gie it tae a noughtless Lord
Wha canna get a son?”

So she’s awa tae Edinburgh
For tae try the law
And Errol he has follaed her
His manhood for tae show

Up then spak the youngest judge
The wisest o them aa
“I’ve never heard o a lady yet
Wha brocht sic things tae Law!”

“It’s ye’ll bring oot yer weel-faured maids
Stand them in a row
And ye’ll pick oot ae weel-faured maid
Yer standard for tae show”

He’s picked oot ae weel-faured maid
The flooer amang them aa
An twenty times he’s kissed her mou
And led her through the ha

They twa hae liggit in ae big bed
The lords aa standin roon
And they cried oot wi ane accord
“He’s proved hissel a man!”

“Hud up yer heid noo Peggy lass
Dinna think it shame!
And I’ll gie you a hunder pounds
Tae bear tae me a son”

They hae shut young Peggy up
Three quarters o the year
And when full nine months they were up
A braa new son she bare

“Tak yer dochter Carnegie
Pit her in the glen!
For she’s no fit for Errol’s bed
Nor ony o his men!”