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The Laird o' Drum

[ Roud 247 ; Child 236 ; G/D 4:835 ; Ballad Index C236 ; Bodleian Roud 247 ; trad.]

John Strachan of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, sang The Laird o' Drum on July 16, 1951 to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson. This recording was included in 2002 on his Rounder anthology CD, Songs from Aberdeenshire. Another recording made by Hamish Henderson, of William Sharp Lonie of Loanhead, Midlothian, singing The Laird o' the Drum in 1962, was included in 2006 on the Kyloe CD Hamish Henderson Collects Volume 2.

Togo Crawford of Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, sang The Gates o' the Drum to Seamus Ennis on May 28, 1953. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology Good People, Take Warning (The Voice of the People Volume 23).

Lucy Stewart of Fetterangus, Aberdeenshire, sang The Laird o' Drum in 1955 to Peter Kennedy. This recording was included in 2000 on the Rounder CD Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland Volume 2 which is an extended re-issue of the Caedmon/Topic anthology The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 5. Another recording made by Kenneth S. Goldstein was included in 1961 on her Folkways album Traditional Singer from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Vol. 1 - Child Ballads. Kenneth Goldstein commented in the album notes:

The earliest version of this ballad dates from the beginning of the 19th century. The ballad concerns the marriage, in 1681, of Alexander Irvine, Laird of Drum, then 63 years old, to Margaret Coutts, a 16-year old girl of inferior birth. The marriage caused considerable consternation in the Irvine family, though after the death of the Laird in 1687, his young widow proceeded to marry still another member of the Irvine family.

The ballad has long been popular in the northeast of Scotland, and is still widely known there today.

Ewan MacColl sang The Laird o' Drum in 1956 on his and A.L. Lloyd's Riverside anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume I. This and 28 other ballads from this series were reissued in 2009 on MacColl's Topic CD Ballads: Murder·Intrigue·Love·Discord. Kenneth S. Goldstein commented in the album's notes:

The earliest known version of this ballad is from the beginning of the 19th century. The ballad concerns the marriage, in 1681, of Alexander Irvine, Laird of Drum, then 63 years old, to Margaret Coutts, a 16-year old girl of inferior birth. The marriage caused considerable consternation in the Irvine family, though after the death of the Laird in 1687, his young widow proceeded to marry still another member of the Irvine family.

At one time the ballad was one of the most popular found in the northeast of Scotland, and is. It has been reported only twice from tradition in North America, and in both cases the American text contain only the first part of the full ballad tale.

MacColl sings a version learned in fragmentary form from his father and collated with the version in Greig and Keith [Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs].

Jeannie Robertson sang The Laird o' Drum on her 1963 Prestige album The Cuckoo's Nest and Other Scottish Folk Songs.

Jock Tamson's Bairns sang The Laird o' Drum in 1982 on their Topic album The Lasses Fashion.

Norman Kennedy sang The Laird o' Drum in 1996 at a concert in Aberdeen. This recording made by Tom Spiers was included in 2002 on Kennedy's Tradition Bearers CD Live in Scotland.

Jane Turriff sang I Canna Wash (The Laird o Drum) on Topic's 1968 album of songs and ballads from the Lowland East of Scotland, Back o' Benachie.

Gordeanna McCulloch sang The Laird o' Drum in 1997 on her Greentrax CD In Freenship's Name. She noted:

When I went down to sing in London for the first time Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger gave me a bed for the week I was there. But more importantly I had free access to Ewan's books, records and tapes! I spent every free minute listening and copying words, and this song was one that attracted me instantly, although I wanted to tackle it more vigorously than MacColl seemed to. It wasn't until very many years later when I heard Peggy accompany him on guitar on what was possibly their last visit to Glasgow, that I heard the underlying rhythm of horses hooves, which is the feeling we have tried to re-create here.

Mick West sang As I Went Out ae May Morning in 1998 on the anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 4.

Frankie Armstrong sang The Laird o' Drum in 2000 on her Fellside CD The Garden of Love. She commented in her sleeve notes:

A ballad, possibly based on fact, with a down to earth and very composed heroine who is more than capable of dealing with her aristocratic fool of a husband. The absolutely undeferential tone of the text is unmistakably Scottish.

Duncan Williamson of Ladybank, Fife, sang The Laird o Drum in 2001 to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 2006 on Yates book and CD of songs of English and Scottish travellers and gypsies, Traveller's Joy.

Gordon Easton sang The Laird o Drum at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in between May 2004 and May 2007. This recording by Tom Spiers was included in 2007 on Easton's Autumn Harvest CD The Last of the Clydesdales. The album's booklet commented:

The laird of the Castle of Drum had been married to a daughter of the Gordons of Huntly. While the laird was away to the Jacobite wars she divorced him. When he came home he fell for a young shepherd lass and asked her to marry. His brother and family did not approve and when the wedding party arrived at the castle none of the lords and lairds would acknowledge the new lady of the Drum.

A fine old ballad still well known in the northeast (Child 236) that Gordon learnt from his granny—and based on an event dating from the early 1680s when Alexander Irvine of Drum then aged 62 married the pretty and youthful Margaret Coutts aged 16.

Alasdair Roberts and Mairi Morrison sang The Laird o' the Drum in 2012 on their album Urstan.

Fiona Hunter sang The Laird o' Drum in 2014 on her eponymous CD Fiona Hunter. She commented in her liner notes:

Alexander Irvine, Laird of Drum, married a second wife, a beautiful young working class girl called Margaret Coutts. This was much to the displeasure of his brother John who would rather the laird remain unhappy and alone than marry a girl beneath his station. On the night of the wedding, Margaret ably rebuffs this bigotry and informs the company that when laid side by side in their graves, none could tell their dust apart. This is another song I learned from the singing of Andy Hunter.

Lyrics

Gordon Easton sings The Laird o Drum

The laird o Drum a huntin gaed,
'Twas in the mornin early,
An there he met wi a fair young maid,
She wis shearin her faither’s barley.

“Could ye fancy me my bonnie young lass,
And let your shearin be O,
And come wi me tae the castle o Drum,
My lady for tae be O.”

“No I couldnae fancy you kind sir,
Nor let ma shearin be O,
For I am come o ower low degree,
Your lady for tae be O.

“Noo ma faither he's a peer shepherd man,
Herdin sheep on yonder hill O,
And the only thing he wants me tae dee,
Aye dee it tae his will O.”

So the laird has gane tae her faither dear,
Herdin hoggs on yonder hill O, [hogg - lamb
Saying, “I'd like tae mairry your ae dochter,
If ye'll gie's your gweed will O.”

“Noo the lassie canna read nor write,
She wis nivver at the schule O,
But for on either word she can dee it richt weel,
For I learned the lassie masel O.

“She'll thresh in yer barn, she'll winnie yer corn,
She'll wark in kill or mill O. [kiln
An she'll saiddle your steed in time o need,
And she'll draw up yer boots as weel O.”

“No she'll nivver hae tae wark in the barn,
Or wark in mill or kill O,
Nor saiddle ma steed in time o need,
And I'll draw up ma boots masel O.”

“It's faa will bake my bridal breid?
And faa will brew ma ale O?
And faa will welcome ma bonnie lassie hame,
It's mair than I can tell O.”

“Oh the baker will bake your bridal breid,
And the brewer will brew your ale O,
And as for tae welcome your bonnie lassie hame,
Ye can dee it right weel yersel O.”

There wis fower an twenty lords and lairds,
Rade in at the yett o Drum O,
Yet neen o them pit their hand tae their hat,
Tae welcome the lassie hame O.

But the laird has taen her by the hand,
And led her through the haa O,
And he's gien tae her the keys tae aa the rooms,
Saying, “Ye're welcome ma lady tae Drum O.”

And then up spoke his brither John,
“Ye hae deen us muckle ill O,
For ye've mairrit a maid alow oor degree,
Bringing shame tae aa wir kin O.”

“Noo it's haud yer tongue my brither John,
I've deen ye little ill O,
For I've mairrit a wife tae mak and tae mend,
And ye mairrit een tae spen O.”

Aifter they had dined and wined,
And the nicht it wis far gane O,
The shepherd's lassie an the laird o Drum,
They were in ae bed laid O.

“Noo I telt ye weel afore we were wed,
I wis come o low degree O,
But noo that we are baith in ae beddie laid,
Am I nae jist as gweed as ye O?”

“And am I nae come o Adam's kin,
Wha ate the forbidden tree O?
It's whaur were aa your gentry then,
Am I nae jist as gweed as they O.

“And if I were deid and ye were deid,
And baith in ae grave laid O,
Gin sax lang years had come and gane,
Wad ye ken your dust fae mine O?
Aye gin sax lang years hae come and gane,
Wad ye ken your mould fae mine O?”