The following tune, song and notes came from The Pipers Assistant- Edited by John Mclauchlin and published in Edinburgh,1854. Adam Glen, author of the air to which the verses were written, was long a favourite in every farmer’s hall, village and fair in the west of Angusshire.
“He was an excellent performer on the bagpipe, faithfull reciter of our ancient ballads, and in every way an eccentric character. In the memorable year of Mars’ Rebellion, he joined the battalion of his county on its march to Sherifmuir and ‘When Angus and Fifemen, Ran for their life man’ he remained behind, winding his warlike instrument in the front and fire of the enemy, and fell on the field of battle, November 13th 1715, in the ninetieth year of his age.
“A few months before his death, he married his eighth wife, a maiden lady of forty five, on which circumstances the song is founded. When rallied on the number of his wives, he replied in his own peculiar way, ‘ae kist comin' in, is worth twa gaun out.’ (One kissed coming in is worth two going out.)
“Adam Glen was born in 1625 if his biography is correct. His tune is so similar to the hornpipe class of melodies, as to suggest that he would have been familiar with that type of tune now only preserved in Northumbria. The mention that he was a faithful reciter of our ancient ballads is further confirmation of the multiple role of the piper in 17th and 18th Century Scotland.”
Some bits of piper poems from David herd Collection of Scottish Songs first published 1776
Young Jockie was a piper’s son And fell in love when he was young But a’ the springs that he could play Was O’er the Hills and Far Away… vol 2 p 85
He bad the piper play up soon For, be his troth, he would gae dance The piper piped till’s wyme gripped And a’ the rout began to revel The bride about the ring she skipped Till out starts baith carle and cavel. Vol 2 p 92
Weel danced Eppie and Jennie! He that tynes a stot o’ the spring Shall pay the piper a pennie Vol 2 p 92
From Paties Wedding:
Sae Tam the piper did play And ilka ane danc’d that was willing The lad that wore the white band I think they cau’d him Jamie Mather. And he took the bride by the hand, And cry’d to play up ‘Maggie Lauder’ Vol2 p191
This comic song was written by Frances Semple of Beltrees who lived in the County of Renfrew about the year 1642.
The song commemorates ‘Rob the Ranter’ who was probably a Border Piper. This tune appears in the Pipers Assistant’ of 1854 but it was a popular fiddle tune in the eighteenth century also.
The piper he struck up, and merrily he did play,
The shakeing of the sheets, and eke the Irish hay.
Then up with Aley, Aley, up with Priss and Prue.
In came wanton Willy, amongst the jovial crew.
To a merry Scotch Tune, or Up with Aley, Aley From Burn’s poems . A song Up wi’ it Aley Aley is referred to by Burns in a letter of July 29 1787.
The piper cam tae oor toun,
Tae oor toun, tae oor toun;
The piper cam tae oor toun,
And he played bonnilie.
He play’d a spring the laird to please.
A spring brent new frae yont the seas.
And then he ga’e his bags a squeeze,
And played anither key.
And wasna he a roguey, a roguey, a roguey;
And wasna he a roguey, the Piper o’ Dundee.
1793 by William Anderson of Kirriemuir; an extract/abridged version.
A Laird from Kinghorn in Fife got head over heels in debt and was at his wits end to find a way out of his troubles. At last, one evening he was wandering alone in the fields, very much dejected, he was accosted by a fine-looking stranger on a black horse, who sympathised with him in his difficulties, and, seeming to know what they were without being told, offered him £10,000 on his simple note of hand.
‘Ye’s get it on your single bond,
As I frae Scotland maun abscond
To France, or in a woody swing
For lies a neighbour tald the King-
An’ said I meant to tak’ his life,
To let a gallant get his wife.’
The Laird, with little hesitation, accepted the offer, and, according to appointment, the stranger called with the money ‘on chap o’ twal’ the following night
‘As muckle goud, and rather mair,
Than wad out-weigh twal pecks o’ bear.’
He had no time to wait until it was counted, but, assuring the laird that it was alright, he presented the bond for signature. This, however, read that after 15 years the laird should be the stranger’s servant. The Laird would have none of this:-
As upright folk abhor mischief,
As honest men despise a thief,
As dogs detest a grunting sow,
So laigh the laird`disdained to bow!’
And bursting out with:-
‘Hence Satan! To your black abode,
In name of my Almighty God!’
The stranger immediately disappeared, leaving the money on the table. The supenatural powers of Scottish mythology could never stand the name of the Diety.
However the Laird had not heard the last of his great enemy. He prospered using the money left by the stranger and he grew rich and richer still until, fifteen years and one day hence he was at a large banquet when he was called out to speak with a visitor who had arrived on a black horse. A minute after he had left the hall, there was a loud gun shot and the stranger lay dead on the ground and at the Laird’s feet lay a pistol. The Laird was arrested and charged with murder and imprisoned at Edinburgh, but the doctors examining the body found it to have been dead ten days before it had visited the Laird and that there was no mark where a bullet could have entered. This created a great uproar and the mystery seemed incapable of explanation, until at last some Peebles folk came to the capital and swore that the body was that of their piper:-
‘I saw him yerdit, I can swear-
Frae his lang hame how cause he came?’
It was the Peebles piper, better dressed than ever he had been in life, and he had died in his bed at home. They even identified his ‘sark’ and the pistol. The Laird was set free, but in his heart he knew well the real explanation of the mystery.
‘The laird saw syne it had been Nick,
Contriv’d an’ carried on the trick,
He pu’d the piper frae the mould
That was in Peebles on him shool’d;
That folk had sworn they saw him shot
That very instant on the spot.
Auld Horny thought to gar him howd
Upon the gallows, for the gowd.
The Evil One had clearly made some kind of deal with the Peebles piper and hoped to settle two scores with the one trick.
Another Peebles piper was very boastful and bragged that he could play his pipes from Peebles to Lauder …a distance of 18 miles in a certain number of blasts. He failed in the attempt, but succeeded in blowing himself out of breath and expired. The spot where he fell down dead is on the boundary of the Parish of Heriot, in Midlothian and is still called ‘The Piper’s Grave.’
Haddington – Coal and Candle
From the Autobiography of Samuel Smiles, London 1905
The town had then its piper and drummer. It had been an ancient custom, and the magistrates revived it in my younger days. Donald MacGregor the piper, skirled the Highland tunes while marching round the town. Old Baird, the drummer, called the attention of the public to roups, sales and such like. He was sometimes very drunk, and stuttered and havered, so that the people could not hear his announcements. He was at length dismissed, and ‘Hangie’ was appointed in his place. ‘Hangie’ was one of the town’s officers, and, being in debt, he accepted £10 to lash one of the above burglars through the town at the cart’s tail. He was ever afterwards called ‘Hangie’. On Sundays, he used to march with the other officers in front of the magistrates from the Town Hall to the Established Church, where the latter took their places in the front of the ‘laft’.
This special officer had other work to do. The town had been burnt down several times during the Border Wars between Scotland and England and another great conflagration occurred through the carelessness of a servant, when the town was half burnt down. As a precaution to future servants, the following proclamation was made once a week, towards dark, for six weeks between Christmas and Candlemas;
‘A’ gude men servants where’er ye be,
Keep coal an’ candle for charitie;
Your bakehouse, brewhouse, barns and byres,
It’s for your sakes, keep weel your fires,
For oftentimes a little spark,
Brings mony hands to muckle wark;
Ye nourises that hae’ bairns to keep,
See that ye fa’ nae ower sound asleep,
For losing o’ your good renown,
An’ banishin’ o’ this burrow’s town;
It’s for your sakes that I do cry,
Take warnin’ from your neighbours by.’
‘Ben he brought ilk friend and neeper,
And filled them fou as ony piper.’
From Angus J. Sands , Poems 130 (1833)
‘Their piper fac’d fingers are not for hard work’ Scots proverb.
‘Laird, Lord, Lily, Leaf.
Piper, Drummer, Hangman, Thief.’
Lucky Piper - a euphemism for the devil.
Pipers Coig – the customary drink of whisky or the like presented to a piper after a performance.
‘To tune one’s pipes’ – to start crying and wailing as a child.
‘Jack tun’d his pipes and loud with cries did roar!’
‘Go on, then, Galloway, go on.
To touch the lill and sound the drone’
R Galloway, Poems p154 1788
‘To fyke and fling at pipers springs’.(Anon)
The pypers drone was out of tune,
Sing Young Thomlin
Be merry, be merry, and twise so merrie,
With the light of the moon.
(From Thom of Lyn – Forbes Aberdeen Cantus, 1682.)
That by no means can they abide or dwell,
Within their houses, but out they need must go,
More wildly wandering than either buck or doe,
Some with their harps, another with his lute,
Another with his bagpipes or a foolish flute.
(From ‘Ship of Fools’ 1508 – Alexander Barclay)
Poor Merry Andrew, in the neuk,
Sat guzzling wi’a tinkler hizzie,
They mind’t na wha the chorus teuk,
Between themsels they were sae busy;
At length wi’ drink an’ courting dizzy,
He stoiter’d up an’ made a face;
Then turn’d an’ laid a smack on Grizzie
Syne tun’d his pipes wi’ grave grimace.
Robert Burns – Jolly Beggars.
There is a famous story in Bardic History when Gilbride came to Scotland to recover Domhnuill’s harp, he received the answer that its own possessor prized it above all Scotland’s forests, although it was only a bit of an old Irish tree.