From the recording Wild And Wicked Youth

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Mark Clavey: lead vocals, guitar
Mary Hanover: vocals, hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither: vocals, fiddle

The second of our themed-pieces, this “wild, stormful song” is said to have been written by James MacPherson, Scotland’s most famous outlaw, as he lay in prison awaiting his execution. The son of MacPherson of Invereshie and a beautiful gypsy, he grew to great strength and stature. He was an expert swordsman and renowned fiddler, and while his prowess was debased by a freebooter’s misdeeds, no act of cruelty or robbery of the widow, the orphan, or the distressed ever occurred under his command. He held the low country in fear for years, and so angered its rich lairds that he was seized by a posse led by Duff of Braco, and tried before Sheriff Nicky Dunbar of Banffshire, and sentenced to hang. Death has rarely been faced with such perfect contempt. Sir Walter Scott relates MacPherson offered his violin to any of his clan who would play his tune over his body at his wake. None answering, he dashed it to pieces on the executioner's head, and flung himself from the ladder." Robert Burns collected and revised the Rant, and published it in 1788. The tunes we play with this song are "The Rush Jig", a pipe-jig composed by Lars Sloan, and "The Blarney Pilgrim", an Irish double-jig set about 1800 by Daniel McHourigan.


"Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong - the wretch's destiny. MacPherson's life will no' be long on yon high gallows tree."

"My father was a nobleman of fame and honor high. Oh mother, would ye ne'er had borne this son so doomed to die. I spent my life in rioting, debauched my health and strength. I spent as fast as pillage came, and I fell to shame at length."

Sae rantin'ly, sae wantonly, sae daunton’ly gaed he. He played a tune, and he danced around below the gallows tree.

"Oh what is death but parting breath? On many a bloody plain I've dared his face, and in this place I'll scorn him yet again. Take off these bands from off of my hands and give to me my sword. There's no' a man in all Scotland but I’ll brave him at a word."

Sae rantin'ly, sae wantonly, &c

"Now some have come to see me hung, and some to buy my fiddle; but before that I do part wi' her, I'll break her through the middle." He took the fiddle in both of his hands, and he broke it o'er a stone, saying, "No other hand shall play on thee when I am dead and gane."

Sae rantin'ly, sae wantonly, &c

Now reprieve was comin' o'er the brig o' Banff tae set MacPherson free, but they put the clock a quarter before, and they hanged him from a tree.

Sae rantin'ly, sae wantonly, &c