Sad's the day I ran away from Edinburgh town

departures and farewells

Lady Nairne's song Fareweel to Edinburgh weaves together many of the subjects of earlier sections in this work. She wrote it in 1830, after the death of her husband, when she left the city hoping that the climate in England or Ireland might do something for the poor health of her son; but he died a few years later anyway. Her tune was a surprising choice: a vocal adaptation of the reel Mrs Macleod of Raasay.

The Lament for the Union is said to have been composed in 1603 by the royal piper, when King James VI was leaving for London to head the new united kingdom with England. This dissolved the court musical establishment of Scotland: not only the pipers, but also lutenists, viol players, and singers were all suddenly out of a job or forced to emigrate. The piece is also known as The Piper's Complaint. There is a tradition that the piper was a Lowlander, the only one to compose a piobaireachd in the classical period. If so, his training and perhaps his instrument would have been different from those of the Highland pipers we know more about. That may help explain this lament's strange form and immense length (19 variations, none audibly related to the theme) pushing the limits of what lungs and reeds can do - it would have been easier on a bellows-blown pipe. I've given only the ground, an intense and haunting tune. The rising sequence of gracenotes at the start of bars 5 and 9, in this context like a tearing scream of despair, are examples of the "taorluath", a fixed pattern used in the variations of most piobaireachd. (The "cadence" E gracenotes in the piece can't at present be played or typeset correctly by any ABC software, so the sound files and the score are slightly wrong, but I've notated them in the ABC source in the obvious way).

The tune Farewell to Edinburgh comes from Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion; its ornamentation suggests the flute. As it is from the last volume of the collection, it may well be Oswald's own farewell, before he moved to London. A later version gives it the title Adieu Edina's Friendly Tow'rs, which suggests both that it once had words and that those words are better left in obscurity.

My bony Mary is a song by Burns; for once, he doesn't seem to have had a specific woman in mind. Berwick Law, a 400-foot hill inland from North Berwick, marks the last point visible from Edinburgh where you would be able to see a ship turning southwards out of the Forth. It's one of the most obvious landmarks visible from the North Bridge. (The editors of the Canongate Burns edition make the rather daft suggestion that Burns meant the Bass Rock; that has never been confused with the larger hill and is invisible from most of Edinburgh). The tune he suggested for it was by James Oswald, The Secret Kiss, from the Caledonian Pocket Companion; it seems to be a variant of The Broom of Cowden Knowes. Burns later changed his mind and preferred the older traditional melody Wae is me that we should sunder, but Oswald's tune has stuck. I've included both tunes.

Blooming Caroline of Edinburgh Town is a widely-sung ballad. The words and tune I have included were both collected in the North-East of Scotland, the words by Ord and the tune from the Greig-Duncan collection. I have also given a tune for it from Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger's Traveller's Songs.

The Scotch Cuckold is from Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth of 1719; it's almost a sex-reversed version of the previous song, told in the inimitably heartless manner of the London balladeers of the time, complete with fake Scots dialect. But the tune is interesting and could well be Scottish; it seems to be related to Up in the Morning Early. I've included two versions of the tune: the 1719 vocal one and a transposition for the treble recorder that was printed with the song at its original publication by John Walsh a few years earlier, on a single sheet that was reprinted around 1710-15 with a collection of similar sheets under the title of A Collection of Songs of Varyous Humours, some Historicall others Comicall and some by way of Dialogues most Diverting and Pleasant by Mr. T. D'Urfey.

Earl Moira's stay in Edinburgh was popular; he entertained on a grand scale, which is why so much music is dedicated to him. His biographer, mainly concerned with the history of India, saw his Scottish period in less flattering terms:

When a man has greatly distinguished himself in his youth, and has proved himself in later years to be a statesman of capacity, and administrator of merit, and a ruler of energy, it is not often that his middle life should be nearly a blank. Yet this is what happened in Rawdon's case, for from 1781 to 1812, though he performed acts worthy of notice, he made no persevering effort to cultivate his natural endowments, and never rose above mediocrity.

His stay in Scotland was brief; he moved on to England and became governor-general of India in 1813. This was the peak of his career; he annexed Nepal and began the integration of India into the British Empire. This included both military planning, which he understood, and financial administration, which he didn't. One of his policies was the establishment of a permanent public debt, on the grounds that he

deemed it highly impolitic to break a tie which so obviously secures the attachment of the monied class to our government, in a country where that class has peculiar influence

a strategy later used by First World banks in Latin America in the 1980s. It had similarly appalling results in the Regency, and Moira was sacked over a banking corruption scandal in 1821. His personal finances were no better managed; lavish entertaining meant that he came back from India poorer than he went out. He was demoted to governor of Malta, fell off his horse there, and died at sea while on a voyage to convalesce. He seems to have broken with the Masons; the 1998 official history of masonry in Malta does not even mention him. Perhaps there's a conspiracy theory in this? He was honoured by having at least two ships named after him. One Earl Moira, full of tourists going to see the new King George IV, sank in the Irish Sea in 1821. Another was wrecked in 1838, with the survivors trapped in the rigging on a deadly reef where passing ships could watch them dying but not reach them; they survived for weeks by cannibalism before they all died of hunger. The strathspey The Earl of Moira's Return to England was published as a piece of sheet music by J. Steven of Glasgow. It sank without trace as well.

As the Scottish regiments of the nineteenth century created tunes welcoming their arrival in Edinburgh, so they also wrote farewells when they left it. The reality behind this was that the Army shifted them from one station to another so that no regiment stayed in Edinburgh long; the usual term was two years. It is not at all easy to find what these farewells relate to: pipe music is very badly documented, and the Army has either lost or kept inaccessible all the manuscripts and early documentation of regimental tunes. Tunes were often not printed until long after their composition, by which time even the composer's identity was often a matter of dispute, compounded by a tendency within the Army piping culture not to claim credit, since pipers thought avoiding blame for a bad tune was more important than gaining praise for a good one. Even finding out where a regiment was at a particular time is not always possible, and the gaps in official histories are entirely consistent with whole battalions being abducted by aliens for years at a time to fight for the liberation of Betelgeuse.

I believe there are no occasional pieces from the Army in this period for any other instrument; brass and fife music was at least as widely played, but was created by composers and arrangers at home in Britain, while the pipe-majors of the Scottish regiments were in the field sharing in the experiences of their fellow-soldiers. But they were in a paradoxical position. Recruitment from the Highlands almost stopped after the Napoleonic Wars; the shattering disillusionment of the Clearances meant that Highlanders would rather try their fortune by emigration than in the Army. So the nominally Highland regiments that marched to the pipes in the middle of of the century were mostly English, Irish and Lowland Scots, with Highlanders only a tenth of the numbers in most of them (the 93rd was an exception; at the end of the Crimean War half its soldiers only spoke Gaelic). But regimental dress and folklore, including music, became ever-increasingly Highland regardless, since its romantic dash proved a great aid to recruitment. The soldiery of the Highland regiments developed a double musical culture, marching to pipe tunes created by Highlanders but singing and adapting the popular songs of their own homes. And while pipe tunes retained their popularity, Scots songs went into decline at the century's end. The most popular song of the Boer War among the Scots was the English sentimental ditty Break the News to Mother, and when the Gordon Highlanders marched off to World War 1 the song they parodied was English:

Send out the boys of the Old Brigade,
To keep Old England free,
Send out my mother, my sister or my brother,
But for Christ's sake don't send me.

Attempts to get them to sing a specially-written Scottish alternative, The Road to the Isles (terrible words attached to a fine tune, The Bens of Jura by John MacLellan) were not very successful.

The earliest of these tunes is The 78th's farewell to Edinburgh, which I have taken from a book of pipe tunes dated 1863 written by John Clyde and R. McKenzie, part of the papers of G.S. MacLennan. It seems the only date before 1863 when that regiment was in Edinburgh was 1839; that would make it the oldest of all the regimental "farewell" tunes, and its style is quite different from the later ones. The "79th's" Farewell to Edinburgh. here taken from David Glen's collection, has scare quotes to show the unofficial later use of a pre-1881 regimental number; their officially revised name was the First Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders. The tune occurs in an incomplete form in Clyde and Mackenzie's manuscript, which means it must refer to the regiment's stay at the Castle in 1852. (A painting of them preparing to leave is reproduced in Diana Henderson's book Highland Soldier.) The 74th's Farewell to Edinburgh is by William McKinnon (1840-1918), pipe-major of the 74th and later of the Highland Light Infantry. The regiment was only in Edinburgh in 1865, leaving for Aldershot; they can't have gone far, since McKinnon won the piping medal in Inverness a year later. The 93rd's Farewell to Edinburgh is by Robert Meldrum (1851-1942). The 93rd were in Edinburgh from 1871 to 1874; he bacame Pipe-Major of the regiment in 1875 so perhaps the tune was as much to mark his promotion as the regiment's move. The tune has also been attributed to William McKinnon and Donald Macleod, for no reason I can see. The Ross-shire Volunteers farewell to Edinr. 1881 is by J. Connan; they were leaving after the soggy fiasco of the Wet Review. The 1st Batt. Seaforth Highlanders' farewell to Edinburgh is by Pipe Major James McDonald, originally titled The Glasgow Exhibition March but renamed at the request of the officers of the regiment; the battalion was in Edinburgh from 1887 to 1888. 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders Farewell to Glencorse, by Bob Current, was first published in a book of competition-winning tunes by the Dunoon Highland Gathering in 1920. Glencorse Barracks, near Penicuik, is an Army training camp scheduled for closure as I write this.

The Wauchope family, originally from the Borders, owned the lands of Niddrie near Craigmillar Castle for centuries. Their antiquity is testified to by 56 known alternative spellings of their surname, including the remarkable "Wahab", which in Arabic is one of the names of God. Their mines were nearby; Andrew Wauchop had the first steam pump in the Lothians built at Edmonstone in 1725 and the Newcraighall pit was still worked well into the twentieth century. Their mediaeval tower house was torched by a mob in the sixteenth century, and the grand house of Niddrie Marischal replaced it in 1636. For much of its existence the house had two "doule trees" in front of it, used by the Wauchopes for hangings under the system of heritable jurisdictions. The Wauchopes were Jacobites until late in the 18th century; accordingly a Protestant mob burnt their chapel to the ground in 1688.

The last man of the line to inhabit the house was Andrew Wauchope (1846-1899), a popular local figure who stood for Parliament as a Tory in 1892 against Gladstone and in a by-election in 1899, badly denting the Liberal majority both times. He was a national hero after the Sudan campaign of 1898: his biographer said of his return

at a convenient part of the road the horses were unyoked from his carriage and their places supplied by hundreds of willing miners, who dragged the carriage up to the gate of Niddrie Marischal, where it was given over to the tenantry.

The procession was a long one, and was headed by the school children, preceded by the local pipe band. Then came the Niddrie brass band, playing 'See, the Conquering Hero comes', and after them appeared the menbers of the 'A.G. Wauchope' Lodge of Shepherds, bearing aloft their banner with his portrait on it.

whereupon he gave a welcoming address in which he hoped that coal from Niddrie would be used to fire the locomotives on the Khartoum railway. But the Boer War broke out towards the end of the year. Wauchope was not gung-ho about it:

I don't half like the job we have got; we have a very hard nut to crack with these Boers.

The city and the Newcraighall miners prepared to give him a grand send-off, but in the event he left very quietly by train. He led the Highland Brigade in the Boer War, under Kitchener's command. In December 1899 they attempted to dislodge the Boers from the Magersfontein hills above the Modder River. The Boers were dug into trenches at the foot of the hills. The British failed to find them, and shelled an unoccupied hilltop, letting them know an attack was imminent. Wauchope then led his men on a night march through a thunderstorm straight into a massive ambush and one of the worst British defeats of the century, becoming one of the first of hundreds to die. (He was replaced by Hector Macdonald; Kitchener's next battle plan got the brigade to ford the swollen river into another wall of close-range rifle fire, in which Macdonald was wounded, one of more than a thousand casualties). The defeat is marked by a 3/4 retreat march, The Highland Brigade at Magersfontein, by Pipe-Major John Maclellan of Dunoon (1876-1949) who was with the Highland Light Infantry at the time, and by one of the finest marches of the period, William Robb's The 93rd at the Modder River. Major General A.G. Wauchope's Farewell to Edinburgh, by Thomas Stevenson, and Major General A.G. Wauchope's Farewell to Midlothian, by D. McNair, are both taken from David Glen. They can't have been played at Wauchope's actual departure, which leaves three alternatives: they were written for a ceremony that never happened; they were written as musical memorials after Wauchope's death; or they were retitled pieces from an earlier departure in 1896, when he was Colonel of the Black Watch, which left for York with a big parade after three years in the city.

Wauchope's widow stayed on at Niddrie-Marischal until her death in 1942. Then the family abandoned it. Over the years it got a reputation as haunted, but as a Craigmillar resident remembered many years later

Well, we heard stories about that place but it wasnae actually haunted. It was a massive size of a place and they bred alsatians up there and they were big vicious beasts. And just at the bus depot, that's where the double gates used to be - they were aye kept locked and the alsatians used to roam along the grounds. I mean even the paper boy was terrified to go in that gate.

The council took the house over in 1950 to build a housing scheme on its grounds; it was even more shoddily built and more inhuman in layout than the adjacent one at Craigmillar. They prevaricated about what to do with the house itself, making a series of proposals and following through with none of them; meanwhile it was stripped and vandalized, had the lead torn off its roof, and at last was burnt to a shell at Hogmanay 1959. The Niddrie estates went on to become one of Edinburgh's most grimly deprived schemes, its people being regarded by local and European bureaucrats as ideal guinea pigs for experiments in social engineering. Most of the estate was demolished in 2000 and is being rebuilt as I write this.

I end with songs that bid farewell not only to Edinburgh but to life itself. Would you be young again? was Lady Nairne's last song. She was living in the Borders at the time, and wrote this in a letter to a friend in the city. The tune is Robin Adair, first known in Ireland as Eileen Aroon, and reprinted in countless Victorian Scottish songbooks; I've taken it from one of them.

The hymn Departure is by Andrew Thomson, from R.A. Smith's The Edinburgh Sacred Harmony of 1829. Its extremely slow tempo is specified in the score, though this was not long after the invention of the Maelzel metronome and they may not have been entirely reliable.

Good night and joy be wi' you a' was at one time played at the end of any party or dance in Scotland, serving the purpose Auld Lang Syne has now. It has several well-known texts. The earliest may be O this is my departing night, first printed by David Herd in 1776 and later popularized in a slightly Anglicized form by Sir Walter Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. It's an eve-of-execution speech attributed to Thomas Armstrong in 1601, who together with Adam Scott had killed the Warden of the Middle Marches in the Borders. They were brought to Edinburgh, had their right hands cut off, were hanged and had their bodies displayed on the Borough Muir. Allan Ramsay had earlier questioned this version of the story, and claimed that a form of the ballad in which the killers were hanged near the scene of the crime in the Borders was the authentic one.

There were many later adaptations. Burns's Masonic The Farewell to his lodge brothers at Tarbolton, was written in June 1786 when he was intending to emigrate to Jamaica. James Hogg's The year is wearing to the wane turns it into an old man's farewell, as does the pompously patriarchal Good night, and joy be wi' ye a' by Sir Alexander Boswell, the most popular version for much of the 19th century. The version by Joanna Baillie (1762-1851), Good-night, Good-night!, made it into a marriage ode. John Imlah (1799-1841), who was born in Aberdeen and spent his working life as a piano tuner in London before dying on a visit to Jamaica, continued in Burns's manner with Guid nicht, an joy be wi' you a'. Lady Nairne Christianized it as The best o' joys maun hae an end (re-using Hogg's middle verse, which is weak and clichéd, but it's not essential to either version). A more recent version is the Irish The Parting Glass, popularized by Tommy Makem. One set of the tune is far older than any known text for it: the lute arrangement, Good Night and God Be With You, from the Skene Manuscript of 1625. The other one I have included is more familiar, the last song in Burns and Johnson's Scots Musical Museum.

Back to Contents List

Embro, Embro
Copyright © 2001, Jack Campin