Fareweel ye dungeons dark an' strang,
[And all beneath the skies].
McPherson's time will no' be long,
Below thon gallows tree I'll hing.
So rantingly, sae wantonly, and sae dantin'ly went he;
He played a tune then danced a-roon' below the gallows tree.
"There's some cam' here to see me hang't,
An' some to buy my fiddle;
But before 'at I do part wi' her,
I'll break her though the middle."
He took the fiddle into both of his hands
An' he broke it over a stone;
Says he: "There's no anither han'll play on thee
When I am dead and gone.
It wis by a woman's treacherous hand
'At I wis condemned to dee:
Below a ledge a windae she stood,
Then a blanket she threw ower me.
The laird o' Grant, the Highland sa'nt,
'At first laid hands on me;
He played the cause on Peter Broon
Tae let McPherson dee.
Untie these bands from off my hands,
An' gae bring to me my sword,
For there's no a man in all Scotland
But'll brave him at his word.
The reprieve was comin' o'er the brig o' Banff
For tae let McPherson free,
When they put the clock a quarter before,
Then hanged him to the tree.
I've lived a life o' sturt an' strife;
I die by treachery.
O it breaks my heart, I must depart,
An' live in slavery.
Fareweel you life, you sunshine bright,
And all beneath the skies;
For in the place I'm ready to:
McPherson's time tae die."
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Palmer, Roy, 1998, A Book of British Ballads, Llanerch
Roy Palmer wrote:
James McPherson's long career of robbery culminated in a reign of terror in the markets of Banff, Elgin and Forres. Apparantly under the protection of the laird of Grant, he and his band of followers would come marching in with a piper at their head. Perhaps he became too powerful for comfort for he was hanged in Banff in 1700, for bearing arms at Keith market. A certain haste to get rid of him is evidenced by the period of only eight days which elapsed between sentence and execution, and there is a tradition that a reprieve failed to arrive in time since the town clock and thus the hour of execution was put forward. McPherson is said to have composed the farewell 'rant' himself, delivered it from the gallows, then broken his fiddle. An instrument that purports to be his has been preserved at the Clan McPherson Museum, Newtonmore, Inverness-shire. This version of the ballad, which Thomas Carlyle found 'wild and stormful'; and dwelling 'in ear and mind with strange tenacity' was sung by James McBeath (1894-1971), who can be heard on Wild Rover No More, (Topic 12T73, 1967). His performance concludes with two of the verses from Robert Burn's reworking of the traditional text.
The Happy! file entry for this is as follows:
Inverness: James McPherson rants, fiddles and hangs= 11/16/1700
(Tried before the sheriff of Banffshire 11/7.) McPherson & friends were convicted of being "Egyptian rogues and vagabonds, of keeping the markets in their ordinary manner of thieving and purse-cutting, also being guilty of masterful bangstrie and oppression." Part of the evidence against them was that they spoke a strange language and spent their nights in singing, dancing, and debauchery. He is supposed to have spent his last hour composing his rant, which Burns used as the basis of "Farewell, Ye Dungeons Dark and Strong. (CHO: Sae rantin'ly, sae wantonly / Sae dauntin'ly gaed he, etc)
"McPherson's Rant; or the last words of James McPherson, murderer" Burns' rewrite of both songs (based on Herd). See Dick's Songs of R.B., #311, for more explanation. [Bangstrie is "masterful violence" ? acting like a bangster ? roughneck, bully, winner, hero, violent. As in "Johnnie, play nice with your friends; don't be a bangster."]
Roud: 2160 (Search Roud index at VWML)