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[No. 114. McPherson's farewell.
Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong, &c.]
'McPherson, a daring robber, in the beginning of this century was condemned to be hanged at the Assizes at Inverness. He is said, when under sentence of death, to have composed this tune, which he called his own lament, or farewell. R. R. Gow, with his wonted impudence, has published a variation of this fine tune as his own composition, which he calls, The Princess Augusta.'
[No. 116. The maid of Selma.
In the hall I lay in night, &c.]
'This air began to be admired at Edin" about the year 1770. The words are a little altered from the original in the Poems of Ossian and I am doubtful whether the tune has any pretentions to antiquity. That very valuable collection of Highland and Western Island music published by the Revd Mr McDonald of Kilmore which is ancient and undoubted oldest Scottish Music existing, is different from this air, which breathes more of an Italian, than an old Ergadian composition. R. R. Since I wrote the above, I have met with a collection of Strathspeys &c. by John Bowie at Perth. In the end of the collection are three airs (said) by Fingal and the following note precedes them:-The following pieces of ancient music were furnished to the editors by a gentleman of note in the Highlands of Scotland, were composed originally for the Harp and which were handed down to him by his ancestors who learned them from the celebrated harper Rory Dall, who flourished in the Highlands in the reign of Queen Ann. This air there called The maid of Selma seems to be taken from these ancient Fingallian ones.'
[No. 119. Song of Selma.
It is night, I am alone, &c.]
'Here is another Fingallian air-said to be-but the moment a tune suffers the smallest alteration, it loses its prominent features, its costume, its every thing. Music like a fine painting, can admit of no alteration no retouching by any other hand, after it has come from that of the original composer. R. R.'
[No. 128. O Bessy Bell, and Mary Gray, &c.]
'The ladies who were the subject of this song were the daughters of the Laird of Kinvaid and the Laird of Lednoch. A pestilence that raged in 1666 determined them to retire from the danger. They selected a romantic and sequestered spot on the side of Brauchie Burn, where they biggit their bower. Here they lived for some time, and without jealousy received the visits of a lover who could not fix on either, till catching the pestilence they both died and were both interred in the lands of Lednoch at Dronach Haugh. This song was composed by their common lover:
The Bessies twa are jimp and sma',
And geer she has right plenty,
For weel I ween 'twas ere yestreen
The lads they sigh'd and startled.
That wooers she has nae scanty,
Gin she but looks pleased and canty.
The swankies shew these lovers twa
'Turn over to next blank leaf' [Riddell]; which is missing [Ed.].
[No. 133. What will I do gin my hoggie die, &c.]
'The first time I heard this tune was in the year 1772. Dr Walker, who was then Minister at Moffat and is now (1791) Professor of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh was present, and told the following anecdote concerning it. He said that some gentlemen riding a few years ago, through Liddesdale, stopped at a hamlet consisting of a few houses, called Moss Plat; when they were struck with this tune, which an old woman, spinning on a rock at her door, sung. All she could tell concerning it was, that she was taught it when a child, and it was called What will I do gin my hoggie dies. No person (except a few females at Moss Plat) knew this fine old tune; which in all probability would have been lost, had not one of the gentlemen had a flute and took it down. R. R."
[No. 155. Where Helen lies.
O, that I were where Helen lies, &c.]
Riddell begins by relating the well-known tale of the ballad, and closes as follows: 'A tombstone marks their grave, upon it is cut a cross and sword with Hic jacet Adam Fleming. In Vol. XI of my MS. collections is another set of this song with the music to it. R. R.'
1 This Note is manufactured in the Reliques, p. 241, to make it appear that Burns wrote it, although Riddell has written and signed it. Cromek dared not to say that Burns could have known Dr. Walker so early as 1772.
The bonny Earl of Murray.
Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, &c.]
'That beast of a king James the Sixth, being jealous of an attachment betwixt his Queen Anne of Denmark and this Earl of Murray the handsomest man of his time, prevailed with the Marquis of Huntly, his enemy to murder him, and by a writing under his own hand, promised to save him harmless. Burnet.'
[No. 199. Cromlet's lilt.
Since all thy vows, false maid, &c.]
'In the latter end of the 16th Century, the Chisholms were proprietors of the estate of Cromleks (now possessed by the Drummonds). The eldest son of that family was very much attached to a daughter of Sterling of Ardoch, commonly known by the name of Fair Helen of Ardoch.
At that time the opportunities of meeting betwixt the sexes were more rare, consequently more sought after than now; and the Scottish ladies, far from priding themselves on extensive literature, were thought sufficiently booklearned if they could make out the Scriptures in their mother tongue. Writing was entirely out of the line of female education. At that period too, most of our young men of family sought a fortune, or found a grave, in France. Cromlus, when he went abroad to the war, was obliged to leave the management of his correspondence with his mistress to a lay brother of the monastery of Dumblain, in the immediate neighbourhood of Cromleck, and near Ardoch. This man, unfortunately, was deeply sensible of Helen's charms. He artfully prepossessed her with stories to his disadvantage; and by misinterpreting or keeping up the letters and messages intrusted to his care, he entirely irritated both. All connection was broken off betwixt them: Helen was inconsolable, and Cromleck has left behind him, in the ballad called Cromleck's Lilt, a proof of the elegance of his genius, as well as the steadiness of his
love. When the artful monk thought that time had sufficiently softened Helen's sorrow, he proposed himself as a lover: Helen was obdurate; but at last, overcome by the persuasions of her brother, with whom she lived, and who, having a family of thirty-one children, was probably very well pleased to get her off his hands; she submitted, rather than consented to the ceremony; but there her compliance ended; and, when forcibly put into bed, she started quite frantic from it, screaming out, that after three gentle taps on the wainscot, at the bed-head, she heard Cromleck's voice, crying Helen! Helen, mind me. Cromleck soon after coming home, the treachery of the confident was discovered, her marriage disannulled-and Helen became Lady Cromleks.
N.B.-Marg: Murray, mother to these thirty one children, was daughter to Murray of Strewen, one of the seventeen sons of Tullybardine, and whose youngest son, commonly called the Tutor of Ardoch, died in the year 1715, aged 11L years.
For the foregoing account of this plaintive Dirge called Cromlet's Lilt, I am indebted to Alexander Fraser Tytler Esq. of Woodhouslee, Advocate. R. R.'1
[No. 205. Colonel Gardener. Tune: Sawnie's Pipe.
'Twas at the hour of dark midnight, &c.]
'The life of the gallant Colonel Gardener who fell at the battle of Preston Pans is in print. He was slain by Farquhar McGillevrey, then servant to the Duke of Perth, who I was told came behind his back and cut him down with a clymore. This man, Farquhar McGillevrey I have seen; he was Baron officer to the Earl of Nithsdale and had a house near Terreagles. He was a papist, and abhorred by the country people with whom Col: Gardener was a popular character. R. R.'
This is the second and last of the two Notes in the Reliques which Cromek has marked as by Riddell, but the Note is not verbatim.