Donal Don

printed 1899
Tune: Rob Roy’s March

Wha hasna heard o Donal Don
Wi a’ his tanterwallops on,
For O! he was a lazy drone,
And smuggled Hielan whisky.

Hir-um-ho for Donal Don
Wi a’ his tanterwallops on,
And may he never lack a scone
While he maks Hielan whisky

When first he cam tae auld Dundee,
‘Twas in a smeeky hole lived he;
Where gauger bodies couldna see,
He played the king a pliskie.

When he was young and in his prime,
He loed a bonny lassie fine;
She jilted him an aye sin syne
He’s dismal, dull and dusky.

A bunch o rags is a’ his braws,
His heathery wig wad fricht the craws;
His dusky face and clorty paws,
Wad fyle the Bay o Biscay.

He has a sark, he has but ane,
It’s fairly worn tae skin an bane,
A-loupin, like tae rin its lane
Wi troopers bauld an frisky.

Whene’er his sark’s laid oot tae dry
It’s Donal in his bed maun lie,
An wait till a’ the troopers die.
Ere he gangs oot wi whisky.

So here’s a health tae Donal Don,
Wi a’ his tanterwallops on,
An may he never lack a scone
While he maks Hielan whisky.

Aye sin syne: ever since then
Braws: finery, best clothes
Clorty: dirty
Drone: the non-worker bee (English) / the buttocks, backside (from Gaelic dronn)
Fricht: frighten
Fyle: defile, make dirty
Gauger: exciseman,whisky tax collector
Like tae rin its lane: as if it could run by itself
Loupin: jumping (with fleas)
Maun: must
Pliskie: trick
Sark: shirt
Smeeky: smoky
Tanterwallops: hanging tatters or rags

This song was brought to Sangschule by Gordeanna McCulloch who learned it from the ‘wee red book’ of the sixties folk revival, 101 Scottish Songs.

The lyric appears in Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads in Part I, 1899 and also in the revised edition of 1904. Ford notes: “ This graphic and clever, though slightly uncouth ditty, which I have never seen in print, was common enough in all the valley of Tay about fifty years ago, and has not yet passed out of memory in that district.” Ford says the tune is Niel Gow’s “Fareweel to Whisky” – but we sing it to “Rob Roy’s March”.

The connection with the Tay continues with Donal Don’s inclusion in Songs of Dundee edited by Nigel Gatherer – who notes the tune as “Rob Roy’s March.”
One reason for the importance of access to cheap alcohol and those who made or smuggled it after the union of 1707, was “the appalling water supply. Even the Church, which preached against spirits, approved of beer as ‘strengthening’”. Many people felt the new tax on ale was going towards English debts, and smuggling of spirits became widespread. “This made spirits cheaper than the taxed ale”.

The lyric seems to fit into the many songs of the Lowlands poking fun at the supposed language and characteristics of the Highlander, that scary denizen of pathless places whose role in the Jacobite Rebellions and whose arrival to find work in the cities after the Clearances was not to be forgotten.

West Lothian-born poet Alexander Rodger (DOB 1784) wrote several e.g.”Shon McNab” and “Lauchie Fraser’s Promotions” included in Poems and Songs : humorous, serious and satirical. The introduction written in 1896 by respected scholar and editor Robert Ford, praises him for his “ exceedingly happy examples of the Highlander’s broken English” and his squibs on unfair practices:
Promotion amang Highland folks / Gangs mair by Mac than merit”
Though she’ll pe couldna read nor write/ Will no pe meikle harm in’t;
She’ll kiss her Honour’s Clory’s toup/ to get wee bit preferment.”

(toup or doup is the backside).

It seems they were coming down here and taking our jobs.