Dumbarton's Drums

Dumbarton’s drums they sound so bonny
And they remind me o my Johnny,
What fond delights they steal upon me
When Johnny kneels and kisses me

My love he is a handsome laddie
And though he is Dumbarton’s caddie
Some day I’ll be a captain’s lady
When Johnny tends his vow to me

Across the fields of bounding heather
Dumbarton sounds the hour of pleasure
The joy I know will know no measure
When Johnny kneels and kisses me

‘Tis he alone that can delight me
His roving eye it doth invite me
And when his tender arms enfold me
The blackest night doth turn and flee

– military cadet, messenger boy
(cadet –archaic – younger child
or branch of a family)

According to John Loesberg in his Traditional Folksongs and Ballads of Scotland, the Earl of Dumbarton ‘was commander of the Royal forces in Scotland during the reign of Charles 2nd and James 2nd. ….the Earl distinguished himself by suppressing the rebellion of Argyle in 1685 and died in 1692.’

Our text comes from the Beers Family of Fox Hollow, New York, and differs significantly from the song’s early Scottish appearance in The Tea-table Miscellany (1723-37) - edited and partly written by Allan Ramsay:

Dumbarton’s drums beat bonny – O
When they mind me of my dear Jonny – O
How happy am I,
When my soldier is by,
While he kisses and blesses his Annie – O
‘Tis a soldier alone can delight me – O,
For his graceful looks do invite me – O:
While guarded in his arms,
I’ll feel no war’s alarms,
Neither danger nor death shall e’er fright me –O

My love is a handsome laddie – O,
Genteel, but never foppish nor gaudy – O:
Though commissions are dear,
Yet I’ll buy him one this year;
For he shall serve no longer a cadie – O.
A soldier has honour and bravery-O,
Unacquainted with rogues and their knavery – O
He minds no other thing
But the ladies or the king;
For every other care is but slavery – O

Then I’ll be the captain’s lady – O
Farewell all my friends and my daddy – O
I’ll wait no more at home,
But I’ll follow with the drum
And whene’er that beats, I’ll be ready – O
Dumbarton’s drums sound bonny – O
They are sprightly like my dear Jonny – O
How happy shall I be,
When on my soldier’s knee,
And he kisses and blesses his Annie – O

This old song is quoted in Chamber’s Scottish Songs Prior to
Burns (1890) and he gives a tune which, unnamed, is very different from ours. Loesberg names the original tune as "I serve a Worthie Ladie", quoting Graham’s ‘Songs Of Scotland’ 1849.