Fareweel Tae Tarwathie

by George Scroggie 19th century

Fareweel tae Tarwathie, adieu Mormond Hill
And the dear land o Crimond, I bid ye fareweel
I am bound out for Greenland and ready to sail
In hopes to find riches in hunting the whale

Adieu to my comrades, for a while we must pairt
Likewise tae the dear girl wha fair won my hairt
The cold ice of Greenland my love will not chill
The longer my absence, the stronger love’s thrill

Oor ship is weel rigged and she’s ready to sail
Our crew they are anxious to follow the whale
Where the icebergs do float and the stormy winds blaw
Where the land and the ocean are covered wi snaw

Now the cold coast of Greenland is barren and bare
Nae seed-time nor harvest is ever known there
The birds here sing sweetly over mountain and dale
But there isnae a birdie to sing tae the whale

There is nae habitation for a man tae live there
The king of that country’s the fierce Greenland bear
There’ll be nae temptation tae tarry lang there
Wi oor ship bumper fu we will homeward repair

Tarwathie: North Tarwathie farm today is about two miles north of the village of Strichen, Aberdeenshire, near Mormond Hill.

This song about the whaling industry was brought to Sangschule by Christine Kydd. She recorded it with Barbara Dymock on their CD, Sinsheen, with the version above. Their notes give the writer as “George Scroggie, born 28th March 1826, in Old Deer, Aberdeenshire and one-time miller at Federate in the Parish of New Deer.” They add that the melody is known in connection with the older song called “Green Bushes” or “The Waggoner’s Lad”, and Bob Dylan used it as the basis for his song “Farewell Angelina”.

The version in The Singing Island edited by MacColl and Seeger came from collector A L Lloyd, who “learned it from John Sinclair, a native of Ballater, in Durban, South Africa, 1938.” It is almost identical with ours, except for verse 2, line 4 where his version has “And the longer my absence, the more loving she’ll feel”.

A note about “Tarwathie” in The Singing Island quotes A L Lloyd: “ The whaling profession is rigorous and cruel, attracting hard and bloody men …. But many of the Scottish whaling songs have a gentle, meditative ring, sounding as if their makers’ hand was as skilful with a pen as with a blubberhook. Such a one is ‘Tarwathie’. It has the quiet melancholy of the foc’sle at midnight with the hammocks swaying and the men awake in the darkness.”

John Milne, a contributor to the Greig-Duncan Collection, said that George Scroggie was a poet as well as a miller, and a version of “Tarwathie” is included in his book The Peasant’s Lyre: a Collection of Miscellaneous Poems (Aberdeen, 1857)
Mr Milne’s aunt had been married to George Scroggie who wrote “Tarwathie”, he said, “early in the fifties of last century.” (19th) The lyric as reported by Mr Milne is also very similar to the version that has come down to us, but it does have an extra verse, verse 3 in his song:

Awhile I must leave you and go to the sea
Wish luck to the bonnie ship that I’m going wi’
And when I am sailing upon the wide main
Be cheerful and happy till I come again