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Updated 07/12/2019


Donal' Don

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.



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

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

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

When he was young and in his prime,
He lo'ed 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 and frisky. 

Whene’er his sark’s laid out tae dry
It’s Donald 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