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Updated 11/14/2017


Lyrics by Rev. John Skinner

The recorded history of the Scottish dance tune, ‘Tullochgorum,’ can be traced back to 1734 and its first appearance in music notation in the Duke of Perth MS. Of unknown authorship, the tune is believed to have originated on the bagpipes on account of it being in the mixolydian mode, but it is now considered to be among the core repertoire of Scottish fiddle music. Francis Collinson has postulated the existence of an earlier example of the tune in the Rowallan Lute MS of 
c. 1620 under the title, ‘Ouir the Deck Davy,’ but while the tune bears resemblance to that now known as ‘Tullochgorum,’ the earliest known example to combine tune and title remains the Duke of Perth MS. It was first published in print in 1757 by music publisher, Robert Bremner, and since that time has been included in at least thirty-eight other printed collections. Examples of the tune also exist as audio recordings, the earliest of which is a performance by James Scott Skinner from 1905. It is exceptional that there should be so many examples of an individual tune, but the tune itself was made exceptional when emotionally powerful lyrics were written to it.


Rev. William Reid provides the following explanation of the title, but its authority is compromised by the romantic and sentimental imagery of the plot and the lack of evidence cited:


[O]nly a few miles from Grantown is situated Tullochgorum, the scene of the bloody tragedy which inspired the reel of the same name. … [H]ere is to be found the farm-house of Tullochgorum. … Two hundred years ago among the suitors for the hand of the Laird’s daughter, Isabel, was one of the lawless clan Macgregor, but her friends gave the preference to a gentleman of the Robertson clan, who resolved on the destruction of his rival. Accordingly, accompanied by a small party, he came suddenly upon him, but Macgregor was more than a match for his assailants. Having escaped to a barn he made a gallant use of his claymore, striking down successively those who dared to enter, and aided by Isabel, who loaded for him a musket, he succeeded in destroying the whole band, among whom was her brother, who had acted a treacherous part on the occasion. It was in the moment of exultation consequent in such a victory that he composed and danced the famous reel of Tullochgorum.


While the origins of the tune, ‘Tullochgorum,’ are unclear, it is likely that it originated in the Highlands of Scotland. The tune assumed an especially high cultural value when the Reverend John Skinner wrote Scots lyrics to it (c. 1760). The Rev. Skinner (1721-1807) was born at Balfour, Aberdeenshire; the son of the schoolmaster of Birse. He was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, became assistant schoolmaster at Monymusk, took orders in the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1742, spent two years in Shetland as preceptor in the family of the Sinclairs of Scalloway, then, returning to Aberdeen, ministered at Longside, near Linshart, for the rest of his life.  The Reverend John Skinner was the author of several popular Scotch poems and songs. The list includes ‘John o’ Badenyon’ and ‘Ewie wi’ the Crookit Horn’.


The lyrics combine Highland Scottish, Lowland Scottish, and British identities with a message of unification – reference to a ‘Highland taste’ in a song written in Lowland Scots rather than Gaelic highlights an interface between the two cultures, and while there is no explicit reference to British identity, the lack of antagonism towards England arguably implies an, at least latent, accord. At the same time, the lyrics criticize ‘foreign’ influences, whether musical, as in ‘dull Italian lays’, or political, as in ‘the ills that come frae France’. Skinner’s position as an Episcopalian minister and an influential figure within the Scottish Episcopal Church is one possible explanation of the fervent nationalism evoked in the song: his decision to convert from Church of Scotland to Scottish Episcopal Church and worship according to the liturgy of the Church of England was undoubtedly a very significant decision and one which must have shaped his own sense of identity. The fact that the song went on to become so popular may be explained both by the public’s familiarity with the tune and by their ability to relate to the words in a climate of cultural nationalism. A reference to the tune by name in an 1809 biographical account of the famous eighteenth-century fiddler, Niel Gow (the only tune to be referred to by name in the whole article), demonstrates its centrality to Scottish fiddle music and, by the fact that the biographical account was published in the widely circulated Scots Magazine, Scottish culture in general.

Lyrics by Rev. John Skinner

COME, gi’es sang, Montgom’rie cried,

And lay your disputes a’ aside;

What signifies for folks to chide

  For what was done before them?

Let Whig and Tory a’ agree,

Whig and Tory, Whig and Tory,

Whig and Tory a’ agree

  To drop their whigmigmorum;

Let Whig and Tory a’ agree

To spend this night in mirth and glee,

And cheerfu’ sing, alang wi’ me,

  The reel o’ Tullochgorum.


O Tullochgorum’s my delight;

It gars us a’ in ane unite;

And ony sumph that keeps up spite,

  In conscience I abhor him.

Blithe and merry we’ll be a’,

Blithe and merry, blithe and merry,

Blithe and merry we’ll be a’

  And mak’ a cheerfu’ quorum.

For blithe and merry we’ll be a’

As lang as we ha’e breath to draw,

And dance, till we be like to fa’,

  The reel o’ Tullochgorum.

What needs there be sae great a fraise

Wi’ dringin’, dull Italian lays?

I wadna gi’e our ain strathspeys

  For half a hunder score o’ them.

They’re dowf and dowie at the best,

Dowf and dowie, dowf and dowie,

Dowf and dowie at the best,

  Wi’ a’ their variorum.

They’re dowf and dowie at the best,

Their allegros and a’ the rest;

They canna please a Scottish taste

  Compared wi’ Tullochgorum.


Let worldly worms their minds oppress

Wi’ fears o’ want and double cess,

And sullen sots themsel’s distress

  Wi’ keeping up decorum.

Shall we sae sour and sulky sit?

Sour and sulky, sour and sulky,

Sour and sulky shall we sit,

  Like auld philosophorum?

Shall we sae sour and sulky sit,

Wi’ neither sense, nor mirth, nor wit,

Nor ever rise to shake a fit

  To the reel o’ Tullochgorum?

May choicest blessings aye attend

Each honest, open-hearted friend,

And calm and quiet be his end,

  And a’ that’s gude watch o’er him!

May peace and plenty be his lot,

Peace and plenty, peace and plenty,

Peace and plenty be his lot,

  And dainties a great store o’ them!

May peace and plenty be his lot,

Unstained by ony vicious spot,

And may he never want a groat,

  That’s fond o’ Tullochgorum!


But for the discontented fool,

Wha wants to be oppression’s tool,

May envy gnaw his rotten soul,

  And discontent devour him!

May dule and sorrow be his chance,

Dule and sorrow, dule and sorrow,

Dule and sorrow be his chance,

  And nane say ’Wae’s me for him!’

May dule and sorrow be his chance,

And a’ the ills that come frae France,

Whae’er he be that winna dance

  The reel o’ Tullochgorum!