An old Scottish Traditional Song

The Garlogie Ceilidh with the Bothy Ballad King.

The Garlogie Ceilidhs were on Sunday afternoons at the Garlogie Village Hall and were well attended by people from far and wide. The hall was full of tables and there was no space left for dancing. It was more an open mic ceilidh where local personalities got up and did their party pieces. Mostly singers, musicians and storytellers. Because there wasn’t a public bar people were encouraged to bring their own food and drinks and the atmosphere was fantastic. Old and young all together in celebration of a shared culture, humour and identity.

Dae yi mind on lang lang syne?

Many moons ago I first heard this old Scottish Traditional song from Tam Reid, in the early nineties at the Garlogie Ceilidhs. Tam was well known for his Bothy Ballads and I always liked Tam. Everyone did. He was the kind of gent that personified all that was teuchter and Aberdeenshire farming. Tam’s eyes glinted almost as if he’d been born with a dram in his veins, though I can say I never saw him too drunk. I remember his white hair and dark eyebrows. He was a thick-set strong man with a gentle smile, big hands and a weather-worn red face. 

 Tam Reid was known as ‘The Bothy Ballad King’.

When I first heard the song “Dae yi mind in lang lang syne?“, I had assumed it was a northeast bothy ballad song, but I was wrong. Its origins go back to Ayrshire or Edinburgh around 1800.

I made a YouTube video of the song using family pictures from my mum’s side.

Dae yi mind in lang lang syne?

History of the song.

The original author of this Scottish traditional song is Rev George S. Lawrie.

George was the son of a Kirkmicheal minister and studied at Edinburgh University and had been ordained in 1763 at Galston, Ayrshire. (He was to remain there for the rest of his days.) The following year in 1764, he married Mary Campbell, the daughter of a divinity Professor from St. Andrews University. – Archibald Cameron. Then, they went on to have two children and the oldest daughter was also a talented musician.

George S. Lawrie meets Robert Burns

In 1786 George had read the Kilmarnock Edition, by Robert Burns. At the same time, a young Burns was having problems in his career and as a result was thinking about giving up writing poetry altogether, fearing his words were falling on deaf ears and therefore he was considering leaving Scotland forever.

George was so impressed by the Poetry and songs from Burns he sent a copy of the works to Edinburgh to a Dr Blacklock who was known to George as an influential member of high society in Edinburgh. As a consequence, Blacklock immediately wrote back to George enthusiastically with a great passion for Burns’ works. George showed this letter to a friend Gavin, who showed it to Burns.

Sometime later, in an autobiographical letter from Burns to a Dr Moore, Burns comments about Lawrie and Blacklock.

I had taken the last farewell of my friends; my chest was on the road to Greenock; I had composed my last song I should ever measure in Caledonia, “The gloomy night is gathering fast” when a letter from Dr Blacklock to a friend of mine overthrew all my schemes by rousing my poetic ambition.’

Burns and Lawrie remained friends, and Burns would frequently visit the manse and stay over. Their contribution to Scottish Traditional Music, poetry and song was immense.

Without the help of Lawrie, Robert Burns may have quit his craft and Scotland would have been a more impoverished culture for it. Can you imagine Scotland with no Burns?

Nae Auld Lang Syne? No Red Red Rose? Without sleekit’ cowering beasties? Missing parcel o rogues? Oh wait, that would probably be good! 😉

Traditional Nostalgia

Generally speaking, in this song “Di yi mind in lang lang syne” I feel there is a depth of nostalgia leading to an acceptance of what is finally to come. I can imagine an old George S. Lawrie. Sitting in the manse in front of his fire, sipping a malt. Thinking back on his childhood, all the landscapes of places he played as a young boy in Perthshire, all the friends he misses who have passed on, all the hard-working farm folk who ‘rose wi the lark in the morning’.

I remember my own experiences with my family and friends and draw my comparisons. Ultimately there are people I miss, people I have lost, and as a result, I see all the same places in my memory where we once played. My generation had great fun as children. It all seems golden in my mind. In essence, it also makes me sad, because I know it will never happen again for me given I am 44, and I would get arrested for guddling in a burn now.

I fear my kids will never have such a good childhood as I enjoyed. iPads and technology seem to be strangling childhood.

More Scottish Traditional Music

Although there are some slightly different lyrics to the song on-line, I learned these from a Tam Reid recording. Visit the Iron Broo video library and see the song lyrics. This song is included on the album “A Celtic Voice”. Which is available online for download and on CD here along with other Scottish Traditional music from the past and present. Including some original tunes and songs where the PDF music of which will eventually all be available to download for free in our sheet music library.

Iron Broo recorded a Northeast Bothy Ballad Aikey Brae which featured in their Doric Film Festival entry, “Awa we gaed tae Aikey”


Above: My two brothers and I with my cousins at Ardin Farm, Turriff. Many moons ago.

No much wonder we grew up with drink problems.  :-0

Abel brothers lang lang syne
Abel brothers lang lang syne

My brother Stuart and I. We are dressed up as the Flower Pot Men, ready to explore the world.