Sleeve Notes for BPD

I composed Drink, Debauchery and €200 after an evening on which exactly that was the arrangement between the owner of a pub in Kemper and my friend, and colleague, Niall, and me. He [said publican] provided the former and the latter and we provided the middle bit and the musical accompaniment thereunto.

Teigeis agus Dealg Innte, Haggis with a Pin in Her, or just The Haggis, can be found on page fifteen of Captn. Simon Fraser’s 1816 collection Airs and Melodies peculiar to the Highlands and The Isles from 1715 to 1745. I feel like I have known it since time immoral and I suspect that the graceful strokes of Ali Fraser’s bow may have been what first conveyed unto me its mellifluous strains.I have no idea what the next tune in this set is called. I learned it from Brendan Carey–Block and Eric MacDonald one night at the inter-

A herniated haggis awaiting surgery.

mission of a gig so that we might insert it into a song about sailors, in the second half.

A man shouting angrily at a haggis.

Willie Murray’s I learned from Iain MacInnes during a weekly borderpipe session that we used to have at the Edinburgh University Folk Society room and The Fourth Floor, f.k.a. Where’s Ma Mace, is yet another opus magnum by Gordon Duncan.

Tristan Henderson – Jaw Harp

Dan Houghton – Highland Pipes, Smallpipes, Whistle, Guitar & Bouzouki

Emerald Rae – Fiddle

Alba Bheadarach is mise ’gad Fhàgail, Beloved Scotlandand I Leaving You, is alleged to be the air to which DonaldMacdonald of Sleat, better known in his native language as Domhnall a’ Chogaidh, Donald of the Battles, marched to the battle of Sheriffmuir. It seemed appropriate to velcro it to the following song.

The Battle of Sheriffmuir, called in the Gaelic, Blàr Sliabh an t-Siorram, was fought on 13th  November 1715 between the Hanoverian forces under John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll and the Jacobite forces under John Erskine, 6th Earl of Marr. The battle was a simultaneous win and loss for both sides with Argyll’s right flank inflicting heavy casualties on the Jacobites and the Jacobites’ right flank overpowering Argyll’s left. Both armies retreated the field claiming immediate victory though in the bigger picture Argyll succeeded in both halting the Jacobite advance to northern England and demoralising the Jacobite army which dispersed soon after the battle.

Sheriffmuir as seen from a top floor hotel window

Because of the dual nature of the battle and the declarations of victory thereafter, Robert Burns composed this song as a conversation between two observers of the scene. It serves as a stark reminder that no two observers of the same set of facts, or events will see the same thing or interpret them in the same way. Therefore, the ‘truths’, or conclusions drawn by any two, or more, observers about any given situation are utterly and completely subjective.

O cam ye here the fight tae shun
Or herd the sheep we’ me, man,
Or were ye at the Sherra-moor,
And did the battle see man.
I saw the battle sair and teugh,
And reekin-red ran mony a sheugh,
My heart for ay gaed sough for sough
Tae hear the thuds, and view the cluds
O’ clans frae woods, in tartan duds,
Wha glaum’d the kingdoms three, man

The red-coat lads wi’ black cockauds
Tae meet them were na slaw, man
They rush’d and push’d and blud outgush’d
And mony a bouk did fa’, man:
Great Argyle led on his files,
I wot they glanc’d for twenty miles,
The hough’d the Clans like nine-pin kyles,
They hack’d and hash’d while broadswords clash’d,
Thro’ they dash’d and hew’d and smash’d,
Till fey men di’d awa, man.

But had ye seen the philibegs
And skyrin tartan trews, man,
Whaur in the teeth they dar’d our Whigs,
And covenant Trueblues, man;
In lines extended lang and large,
When baiginets oppos’d the targe,
And thousands hasten’d tae the charge;
Wi’ Hielan wrath they frae the sheath
Drew blades o’ death, till out of breath
They fled like frightened dows, man.


 

Now, how the de’il can that be true,

The chace gaed frae the north, man,

I saw myself they did pursue

The horse-men back tae Forth, man;

And at Dunblane in my ain sight

They took the brig wi’ a’ their might,

And straught tae Stirling wing’d their flight,

But, cursed the lot the gates were shut

And mony a huntit, puir Red-coat

For fear amaist did swarf, man.

"Smiley" John Erskine, 6th Earl of Marr a.k.a. Bobbin' John

My sister Kate cam up the gate

Wi’ crowdie untae me, man;

She swore she saw some rebels run

Tae Perth and tae Dundee, man:

Their left-hand General had nae skill;

The Angus lads had nae gude will,

That day their neebours blude tae spill;

For fear by foes that they should lose

Their cogs o’ brose, they scar’d at blows

And so it goes ye see, man.

They’ve lost some gallant gentlemen

Amang the Heilan Clans, man;

I fear my Laird Panmuir is slain,

Or fa’n in whiggish hands, man

So, would ye sing this double flight,

Some fell for wrang and some for right,

And mony bid the warld gudenight;

So ye may tell how pell and mell,

Wi’ red claymore and muskets knell

Wi’ dyin’ yell the Tories fell,

And Whigs tae Hell did flee, man.

Théid Mi Dhachaigh Chrò Chinn t-Sàile, of which only two verses could be fit onto this CD, is alleged to have been composed by a Highland soldier, mortally wounded at Sherrifmuir. He describes how he will return to Kintail, his body stretched out dead and his spirit arriving home before his physical remains.

Théid mi dhachaigh, hó ró dhachaigh,
Théid mi dhachaigh Chrodh Chinn t-Sàile.
Théid mi dhachaigh, hó ró dhachaigh,
Théid mi dhachaigh Chrodh Chinn t-Sàile.

I will go home, I will go home to the cattlefolds of Kintail.

Théidh mi nam shineadh, nam shineadh, nam shineadh.

Théidh mi nam shineadh gan dàil ann.

Théidh mi nam shineadh, nam shineadh, nam shineadh.

Théid mi dhachaigh Chrodh Chinn t-Sàile.

I will go stretched out (on a bier).

I will go stretched out without delay.

Dan Houghton – Highland Pipes, Whistle, Guitar, Bouzouki & Vocals

Boc Liath Nan Gobhar Is E Ag Iarraidh Mnà, The Grey Buck Goat and He Looking for Women [Does], is a title which suggests that there is a very interesting story behind it though I cannot find lyrics to it anywhere. Those of you who have experienced the horrors of a buck goat on rut can fill in the blanks by means of your imaginations. Freya’s Diplomacy I composed in honour of my daughter and her attitude toward life, her sense of independence and singularity of purpose when she gets what she wants in the cross hairs.

Lieutenant MacGuire and The Old Woman’s Dance, by Donald

Two goats in rut time

Macleod, are a pair of cracking old tunes that most likely crept into my hehead during the halcyon, Alan MacLeod days of the Tannahill Weavers.

Dan Houghton – Highland Pipes, Whistle, Guitar & Bouzouki

Emerald Rae – Fiddle

I stole the idea of playing a set of tunes consisting entirely of Strathspeys from the band OBT of which my dear friend and colleague, Jon Bews, is a member. In retrospect this format is not too dissimilar to that of a Scottish Country Dance Strathspey in which context I heard the first tune in this set, Bràighe Bhanbha, The Braes of Banff.  The tune seemed simple enough and I tried playing it on the Borderpipes, in the key of A-mix and surprisingly it did nothing for me emotionally. However, as soon as I repatriated it to its native key of F-mix it touched me in all

Monymusk in summer. Isn't it nice?

the right places. Ho! Se Mo Rùn An t-Oighfhear, Yea! My Love is a Young Man, comes from the Donald Macdonald MS (not the same Donald Macdonald mentioned hereinabove) and Maggie Cameron, a tune that I used to compete with before I became an actual musician.

I threw Am Monadh Mosg, The Fetted, or Stinking, Moor, a.k.a. Sir Archibald Grant of Moneymusk on at the end, in Bb-mix, partly because it is an arse kicking tune, but also because it allowed me to have my wicked way with every bagpipe that I own in the space of one set.

Dan Houghton – Highland Pipes,  Smallpipes, Whistle, Guitar & Bouzouki

Emerald Rae – Fiddle

I first heard Blackbird executed by Gordon Bok and it very quickly became an earworm, which has lasted for decades in spite of any of the medications that I have tried for it. Fortunately, according to others, I am the only one who can actually hear it out loud when out in public. In my memory it is indelibly associated with a night-time car trip from Manchester, Vermont, to New York with a burned out headlight fuse and I with a broken arm. This initial experience, coupled with subsequent incidents of sleeping under petrol station awnings or, indeed, in bushes during my travels, have created a deep sense of identification with the protagonist of this oration. Whilst I have turned several floating boats into submarines I have not, as yet, stolen a terminally ill horse; I’ll have to get to work on that one.

Blackbird, blackbird flying late,
Grease in the pot and ash in the grate,
They bar the door and shut the gate,
They’ve got no place for me.
The bottle’s empty and my head is sore,
I don’t know where I’ve been before,
Bar your gate and shut your door,
The Blackbird’s flying free.

Where’ve I been to? I don’t know
Broken fiddle and crooked bow
Holes in my boots and I’m walking slow,
As the last long shadows fall.
The boat I sailed lay down in the tide,
The horse I stole got lame and died,
I don’t need a friend, I don’t want a bride
The blackbird knows it all.

What’s this song the blackbird hears,

I sewed my days and I reaped my years,

Wi’ a basket of sins and a bucket of tears,

And I can’t come in to stay.

My life’s a tale that I don’t tell,

I did my worst and I did it well,

I never got to heaven but I stayed out of hell,

And still I’m on my way.

A black bird

Where’m I going to sleep tonight,
I can’t turn left and I won’t turn right,
Where the road goes on in the cold moonlight
And the lonely blackbird cries.
I’m going to sleep in a lonely bed,
With white and whiter linen spread
A cold grey stone at my foot and head,
And pennies on my eyes.

Dan Houghton – Highland Pipes, Whistle, Guitar & Bouzouki

Emerald Rae – Fiddle

Fuaim nan Tonn Ri Chaisteil Dùn t-Sròin, The Sound of the Waves Against Duntroon Castle, is the Ceòl Mór version of the final reel in this set, Duntroon Castle. Joe Wilson composed Pipe Major Calum Campbell’s Caprice for Calum Campbell who was said to be the only piper who could beat the mighty Donald Macleod in the competitions. Colonel Macleod was, well, a colonel in the army sometime in the past.

Dan Houghton – Highland Pipes, Whistles, Bouzouki & Guitar

Duntroon Castle. Note the absence of waves, though

Though it was Archie Fisher who composed and first recorded Dark Eyed Molly way back in the day, the seminal version, to me, is that recorded by Stan Rogers. I have been thinking about recording it for years and now seemed as goodand as fitting a time as any particularly since my voice has finally changed and dropped into a range where it sounds half decent.
In conversation, Archie said that the words came from a Gaelic song translated by his mother, which he then set to a Basque melody.

Deep and dark are my true love’s eyes,
Blacker still is the winter's turning,
As the sadness of parting proves.
And brighter now is the lantern burning
That lightens my path to love.

No fiddle tune will take the air,
But I will see her swift feet advancing
And the swirl of her long black hair,
Her smiling face and her dark eyes glancing
As we stepped out Blinkbonny Fair.

And if my waiting prove in vain,
Then I will pack and track ever take me.
The long road will ease my pain.
No gem of womankind will make me
E’er whisper love's words again.

For in drink I’ll keep good company,
My ears will ring with the tavern's laughter,
And I’ll hear not her last sweet sighs.
Then who’s to know in the morning after
That I long for her dear dark eyes?

Phil Cunningham composed Findlay MacRae for his father-in-law who bizarrely has exactly the same name.

Dan Houghton – Whistle, Guitar, Bouzouki & Vocals

Cail Johnstone is one of my oldest and dearest friends.

Dan Houghton – Smallpipes, Guitar, Bouzouki, Whistle

Iain MacHarg – Smallpipes

Fear nan Casan Caola, The Man With the Skinny Legs, was introduced to me almost half a lifetime ago by Gavin Marwick. It would appear to be an older and more melifluos version of the Rejected Suitor, whose strains, trills and heedrum–hodrums may so oft be heard emanating from the scenes of piping competitions. The two are the same, however, and Casan Caola may be found in Keith Norman Macdonald’s Skye Collection. It would appear that the Suitor in question was rejected on account of these skinny legs.
Jenny’s Picking Cockles and The Swallow’s Tail are two lovely wee Irish reels.

A man with very skinny legs, indeed

Dan Houghton – Smallpipes, Whistles, Highland Pipes, Bouzouki & Guitar

In all the years that I have been breathing I have heard Mad Tam of Bedlam performed in a bouncy, jovial manner, which, to me, never quite fit the subject matter; the darkness, despair and alienation that mental illness can and usually did bring on, in times past, seemed to warrant a more macabre musical treatment.
The Bedlam Royal Hospital for the mentally ill was originally founded as the Priory of Ste. Mary of Bethlehem in 1247 near Bishopsgate in London and was the first facility in Europe to “treat” the mentally ill. Most of the song is thought to date from around 1620 by which time, the name Bethlehem, had been syncopated to Bethlam or Bedlam. Likewise, the Maudlin mentioned herein probably refers to the Magdalene Asylum, founded in Whitechapel (wherein occurred the Jack the Ripper murders) in 1758. The name later collapsed to Maudlin, according to the linguistic quirks of the region and it served as the model for the Magdalene Laundries, later proliferated by the Catholic Church.

Bath time at Bedlam

Treatment of patients in the Bethlem Royal Hospital was notoriously horrific; so much so that the name Bedlam is now synonymous with chaos and pandemonium. Even more sinister is that the wealthy and bourgeois of London and its surrounds could pay a penny to visit the facility and observe inmates and their treatment/torture.The imagery in the lyrics is curious and Robert Graves, in The White Goddess, draws connections between the content of this song and that of several medieval tales and poems concerning sacred madness or the sacred fool, not least among them being the Irish tale, The Madness of King Suibhne. This song also continues the avian theme of the album.

For to see Mad Tam of Bedlam


Ten thousand miles I travelled


Mad Maudlin goes on dirty toes


For to save her shoes from gravel.

Ref
Yet well I sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys,
Bedlam Boys are bonny,
For they all go bare and they live in the air
And they want no drink nor money.

I went to Pluto's kitchen


To break my fast one morning


And there I got souls piping hot


That on the spit were turning.

There I took a cauldron


Where boiled ten thousand harlots


Though full of flame I drank the same


To the health of all such varlets.

My staff has murdered giants


My pack a long knife carries


To cut mince pies from children's thighs


With which to feed the fairies.

No gypsy, slut or doxy


Will take my mad Tam from me


I'll dance all night, with stars I'll fight


But the fray shall well become me.

Photograph of a female inmate of Bedlam

Sketch of a "treatment" apparatus used at Bedlam

From the hag and hungry goblin


That into rags would rend ye,


All the sprites that stand by the naked man


In the book of moons, defend ye.

The moon's my constant mistress, 


And the lonely owl my marrow; 


The flaming drake and the night crow make 
me

Music to my sorrow.

The spirits hot as lightening


Would on the journey guide me


The stars would shake and pale moon would quake


Whene’er they did espy me.

For to see Mad Tam of Bedlam


Ten thousand miles I travelled


Mad Maudlin goes on dirty toes


For to save her shoes from gravel.

I composed the first part of La Dance des Condamnés, The Dance of the Condemned, about ten years ago as an instrumental break to put  between verses of Mad Tam when first mocking it up. It feels to melike it is loosely based on a nameless An Dro dance tune which, despite its anonymity, was very popular in the pubs in the Finisterre back in the early two thousands. I added the second part during the Great Covid Quarantine of 2019.

There is some speculation that The Burning of the Piper’s Hut may be a reference to the Killing Times in the Highlands, following the Jacobite defeat at Culloden. My own hypothesis is that the title refers to the general, though affectionate, dislike of the people of the Village of the Indomitable Gauls for their bard Cacophonix.

Cacophonix the Bard

Dan Houghton – Highland Pipes, Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals

Dan Frank – Bass Guitar

The song Uaimh an Òir, The Cave of Gold, comes from a folk tale that is found in various forms throughout the British Isles. The Skye version, at any rate, tells of a cave, believed, by the locals, to have been inhabited by a sort of monster guarding a treasure. The village piper who had no time for such nonsense tried to prove his point by walking into the cave playing his pipes accompanied by his dog (on guitar), just to show ‘em. Some minutes later the villagers who had assembled at the mouth of the cave to witness this spectacle, saw the dog come running out yelping with all the hair singed off its body. The piper never reemerged. Years later

a woman fetching water from a well, a mile or two away heard the voice of the piper coming up from the depths of the well. He was heard to sing about how he was trapped and menaced by something menacing, about how everything familiar to him would change before he would see his home again and howlhad eft a light on in his house and was worried about the electric bill that he would have to contend with upon his return.

Conjecture though it may be, I suspect that this tale is but the beginning of the full story, the end of which has been lost. It bears a striking resemblance to the Orpheus in the

The Cave of Caer Bannog

Underworld theme or, indeed, to what Joseph Campbell has termed, The Hero’s Journey just with a one way ticket. Don’t quote me on this; I have not researched it well enough at all. Versions of the first and second verse appear in Margaret Fay Shaw’s compendium, Folksongs & Folklore of South Uist, as separate songs.

Is truagh mi Rìgh gun trì làmhan,
Dà làimh ‘sa phìob, da làimh ‘sa phìob.
Is truagh mi Righ gun trì làmhan,
Dà laimh sa’ phìob is làmh sa’ chlaidheamh

Seisd
Eadarainn a’ chruit, a’ chruit, a’ chruit
Eadarainn a’ chruit, mo chuideachd air m’fhàgail
Eadarainn a’ luaidh, a’ luaidh, a’ luaidh
Eadarainn a’ luaidh ‘s i ghall’ uain a shàraich mi

Mo thaobh fodham m’fheòl air bhreàthadh
Daol am shùil, daol am shùil
Dà bhior iarrainn gu sìor fhiaradh
Ann am ghlùin, ann am ghlùin

Bidh na minn mheigeach nan gobhar chreagach
Mun tig mise, mun till mis’ à Uaimh an Òir, Uaimh an Òir
‘S na lothan cliata nan eich dhialta
Mun tig mise, mun till mis’ à Uaimh an Òir, Uaimh an Òir

Bidh na laoigh bheaga nan crodh eadraidh
Mun tig mise, mun till mis’ à Uaimh an Òir, Uaimh an Òir
‘S na mic uchda nam fir fheachda
Mun tig mise, mun till mis’ à Uaimh an Òir, Uaimh an Òir

 

‘S iomadh maighdeann òg fo ceud bhàrr
Théid a-null, théid a null
Mun tig mise, mun till mis’ à Uaimh an Òir, Uaimh an Òir

It is a pity, oh God, that I do not have three hands,
Two for the pipes, two for the pipes.
It is a pity, oh God, that I do not have three hands,
Two for the pipes and one for the sword.

Refrain

Between us the harp, the harp
Between us the harp my companions have deserted me
Between us, my love, my love, my love
Between us my love this pale bitch who is harassing me.

The flesh of my underside is putrefying.
There is a beetle in my eye, a beetle in my eye.
Two iron spikes are continually stabbing
Into my knee, into my knee

The bleating kids will be goats of the crags
Before I return, before I come back from the Cave of Gold
The pastured colts will be saddled horses
Before I return, before I come back from the Cave of Gold

The wee calves will be milking cows
Before I return, before I come back from the Cave of Gold
And the boys on the lap will be armed men
Before I return, before I come back from the Cave of Gold

Many’s the adolescent type of female in her first bloom
Will have passed beyond
Before I return, before I come back from the Cave of Gold


 

Dan Houghton – Smallpipes, Vocals

Rachel Clemente – Clàrsach

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