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Ballad for Sheriff Dugald MacTavish by Professor Aytoun

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Patrick Thompson

Joined: 04 Feb 2006
Posts: 175
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:28 pm    Post subject: Ballad for Sheriff Dugald MacTavish by Professor Aytoun Reply with quote

I am supposing that some of you have run accross the broadside ballad " The Massacre of Macpherson, written by Professor William Edmonstoune Aytoun, Scottish poet, humorist, lawyer, and miscellaneous writer, born at Edinburgh on the 21st of June 1813. Did you know that Prof. Aytoun and Sheriff Dugald MacTavish, the MacTavish Chief, were friends?

You may wonder how this friendship can to be. Both William Aytoun and Dugald MacTavish were lawyers, Writers to the Signet, and via this association formed friendship. Both men became Sheriffs. MacTavish in Argyll, and Aytoun in Orkney. See "A History of the Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet" (Google Books) for details.

Here is a little about the friendship, and the ballad.

The Beaver (magazine), Issue 721, Hudson’s Bay Company, 1940, page 18.
"SIMON McTavish, the head of the North West Company, was a cadet of the house of McTavish of Dunardry, an ancient Argyllshire family. When he made a success in life, he wrote and loyally offered his services to his chief. This chief, Dugald McTavish, sheriff of Campbelltown, was an able lawyer, who had never ceased to pine for the lands of Dunardry, lost by his father to greedy creditors. His family pride was inordinate: Professor Aytoun, who was his close friend, teased him about it and nicknamed him "Mic-Mac-Methuselah," making him the hero of his popular song, The Massacre of Macpherson."

The ditty, which is also set to music, is a real hoot, and goes like this.

The Massacre of the Macpherson
William Edmondstoune Aytoun

Oh FHAIRSHON swore a feud
Against the clan M’Tavish—
March’d into their land
To murder and to rafish;
For he did resolve
To extirpate the vipers,
With four-and-twenty men,
And five-and-thirty pipers.

But when he had gone
Half-way down Strath-Canaan,
Of his fighting tail
Just three were remainin’.
They were all he had
To back him in ta battle:
All the rest had gone
Off to drive ta cattle.

“Fery coot!” cried Fhairshon—
So my clan disgraced is;
Lads, we ’ll need to fight
Pefore we touch ta peasties.
Here ’s Mhic-Mac-Methusaleh
Coming wi’ his fassals—
Gillies seventy-three,
And sixty Dhuinéwassels!”

“Coot tay to you, sir!
Are you not ta Fhairshon?
Was you coming here
To visit any person?
You are a plackguard, sir?
It is now six hundred
Coot long years, and more,
Since my glen was plunder’d.”

“Fat is tat you say?
Dar you cock your peaver?
I will teach you, sir,
Fat is coot pehavior!
You shall not exist
For another day more;
I will shot you, sir,
Or stap you with my claymore!”

“I am fery glad
To learn what you mention,
Since I can prevent
Any such intention.”
So Mhic-Mac-Methusaleh
Gave some warlike howls,
Trew his skhian-dhu,
An’ stuck it in his powels.

In this fery way
Tied ta faliant Fhairshon,
Who was always thought
A superior person.
Fhairshon had a son,
Who married Noah’s daughter,
And nearly spoil’d ta flood
By trinking up ta water—

Which he would have done,
I at least believe it,
Had ta mixture peen
Only half Glenlivet.
This is all my tale:
Sirs, I hope ’t is new t’ ye!
Here’s your fery good healths,
And tamn ta whusky tuty!

Now, my friends, someone in the past attempted to say there was actually such a feud, but as you have learned......the tale portrayed in the ballad is a humorist's gift to an old friend.

Patrick Thompson

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