Scots Sangs Fur Schools

Traditional and new Scots songs for use in Scottish schools

[NIEL GOW'S] FAREWELL TO WHISKY

Hear the tune played by Colin Campbell, fiddle, and Katherine Campbell, piano.


George S Emmerson (Rantin’ Pipe and Tremblin’ String, 1971) tells us that the tune “Reappears in the Fifth Collection (of Niel Gow’s tunes) with the explanation ‘This tune alludes to prohibiting the making of Whisky in 1799. It is expressive of a Highlander’s sorrow on being deprived of his favourite beverage.’ The verses of the song (attributed to Agnes Lyon of Glammis) reveal a different story."


You’ve surely heard o’ the famous Niel, the man that played the fiddle weel

I wat he was a canty chiel, and dearly loved the whisky, O

And aye sin’ he wore tartan hose, he dearly lo’ed the Athole brose

And wae was he, you may suppose, to bid ‘Farewell’ to whisky, O


J Murray Neil in The Scots Fiddle, tunes, tales and traditions, 1991, explains that, “This air was written by Niel Gow to record the failure of the barley crop in Scotland in 1799. The harvest was so poor that the use of barley for the distillation of whisky was prohibited.”