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Edom o Gordon

[ Roud 80 ; Child 178 ; G/D 2:231 ; Ballad Index C178 ; trad.]

Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs The Oxford Book of Ballads

Ewan MacColl sang Edom o Gordon in 1976 on the Argo anthology Poetry and Song, Vol. 12 and on his and Peggy Seeger’s Larrikin album of traditional and contemporary folk music, No Tyme Lyke the Present. He noted:

Among the bloody events which followed the assassination of the Scots regent Murray, none seemed to have aroused such a sense of outrage as the events described in this ballad. In Aberdeenshire, the struggle for power between the Catholic Party, or Queen’s Party, on the one hand and the regency, or King’s, Party on the other, was fought out by the Catholic Gordons and the Protestant Forbses. Sir Adam Gordon of Auchwindown, the Queen’s Lieutenant Deputy in the north, was successful on two occasions in routing the Forbses. “Not long after,” says Archbishop Spottiswood, a contemporary historian, “Adam Gordon sent to summon the house of Tavoy, pertaining to Alexander Forbes. The lady refusing to yield without direction from her husband, he put fire unto it and burned her therein with children and servants, being twenty-seven persons in all.” This was in November 1571.

Alison McMorland sang Edom o’ Gordon in 2000 on her Tradition Bearers album of Scots songs and ballads, Cloudberry Day. Geordie McIntyre noted:

David Buchan (The Ballad and the Folk; R.K.P London 1972) informs us that this feud-ballad clearly emanates from Aberdeenshire where it mirrors the long bitter and brutal rivalry “between the Gordons and the Forbes the two most powerful families in the region at the time”. It is evidently founded on a specific bloody incident at the time of Mary Queen of Scots (circa 1571).

Peggy Seeger was the direct source and inspiration for this ballad. Alison was invited by Peggy to the Seeger-MacColl family home, London, to focus, in this instance, on techniques of banjo accompaniment on a one-to-one basis. At the end of this weekend “Peggy sang me this ballad, with its magnificent tune saying, ‘learn this… it would suit you.’” The text, but not the tune, is in fact very close to that collected by Gavin Greig from Mrs Courts of Aberdeen (Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs, Aberdeen 1925) collated with two verses from Renfrewshire via the William Motherwell M.S.S. This is a well-honed text without the retribution element that is found in other versions.

Malinky sang Edom o Gordon on their 2005 Greentrax CD The Unseen Hours. They noted:

To start us off, a 16th century spat between clan Gordon and clan Forbes in Aberdeenshire. George Gordon, the Catholic Earl of Huntly, was Mary Queen of Scots’ lieutenant-governor, and his brother Adam, or Edom, was sometimes called the Queen’s deputy-lieutenant in the north. In November 1571, Captain Thomas Ker was sent by Adam Gordon to take Corgarff Castle (‘Towie’s Hoose’) for Queen Mary, a seat of the Forbeses belonging to Alexander (or John) Forbes. The men were refused entry by Forbes’s wife Margaret Campbell. They then burned the house, killing up to 30 of its occupants. As the Child ballad collection states, “The details are somewhat in dispute; but there must have been something quite beyond the common in Captain Ker’s proceedings, for they are denounced even in those days as infamous, and the name of Adam Gordon is said to have been made odious by them.” [Child 178, Captain Car, or, Edom o Gordon’].

Iona Fyfe sang Edom o Gordon unaccompanied in 2020 on her download album Ballads Vol. I. This video shows her and Luc McNally at a Silver City Session in Aberdeen in March 2017:


Malinky sing Edom o Gordon

It fell aboot the Martinmas time
When the wind blew shrill and cauld
Cried Edom o’ Gordon tae his men,
“We maun draw tae some hauld.”

“Whit hauld, whit hauld?” cried his merry men,
“Whit hauld sal we gang tae?”
“It’s tae Towie’s Hoose that we maun rided
And see yon fair Lady.”

She thocht it was her ain dear lord
That she saw ridin hame
But was the traitor Edom o’ Gordon
That rik nae sin nor shame.

“Come doon, come doon, Lady Campbell!” he cried,
“And gie yer hoose tae me,
Or else this nicht I swear I’ll burn
Ye an yer bairnies three!”

“I winna come doon,”: the lady cried,
“For laird nor yet for loon,
Nor yet for any rank robber
That comes frae Auchendoon!”

The Lady frae the battlements
Twa bullets she let flee,
But it missed its mark wi Gordon
For it scarcely grazed his knee.

“Lady Campbell,” the Gordon cried,
“That shot will cost you dear!”
For he has ca’ed tae his ain Jock
Tae bring the faggots near.

“I winna come doon ye fause Gordon!
I winna gie up tae ye,
I winna forsake ma ain dear Lord
That is sae far frae me.”

Then up and spak her youngest son
Sat on the nooris’ knee,
“Oh open the door and let me oot
For this reek is choking me!”

“I wid gie up ma gowd,” she cried,
“Ma siller and ma fee
For a blast o’ the whistling wind
Tae blaw this reek frae me.”

Then oot an spak her dochter dear,
She wis baith jimp and sma,
“0 row me in a pair o sheets
And throw me ower the wa!”

They rowed her in a pair o sheets
And threw her ower the wa,
But on the point o the Gordon’s sword
She got a deidly fa.

Then Gordon turned her ower and ower
And o her face was white.
Ah, micht hae spared that bonny face
Tae be some man’s delight.

Oh pity on yon fair castle
That was biggit wi stane and lime
And wae for lady Campbell herself
Burnt wi her bairnies nine.

h three o them were mairried wives,
And three o them were bairns,
And three o them were leal maidens
That ne’er lay in young men’s airms.