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Burning of Auchindoon

[ Roud 4010 ; Child 183 ; Ballad Index C183 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl: Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland James Kinsley: The Oxford Book of Ballads Norman Buchan and Peter Hall The Scottish Folksinger

The Burning of Auchindoon is a ballad about the vendetta between the Earl of Huntly and the Clan Macintosh in 1592.

Ewan MacColl sang The Burning o' Auchendoun in 1956 on volume 4 of his and A.L. Lloyd's album The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) and in 1961 on his Folkways album The English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 1. He sang it as Willie MacIntosh in 1986 on his and Peggy Seeger's album Blood and Roses Volume 4, where he noted:

Following the killing of the Earl of Murray in February 1592, the Macintoshes of Clan Chattan, intent on revenge, pillaged a castle and killed four men on an estate belonging to the Earl of Huntly, whom they held responsible for Murray's death. Huntly retaliated by laying waste the lands of Clan Chattan. Returning home from this engagement, he surprised the Macintoshes spoiling his lands at Cabrach and in the ensuing fight killed sixty of them.

Mike Whellans sang The Burning o' Auchendoun on the 1972 Living Folk anthology Pleasant and Delightful Vol. 2.

Hedgehog Pie sang The Burning of Auchindoon on the Brum Festival in Birmingham's anthology Brum Folk 76 Souvenir Album.

Maddy Prior and June Tabor sang Burning of Auchindoon unaccompanied in 1976 on their album Silly Sisters.

Bachué sang Auchindoon on their 1996 CD Bachué Café.

Mick Pearce and Kitty Vernon sang The Burning of Auchindoun in 1998 on their WildGoose CD Dark the Day. He noted:

Usually referred to by us as Willie Mac, this was the first song we ever sang together in public, a ballad pared down to the essentials, telling the tale of a Scottish revenge raid gone wrong. I first became interested in this after coming across Ewan MacColl's version in Norman Buchan and Peter Hall's The Scottish Folksinger, a version even terser than this one. These words I put together from several versions in Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads, rewriting some of the Scottishness out of it (sorry Scots, some words do not sit lightly on our English tongues). The tune is essentially that used by Ewan MacColl, with the structure regularised a little. Child's notes suggest that two different people and events are confused in the ballad; by the time we had finished they must have been totally bewildered.

Jeana Leslie and Siobhan Miller sang Burning of Auchendoon in 2008 on their Greentrax album In a Bleeze. They noted:

Auchindoun, castle of the Gordons, was sacked and burned down by Clan MacIntosh in 1592 in revenge for the killing of the Bonnie Earl of Moray.

Alasdair Roberts sang The Burning of Auchindoun on his 2010 CD Too Long in This Condition. He noted:

From the singing of the Tannahill Weavers on their LP Are Ye Sleeping, Maggie?, with some influence from the version by Pinkie MacLure and Jon Wills (Pumajaw) on their LP Curiosity Box and the recent version by Jeana Leslie and Siobhan Miller on their CD In a Bleeze.

This ballad, which refers to a specific historical event, is known in Professor Child's compendious tone as Willie MacIntosh. Hamish Henderson can be heard and seen singing a version of this song in Tim Neat's 1991 documentary Journey to a Kingdom.

Tan Yows learned The Burning of Auchindoon from Silly Sisters' album and recorded it in 2012 for their CD Undipped.

Fiona Ross sang Burning of Auchindoun in 2017 on her Tradition Bearers album with Tony McManus, Clyde's Water. She noted:

The “Bonnie Earl o Moray” was murdered by the Earl of Huntly in 1592 and the MacIntoshes of Clan Chattan then sought to avenge Moray's death. This short yet imposing ballad is based on the vendetta between MacIntosh and Huntly. As far as I recall, I first heard it sung by the mighty all-women group Stairheid Gossip.

Brian McNeill sang The Burning of Auchendoon in 2020 on their Greentrax album No Silence.

Lyrics

Maddy Prior and June Tabor sing Burning of Auchindoon

As I came in by Fiddich side on a May morning,
I spied Willie Macintosh an hour before the dawning.

“Turn again, him again, turn again I bid ye.
If ye burn Auchindoon, Huntly he will head ye.”

“Head me or hang me that will never fear me.
I will burn Auchindoon ere the life leaves me.”

As I came in by Fiddich side on a May morning,
Auchindoon was in a blaze an hour before the dawning.

Crawing, crawing, for all your crowse crawing,
You've burnt your crops and tint your wings
An hour before the dawning.