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This site created by Harry E. Connors III
Music is MacPherson's Farewell
sequenced by Barry Taylor
According to Mabou Pioneers, Angus Beaton, "Aonghas Cleireach" (Angus the clerk), married Charlotte MacPherson in Inverness, Scotland. He emigrated to Cape Breton Island in 1817 and settled near the Strait of Canso. They had nine children, five daughters and four sons. One of the sons was the Donald Beaton who went to Galena, Illinois.
The MacPhersons are a proud clan with several notable members and an ancient tradition. But, there was also Jamie MacPherson who was hung for various crimes in 1700. He seems to have been guilty of at least some of the crimes, but there are also allegations of political influence in his trial and execution. In any case, Jamie's fame rests not on his manner of life, but on the way he died.
The story is that he read a farewell poem on the gallows, and then played a tune of his own composition on his fiddle. He is even supposed to have danced to the tune. Finally, he offered the fiddle to anyone who could play it. When no one took him up on the offer, he broke the fiddle. Then he was executed.
The Clan MacPherson museum site has Jamie's fiddle on exhibit. Robert Burns composed a well-known song based on MacPherson's Farewell. It is also known as MacPherson's Lament and MacPherson's Rant. I've included both Jamie's and Burn's versions below. Of course, the background music to this page is MacPherson's Farewell.
I know of no connection between Jamie MacPherson and Charlotte MacPherson Beaton aside from the name. However, Scottish clans are extended families so there is likely to be some relationship, however tenuous.
I spent my life in rioting, Debauch'd my health and stength I squander'd fast as pillage came, And fell to shame at length. My father was a gentleman Of fame and honour high Oh mother, would you ne'er had borne The son so doom'd to die. The Laird of Grand The Royal Majesty, Pass'd his great word for Peter Brown And let Macpherson die. But Braco Duff, with rage enough, First laid a snare for me, And if that death did not prevent, Aveng'd I well could be. But vengeance I did never wreak, When power was in my hand, And you, dear friends, no vengeance seek, It is my last command. Forgive the man whose rage betray'd Macpherson's worthless life; When I am gone, be it not said, My legacy was strife
Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong
Farewell, farewell to thee.
Macpherson's rant will ne'er be lang
On yonder gallows tree.
Sae rantingly, sae wontonly
Sae dauntingly gaed he
He played a tune an' he danced aroon
Beneath the gallows tree.
It was by a woman's treacherous hand
That I was condemned to dee
Beneath a ledge at a window she stood
And a blanket she threw o'er me.
Well the laird o' Grant, that highlan' sa'nt
That first laid hands on me
He played the cause on Peter Broon
To let Macpherson dee.
Untie these bands from off my hands
And gie to me my sword
There's nae a man in a' Scotland
But I'll brave him at a word.
There's some come here to see me hanged
And some to buy my fiddle
But before that I do part wi' her
I'll brak her thro' the middle.
He took the fiddle into both his hands
And he broke it o'er a stone
Says there's nae other hand shall play on thee
When I am dead and gone.
O, little did my mother think
When she first cradled me
That I would turn a rovin' boy
And die on the gallows tree.
The reprive was comin' o'er the brig o' Banff
To let Macpherson free
But they pit the clock a quarter afore
And hanged him to a tree.
The MacDonald Crest
This page last modified on Monday, November 26, 2007