Sunday, 9 January 2011

Sunday Morning Coffee with Dick Gaughan

[UPDATE @ 9 JAN 08.00 UK TIME: Apologies to those who visited before this time.  Two videos were left on ‘private’ and could not be viewed.  I have corrected that error.  Also the playlist is now active]

Sunday again and so another show waits for you and the show today is very special, if I may say so – and I do say.


The following two paragraphs by The Scotsman’s music reviewer, Alistair Clark, (over many years I have found his taste to be impeccable) summarise Dick far, far better than ever I could do.

“Dick Gaughan has never been easy. The songs he delivers ask questions that some listeners may have thought never existed - so they may not, instantly at least, know the answers. When the answers duly come, delivered in a voice that throbs with a unique kind of controlled, vibrating passion, he can shake the most complacent mind-set out of its skull.

You go home from a Dick Gaughan session feeling exhilarated, not just at the wonderful skills of the most potent singer ever to emerge from the Scottish folk-music revival, not just at the astonishingly fluent and explosively eloquent guitar playing, but by the sense of the stark exposition of wrong and the tremulously argued legitimacy of right. Even those who disagree profoundly with his view of life recognise the conviction and the supreme artistry.”

I never found Dick Gaughan easy, I shied away from the difficulty and so I missed out …. until now.

I mention this here because you too may find his music to be difficult.  I’ll not be insulted if you step away from the programme before the end but if you are able to immerse yourself you will be rewarded.  [I’ve written a bit more about this after the first video.]   If you can’t be bothered with all my words then you can listen to the music only at my YouTube playlist for the show.

With those caveats you may wonder if it is worth your while listening at all! 

Yes!  A thousand times yes! 

Dick Gaughan suffuses his songs with such intensity, sensitivity, feeling and understanding.  Ally this with a voice to die for and with guitar-playing skills of the highest order and we have an artist who deserves to sit at the top table of musical troubadours.

One last thing before we get some music: don’t forget some key actions!  Get a coffee, a comfy seat, sit down, prepare to listen to a master.


Now Westlin’ Winds

In the intro Dick says, “I often say this is the perfect song. It says everything it is conceivably possible to say about anything …. and it does it in 5 verses.”

There is a great analysis of this song on the blog, ‘Just a Song’.

Now westlin winds and slaughtering guns
Bring autumn's pleasant weather
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Among the blooming heather
Now waving grain, wild o'er the plain
Delights the weary farmer
And the moon shines bright as I rove at night
To muse upon my charmer

The partridge loves the fruitful fells
The plover loves the mountain
The woodcock haunts the lonely dells
The soaring heron the fountain
Through lofty groves the cushat roves
The path of man to shun it
The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush
The spreading thorn the linnet

Thus every kind their pleasure find
The savage and the tender
Some social join and leagues combine
Some solitary wander
Avaunt! Away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man's dominion
The sportsman's joy, the murdering cry
The fluttering, gory pinion

But Peggy dear the evening's clear
Thick flies the skimming swallow
The sky is blue, the fields in view
All fading green and yellow
Come let us stray our gladsome way
And view the charms of nature
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn
And every happy creature

We'll gently walk and sweetly talk
Till the silent moon shines clearly
I'll grasp thy waist and, fondly pressed,
Swear how I love thee dearly
Not vernal showers to budding flowers
Not autumn to the farmer
So dear can be as thou to me
My fair, my lovely charmer


Through much of the preparation I was unsure if Dick’s music would make a show: hard as I tried I couldn’t ‘get’ some of his music.  If this had continued the show would not have gone on because I would have had to break the key criterion: I must love the music.

Fortunately, the more I listened the more I heard and the more I heard the more I liked.  Soon I found myself entranced.  His sincerity of song won me over.  I had to upload a couple of tracks to get the songs I felt were necessary for today.

Also, I’ve appended lyrics to all the tracks in the show.  Such is the intensity with which Dick performs that I felt the need to be able to read the lyrics.  Perhaps you’ll appreciate them too.



Flooers o’ the Forest

The second song is a lament for the thousands of Scots killed at the Battle of Flodden.  There is a very painful beauty about both words and the music.

The lyrics below are not those published for the song but they are, as far as I can make out, the words sung by Dick.

I've heard them liltin', at our ewe milkin,'
Lasses at the liltin' before dawn o' day.
Noo there's a moanin', on ilka green loanin'.
The flooers o' the forest are a' wede away.

At e'en in the gloamin', nae swank lads are roamin',
Lasses are lanely and dowie and wae.
Ilk ane is drearie, lamentin' her dearie,
Ilk ane lifts her leglin, and hies her away.

Doon wae the order sent our lads tae the Border,
The English wur yince by guile wan the day.
The flooers o' the forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The prime o' our land lie cauld in the clay.

We'll hae nae mair liltin', at the ewe milkin',
Women and bairnies are dowie and wae.
Sighin' and moanin' on ilka green loanin',
The flooers o' the forest are all wede away.

ilka - each, every
loaning - road to a grazing
wede - withered
dowie - sad
leglin - milking pail

I wondered if I should include this song – and one other - not because I had any doubts but because I wasn’t sure how you would receive them.  I had to put the two songs into the show: to omit them would have broken my promise to myself – to play music I love – and would have denied part of the essence of what makes Dick Gaughan great.


Dunfermline’s local paper said this,

“It would be easy for any performer to be upstaged by the majestic surroundings of Dunfermline Abbey Nave but that was never going to happen with Scots folk legend Dick Gaughan.  ……. But whether the gig is in a historic place of worship or is a strike benefit concert in a working men's club, Gaughan's radical message of social justice and anti-imperialism is unswerving.”

This message I’m sure you’ll find throughout the show.



Worker’s Song                             (aka Handful o’ Earth)

To our eternal shame, the lyrics of our next song, written by Ed Pickford, continue to describe our world!

Come all of you workers who toil night and day
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
We've often been told to keep up wi’ the times
For our skills are not needed, they've streamlined the job
And with slide-rule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

But when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
Who's given a gun and then pushed tae the fore
And expected to die for the land of our birth
No,  we've never owned one handful of earth?

We're the first ones to starve the first ones to die
We’re the first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And we’re always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat's about

Aye and all of these things the worker has done
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
We've been yoked to the plough since time first began
Aye and always expected to carry the can


Richard Peter Gaughan is a Leither despite being born in Glasgow (1948) and living there until he was 18 months old.  His father was working temporarily in Glasgow – hence the Glasgow birth – but he was brought up in Leith which is the port for Edinburgh and is subsumed into Scotland’s capital city.

He had Highland and Irish musical roots and, therefore, Gaughan was brought up immersed in the musical traditions and culture of the Gaels, both Scots and Irish [source].



Beauty comes upon us now with our third song.

Wild Mountain Thyme

[with Emmylou Harris, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Rufus Wainwright, Jerry Douglas, Ally Bain and Jay Ungar – prob at the first Transatlantic Sessions]

Oh the Summer time has come
The trees are sweetly blooming
And the wild mountain thyme
All the flowers are perfuming
Will ye go lassie go ......

And we'll all go together
To pull wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go lassie go
I will build my love a bower
By yon clear crystal fountain
And on it I will pile
All the flowers of the mountain
Will ye go lassie go ......

And we'll all go together
To pull wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go lassie go ......
I will roam the mountain wild
And the dark glen say dreary
And I'll bring all I find
To the arms of my dearie
Will you go lassie go ......

If my true love she won't come
I will surely find another
To pull wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go lassie go ......

And we'll all go together
To pull wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go lassie go



Wikipedia states,

“Gaughan took up the guitar at the age of seven. Although he later sang in Scottish Gaelic he is not fluent in that language; however, he has a powerful command of Scots. He sang in Edinburgh folk clubs and became a professional musician in 1970. Gaughan began playing mainly traditional songs on an acoustic guitar. ….. Although his approach to performing concentrates strongly on the song itself, Gaughan is known as being a master of the acoustic guitar.”


No Gods and Precious Few Heroes

Dick takes no prisoners with his version of a brilliant song written by Brian McNeill – formerly of The Battlefield Band.  The title is from a line in the first elegy in 'Elegies for the Dead of Cyrenaika', a famous work of second world war poems by Hamish Henderson.

Brian McNeill describes the song thus, “It talks about Scotland, talks about the fact that it's got to change. If it doesn't change soon there's gonna be stupid things happening. But it's not going to change without us all getting off our backsides and doing it!”


I was listening to the news the other day
I heard a fat politician who had the nerve to say
He was proud to be Scottish, by the way
With the glories of our past to remember
"Here's tae us, wha's like us", listen to the cry
No surrender to the truth and here's the reason why
The power and the glory's just another bloody lie
They use to keep us all in line

For there's no gods and there's precious few heroes
But there's plenty on the dole in the land o the leal
And it's time now to sweep the future clear
Of the lies of a past that we know was never real

So farewell to the heather in the glen
They cleared us off once and they'd do it all again
For they still prefer sheep to thinking men
Ah, but men who think like sheep are even better
There's nothing much to choose between the old laird and the new
They still don't give a damn for the likes of me and you
Just mind you pay your rent to the factor when it's due
And mind your bloody manners when you pay!

For there's no gods and there's precious few heroes
But there's plenty on the dole in the land o the leal
And it's time now to sweep the future clear
Of the lies of a past that we know was never real

And tell me will we never hear the end
Of puir bluidy Charlie at Culloden yet again?
Though he ran like a rabbit down the glen
Leavin better folk than him to be butchered
Or are you sittin in your Council house, dreamin o your clan?
Waiting for the Jacobites to come and free the land?
Try going down the broo with your claymore in your hand
And count all the Princes in the queue!

For there's no gods and there's precious few heroes
But there's plenty on the dole in the land o the leal
And it's time now to sweep the future clear
Of the lies of a past that we know was never real

So don't talk to me of Scotland the Brave
For if we don't fight soon there'll be nothing left to save
Or would you rather stand and watch them dig your grave
While you wait for the Tartan Messiah?
He'll lead us to the Promised Land with laughter in his eye
We'll all live on the oil and the whisky by and by
Free heavy beer! Pie suppers in the sky! -
Will we never have the sense to learn?

That there's no gods and there's precious few heroes
But there's plenty on the dole in the land o the leal
And I'm damned sure that there's plenty live in fear
Of the day we stand together with our shoulders at the wheel
Aye there's no Gods

I find it very hard to disagree with the sentiments.


We’re halfway through already and it’s time for a break.  I’m having another coffee and a couple of cheese rolls.  If you don’t want a break I’ll continue for you.

That’s my body stuffed with too many calories …. again but I’m ready now to roll.



Scots Wha Hae

The story behind this next song – one of Burns’ best known – always seemed very clear but Gaughan’s own website suggests that Wallace might have been an allegory for the real hero, Thomas Muir, who was an 18th century Scottish advocate and radical.  Read more here.

Oh!  I think the first 6 seconds of the video show Maya Angelou.MayaAngelou


Meanwhile the song stands as it has always done.

Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled
Scots wham Bruce has aften led
Walcome tae yer gory bed
Or tae victorie

Nou's the day an nou's the hour
See the front o battle lour
See approach proud Edward's pouer
Chains an' slaverie!

Wha wad be a traitor knave?
Wha wad fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Lat him turn an' flee

Wha for Scotlan's king an' law
Freedom's sword wad strangly draw
Freeman staun or freeman faa
Let him follow me!

By oppression's woes an' pains
By our sons in servile chains
We wad drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free

Lay the proud usurpers low
Tyrants faa in every foe
Libertie's in every blow
Let us dae or dee!


Alistair Clark had more to say about Gaughan,

“So when we find that Dick Gaughan picked up a guitar at the age of seven, we should not be surprised. As a teenager, growing up with guitar skills in an urban environment in the Sixties, he dabbled, as one would, with rock, country, blues. It was a fabulous time for music-making, when no holds were barred. But for him, increasingly the music and the politics began to come together. Rock may have been an angry outpouring of sound, but it was on the quieter folk scene, with the great Hamish Henderson and Ewan MacColl leading the protest march over here and the likes of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger doing it over there, that the most penetrating and persuasive statements were being made about war and peace, about the state of society. Dick was soon in the thick of the burgeoning folk revival, and at the age of 22 decided to hit the road as a solo singer and guitarist.”



Bonnie Jeannie o’ Bethelnie


There were four an twenty nobles sat in the king's haa
An bonnie Glenlogie wis the flooer o them aa
There wis six an six nobles rade thro Banchory fair
An bonnie Glenlogie wis the flooer o them there

There were six and six maidens sat in the king's haa
Bonnie Jeannie o Bethelnie wis the flooer o them aa
Doun cam Jeannie Gordon she cam trippin doun stairs
An she's chosen Glenlogie amung aa that wis thair

Glenlogie, O Glenlogie, gin ye'll prove kind
My luve is laid on ye an A've tellt ye my mind
Bit he's turnt him roun lichtlie, like the Gordons does aa
A thank ye, Jeannie Gordon, bit A'm promist awa

And she's caad tae her maidens fur tae mak her a bed
Wi ribbons and napkins fur tae tie up her head
And its oot spak her faither an a wey man wis he
A'll wad ye tae Dumfendrum, fur he's mair gowd than he

O, haud yer tongue, faither, for that maunnae be
Gin A get mae Glenlogie than for him will A dee
Bit her faither's ain chaplain, a man o great skill,
He's wrate a braid letter an indytet it weill

O A pox on ye, Logie, nou since it is so
There's a ladie's luve is on ye, maun she die in her woe?
An a pox on ye, Logie, nou since it is time
There's a ladie's luve is on ye, maun she die in her prime?

Whan Logie got the letter, he bein amang men
It's out spak Glenlogie, whit does young women mean?
Whan he lookit on the letter, then a licht lauch gied he
Bit ere he read owre it, the tear blint his ee

Gae saddle me the black horse, gae saddle me the broun
Bonnie Jeannie o Bethelnie will be deid ere A win
Bit the horses werenae saddled, nor lead on the green
Till bonnie Glenlogie wis three mile his lane

An sae pale an wan wis she whan Glenlogie he cam in
Bit it's reid an rosie grew she whan she kent it wis him
Whaur lies yer pain, ladie, does it lie in yer side?
Whaur lies yer pain, ladie, does it lie in yer heid?

O na, na, Glenlogie, ye're faur frae the pairt
For the pain that A lie under, it lies in my hert
Turn roun, Jeannie Gordon, turn roun on yer side
An A'll be the bridegroum an ye'll be the bride

Nou Jeannie's gotten mairriet an her tocher's doun tauld
Bonnie Jeannie o Bethelnie wis scarce sixteen year auld
O Bethelnie, o Bethelnie, ye shine whaur ye stand
An the heather bells aroun ye shine owre Fyvie's land


In the mid-1970’s Gaughan lived a hectic life - touring and hard drinking – but he was brought up short when his daughter was knocked down by a car while he was touring.  His daughter survived but his lifestyle did not. He re-appraised his life and decided to spend more time with his family.


51st (Highland) Division’s Farewell to Sicily

This is another poem by Hamish Henderson who served in this regiment.  Gaughan lifts the sadness from the page and let’s us feel it too.  I can’t imagine a sadder 10 minutes.

[The music is ‘Farewell to the Creeks’]

The pipie is dozie, the pipie is fey
He wullnae come roun for his vino the day
The sky owre Messina is unco an gray
An aa the bricht chaumers are eerie

Fareweill ye banks o Sicily
Fare ye weill ye valley an shaw
There's nae Jock will murn the kyles o ye
Aa the bricht chaumers are eerie

Fareweill ye banks o Sicily
Fare ye weill ye valley an shaw
There's nae hame can smour the wiles o ye
Aa the bricht chaumers are eerie

Then doun the stair an line the watterside
Wait yer turn the ferry's awa
Then doun the stair an line the watterside
Aa the bricht chaumers are eerie

The drummie is polisht, the drummie is braw
He cannae be seen for his wabbin awa
He's beezed himsell up for a photie an aa
Tae leave wi his Lola, his dearie

Fareweill ye dives o Sicily
Fare ye weill ye sheilin an haa
We'll aa mind shebeens an bothies
Whaur kind signorinas were cheerie

Fareweill ye dives o Sicily
Fare ye weill ye sheilin an haa
We'll aa mind shebeens an bothies
Whaur Jock made a date wi his dearie

Then tune the pipes an drub the tenor drum
Leave yer kit this side o the waa
Then tune the pipes an drub the tenor drum
Puir bluidy squaddies are wearie

Sad, so sad, but beauty lies within.


More praise for Gaughan here.

“Gaughan has one of the finest voices on the planet, capable of capturing the heart with the most traditional of ballads in one moment and stirring the fire of the spirit with his uncompromising commentary on social injustices in the next. And as a guitar player since the age of seven, his mastery of the instrument – acoustic and electric – is astounding.” [source]



Outlaws and Dreamers

Dick sings his one of his own compositions.  I’m sure you’ll like it.

The days and the hours swiftly turn into seasons
The weeks and the months quickly turn into years
The present is coloured by memories of childhood
Of heartache and happiness laughter and tears

I've flown and I've driven long miles by the million
Through desert and forest and high mountain range
Through pastures of plenty and dark city byways
A life on the move in boat, car and train

Thirty five years of singing and playing
Thirty five years of life on the road
Laughing at tyrants and spitting at despots
I've danced in the footsteps of men like Tom Joad

They've called me an outlaw they've called me a dreamer
They said I would change as I aged and grew old
That the memory would fade of the things I had lived through
That the flash fire of youth would slowly turn cold

But I raise up my glass and drink deep of its flame
To those who have gone who were links in the chain
And I give my soul's promise I give my heart's pledge
To outlaws and dreamers and life at the edge

So here's to the vision that binds us together
That tears down the walls that would keep us apart
And here's to the future where dreams will be honoured
And the fierce flame of freedom that burns in our hearts

The fire is still burning the future's still calling
To follow the dream till the end of my days
Wishing's for fools but dreams are for outlaws
Laughter's for lovers and tears for the brave

I raise up my glass and drink deep of its flame
To those who have gone who were links in the chain
And I give my soul's promise I give my heart's pledge
To outlaws and dreamers and life at the edge

Dick is still one of life’s outlaws!


This snippet describes Dick’s outlook on life.

“Dick is deeply committed to fighting social injustice and standing up for the common man in the face of oppression. His unwavering belief in the strength of the human spirit to conquer seemingly unsurmountable obstacles has influenced his willingness to sing new songs and rework old ones to accentuate an essential optimism and belief in humanity’s ability to stand up and be free.” [source]


Freedom Come All Ye

We finish with one of my favourite songs, not just of Dick Gaughan or of Hamish Henderson - the composer, but of all time.  Gaughan writes this of the song:

This song is so rich in imagery and symbolism that it is impossible to give an adequate understanding of it without writing a major treatise. Basically, the main theme is anti-imperialism coupled with the recognition of the part that Scots have played in the conquest and subjugation of other peoples within the British Empire and the anticipation of the day when all peoples are truly free and can meet in peace and friendship.

Roch the wind in the clear day's dawnin
Blaws the clouds heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But thair's mair nor a roch wind blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warl the day
It's a thocht that wad gar our rottans
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play

Nae mair will the bonnie callants
Merch tae war whan our braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Murn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken faimilies in launs we've hairriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare

Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hous aa the bairns o Aidam
Will fin breid, barley-bree an paintit room
Whan MacLean meets wi's friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geeans will turn tae blume
An a black laud frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.


This is incredible!

An English translation is

Rough's the wind in the clear day's dawning
Blows the clouds head-oer-heel across the bay
But there's more than a rough wind blowing
Through the Great Glen of the world today
It's a thought that would make our vermin
All those rogues who strut and swagger without care
Take the road and seek other lodgings
With their vile schemes to sport and play

No more will our fine lads be commanded
to march to war at a braggarts call
Nor wee weans from pitheads and clachans
Mourn the ships sailing down the Broomielaw
Broken families in lands we've vanquished
Will curse "Scotland the Brave", nae mair, nae mair
Black and white to one another married
Will make the slums of their masters bare

So come all ye at home with freedom
Never heed those prophets of doom
In your house all the bairns of Adam
Will find bread, drink and painted rooms
When Maclean meets with friends in Springburn
All the rose and cherry trees will turn to bloom
And the black lad from Nyanga
Will break the powers of his masters doon


Yet another show is over but ….. it will never end for me.  Dick and his music have grabbed me, shaken me, won me over and now I’m glad to be able to call him a musical friend although we’ve never met …. or have we? 

Dick Gaughan IS a genius.



I’ll meet you again next week for another episode of ‘Sunday Morning Coffee’


  1. Thank you for posting the lyrics. It was very helpful. Love the accent, and can understand a bit now. But not all. The concert was truly enjoyable. How nice to hear the McGarrigle sisters in such a fine song, and with a great group.

  2. We'll soon have you as fluent as we Scots.

  3. Way too much for one sitting.

    But Peggy dear the evening's clear
    Thick flies the skimming swallow
    The sky is blue, the fields in view
    All fading green and yellow

    Only a Celt would write that. The English would put it differently, more in the nature of observation, e.g. Fairport who were closer to the roots than most English and still, an entirely different feel.

    This seems unusual for Scottish - it seems, in some ways, Irish and yet I feel there are less differences between the two than each maintains, certainly in English eyes.

    For a good comparison with the English, Poor Ditching Boy and Farewell Farewell and still in those, a detachment from the land - an observation.

    Dick Gaughan instantly feels and I do too, so that puts me at odds with the English - don't forget I'm half Irish.

    I like him very much and don't find him difficult but I'd enjoy a concert of his.

  4. Thanks for doing this I really enjoyed it. I'm rediscovering Dick Gaughan after seeing him in Preston in the early eighties.I particularly like the version of Erin Go Bragh at the WDR Folk festival in Cologne, the guitar playing is brilliant and worth a look. Thanks