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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Fareweel Tae Tarwathie

A Scottish whaler is sad to leave home for the long and dangerous journey north to Baffin Bay, but hopeful; he will come home richer. The song is traditionally accompanied by the tune 'Kennet's Dream'.

Fareweel tae Tarwathie - adieu Mormond Hill
And the dear land of Crimond, I bid ye fareweel
I am bound out for Greenland, and ready to sail
In hopes to find riches, in hunting the whale

Adieu to my comrades, for a while we must part
Likewise tae the dear lass who first won my heart
The cold ice of Greenland my love will not chill
The longer my absence, the more loving she'll feel

Our ship is well-rigged and ready to sail
Our crew they are anxious to follow the whale
Where the icebergs do float and the stormy winds blow
Where the land and the ocean is covered wi snow

The cold land of Greenland is barren and bare
No seedtime or harvest is ever known there
The birds here sing sweetly on mountain and dale
But there isnae a birdie tae sing tae the whale

There is no habitation for man to live there
The king of that country is the fierce Greenland bear
There'll be no temptation to tarry long there
With our ship bumper full we will homeward repair

This lyric was written in the 1850s by George Scroggie, who was once the miller at Federate in New Deer, Aberdeenshire. Tarwathie is about two miles north of the village of Strichen, Aberdeenshire.

The song became very popular in the 1960s through the singing of Briton Ewan MacColl and also American Judy Collins.

Long before the 1950s the tune had crossed the Atlantic and been used for a very different kind of song, which was later recorded by the American singer Ramblin Jack Elliot. His song is about whiskey made from rye rather than whisky from barley as in Scotland, with a chorus that is a mixture of yell, yodel and burp:

If the ocean was whisky, and I was a duck
I’d dive to the bottom and never come up
Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I cry
If a tree don’t fall on me I’ll live till I die
Ooooooo, wahoo ah hoo
Eeeeeee ha, (hiccup) ah hoo.

Listen to the tune used for this song, 'Kennet's Dream', as played by Christine Martin.
From Traditional Scottish Fiddling, book and CD, published by Taigh na Teud