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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Dumbarton's Drums

A text of this song was printed in 1724 and it was given with a tune in 1733. But not this tune!

The Beers Family of Fox Hollow, New York, made the song popular in this form in the 1960s. The song has been sung in their family for many years.

The name 'Dumbarton's Drums' is used for other Scottish tunes which are not recognisably related to the Beers Family song tune.

‘Dumbarton’s Drums’ is the name of an old Scottish dance tune with its own country dance, a ‘longways reel-time dance for three couples’. A version of that tune, ‘a Scottish Measure’, was printed in 1690.

And ‘Dumbarton's Drums’ is the name of the Regimental Quick March of the Royal Scots. Their name for the tune recalls the last colonel of their ancestor regiment when it was serving in France. He died in 1692.


Dumbarton's drums they sound so bonny
And they remind me o my Johnny.
What fond delight can steal upon me
When Johnny kneels and kisses me.

Across the fields of bounding heather
Dumbarton tolls the hour of pleasure
A song of love that knows no measure
When Johnny kneels and sings to me.

'Tis he alone that can delight me
His graceful eye it doth invite me.
And when his tender arms enfold me
The blackest night doth turn and flee.

My love he is a handsome laddie,
And though he is Dumbarton's caddie
Some day I'll be a captain's lady
When Johnny tends his vow to me.

Listen to 'Dumbarton's Drums', sung by Jean Redpath, with Alasdair Fraser (fiddle), Abby Newton (cello) and Jacqueline Schwab (piano).
From Summer of my Dreams, CDTRAX208 (December 2000), Greentrax Recordings