View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Ding Dong Dollar

A song to prove that protesting in favour of peace need not be depressing. This became the anthem of the Scottish Anti-Polaris movement of the 1960s and beyond.


In 1960 an American nuclear submarine base was established in the Holy Loch near Glasgow. Many thousands of Scots marched repeatedly in protest, and dozens of protest songs were written to popular tunes. Many of the songs used humour to point out the absurdity of keeping the peace by threatening to destroy the planet. This song was the favourite, and was recorded in Britain and the USA.

The song lyric is credited to John Mack, also known as John Smith. He heard George MacLeod of the Iona Community say in a speech, 'And of course, you cannot spend a dollar when you are dead'. John Smith got the basic chorus idea, then he and Morris Blythman, organiser of the loose grouping of Glasgow-based songwriters called the Glasgow Song Guild, refined the idea, and Jim McLean, writer of many fine songs including the song about the Massacre of Glencoe whose chorus begins 'Cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe', joined in the working up of the verses. In particular, Jim created the lines about Bonny Mary of Argyll.



O ye canny spend a dollar when ye're deid,
O ye canny spend a dollar when ye're deid:
Singin Ding Dong Dollar, everybody holler,
Ye canny spend a dollar when ye're deid.

O the Yanks have juist drapt anchor in Dunoon
An they've had their civic welcome fae the toon,
As they cam up the measured mile, Bonnie Mary o Argyll
Wis wearin spangled drawers ablow her goun.

Oh the Clyde is sure to prosper now they're here,
For they're chargin wan and ten pence furra beer
An when ye want a taxi, they stick it up their - jersey
An charge ye thirty bob tae Sandbank Pier.

But the Glesca Moderator disnae mind;
In fact, he thinks the Yanks are awfy kind,
For if it's heaven that ye're goin, it's a quicker way than rowin,
An there's sure tae be naebody left behind.

Final chorus

O ye canny spend a dollar when ye're deid,
Sae tell Kennedy he's got tae keep the heid,
Singin Ding Dong Dollar, everybody holler
Ye canny spend a dollar when ye're deid.

Listen to 'Ding Dong Dollar'.