MacPherson’s Rant

Source: https://www.scotslanguage.com/

A song about an injustice.

Fareweel, ye dungeons dark and strang, fareweel, fareweel tae ye,
MacPherson’s time will no be lang on yonder gallows tree

Chorus

Sae rantinly and sae wantonly, sae dauntinly gaed he
For he played a tune and he danced aroon, below the gallows tree

It was by a woman’s treacherous hand that I was condemned tae dee
Above a ledge at a window she sat and a blanket she threw ower me

There’s some come here tae see me hang, and some come tae buy my fiddle
But before that I would part wi her I’d brak her through the middle

And he took the fiddle intae baith o his hands and he brak it ower a stane
Sayin, nay other hand shall play on thee when I am dead and gane

The reprieve was comin ower the Brig o Banff tae set MacPherson free,
But they pit the clock a quarter afore, and they hanged him frae the tree.

Additional verses

The Laird o Grant, that Hieland saunt, that first laid hands on me,
He pleads the cause o Peter Broon, tae let MacPherson dee

Untie these bands frae aff my hands and gie tae me my sword,
And there’s no a man in all Scotland but I’ll brave him at a word.

The story of the song is largely true.

James MacPherson was an outlaw in the North East of Scotland, one of the travelling people and the leader of a band of robbers. He was said to have been generous to and popular with the poor people, but he was the enemy of Lord Duff, the Laird of Braco.

MacPherson was caught in Keith and hanged at the Cross of Banff on 16 November 1700, 300 years ago. The story tells that no-one would arrest him because he was such a fine swordsman, but as he came into Keith through a narrow street a woman sitting at a window overlooking the street threw down a thick heavy blanket which entangled him so he could not draw his sword. The court jury was packed with the dependants of Lord Duff, the Laird of Grant, who found him guilty, but a friend of MacPherson rode to the higher court in Aberdeen for a pardon. The Laird saw the rider coming with the pardon, so ordered the town clock to be put forward so they could legally hang MacPherson before it arrived.

MacPherson was a fine fiddler, and he composed this tune the night before he was hanged and played it on the scaffold. Then he offered to give his fiddle to anyone who would play the tune at his wake. No-one would, so he smashed the fiddle. Anyone who had accepted it would have shown themselves to be a relative or friend of his and so liable to arrest themselves.

The song is also known as ‘MacPherson’s Farewell’. Robert Burns rewrote the song, but these are the traditional lyrics. The tune is very popular amongst Scottish fiddlers.

The pieces of MacPherson’s fiddle are displayed in the MacPherson Clan House Museum in Newtonmore.

Toilet Rolls

Where have all the toilet rolls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the toilet rolls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the toilet rolls gone?
Hoarders bought them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

I’ve had a colostomy!” said the angry man at the checkout.

“Then you don’t need to wipe your bum!” said the old woman clutching the last pack of toilet tissue.

There’s still plenty of baby wipes.” said I.

There was a stunned silence. Then everyone abandoned the checkout queue and rushed down the aisle.

People.

Some Bastard

Some bastard has stolen my bicycle away
So I on old Bribie no longer can play
I will wade round the beaches right up to my chest
To find out my bicycle, the one I love the best

And when I have found out my joy and delight
Whoever is riding it I’ll surely fight
For his ears shall be ringing and his head shall be thick
Once I give him a beating with my walking stick

Here’s a health to all riders that are loyal and just
Here’s confusion to the rider that lives in distrust
For I’m telling you now that when I catch that prick
I shall give him such a beating with my walking stick.

Trad Arr! ARF!

Yes. Some prick stole my bike.

Special Points to anyone who knows the tune for this song.

https://youtu.be/n-tRqcow10k


https://youtu.be/vFVdxOy42JA

Nessity Revisited.

It is as if the internet is watching me, and correcting me kindly.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/17/dictionaries-language-tottenham-hotspur-oed-y-word-definition?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other.

A timely reminder that language grows and changes. If it didn’t, we’d still be writing like this:

Can anyone else fmell timmer?

Tan dan naddity daa dan da.

Desolation Row

Thanks to Mrs Murphy, my high school music teacher, I appreciated the poetry of Bob Dylan from a relatively early age. As much as I did as that of Dylan Thomas, and the works we were fed of the classic writers of sonnets epics and odes.

Not being steeped in American culture a great deal of Dylan’s chaotic and surreal imagery went over my head in the sixties. But I knew the opening lines of Desolation Row referred to something dark.

They’re selling postcards of the hanging…

It was not until the advent of internet and Wikipedia that I learned about the shameful lynching of three alleged rapists in Duluth, Minnesota, not far from the Zimmerman home where Dylan’s father lived as a child at the time. Postcard photographs of the hanging victims were sold.

Dylan’s reference to the Titanic, on which the passengers ask “which side are you on.” seems almost prescient, given the current Situation of the world, and America.

In fact the whole song seems to me an ironic acknowledgement of the surreality and ultimate futility of existence.

I just had to jot these notes to show that I can appreciate poetry even while I take the piss.

Bob Dylan

Desolation Row

They’re selling postcards of the hanging
They’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

Cinderella, she seems so easy
“It takes one to know one,” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning
“You Belong to Me I Believe”
And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place my friend
You better leave”
And the only sound that’s left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row

Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide
The fortune-telling lady
Has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel
And the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love
Or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight
On Desolation Row

Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row

Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read
“Have Mercy on His Soul”
They all play on pennywhistles
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
From Desolation Row

Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains
They’re getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
A perfect image of a priest
They’re spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words
And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls
“Get Outa Here If You Don’t Know
Casanova is just being punished for going
To Desolation Row”

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row

BOB DYLAN

Derogation Row

I’m collecting all the useless words and then I’ll knock them down

The streets are full of epigrams, there’s discomfort in the town

The constable is pacing slow, he’s trying not to dance

The drunkard knows he can walk a line if he only had a chance

The cheerleaders are goose stepping, they need somewhere to go

They took the evening off to visit Derogation Row

.

The single mother is wondering. There’s something she should know

She forgot her baby in the bank not too long ago

Then she saw the epigrams as they began to bleed

Like pesky pigeons in the park, pecking poisoned seed

She saw the space between her hands where something ought to go

And ran to find her baby back on Derogation Row

.

Now the moon must get a mention and the stars are quoted too

The prognosticators all predict, because that’s what they do

They spout obscure biblical references like scholars did of yore

At the Walrus and a carpenter as they staggered out the door

They’d laboured hard for seven years with nothing much to show

And ended in the gutter down on Derogation Row

.

Shakespeare’s words were rounded up; they all felt so afraid

They were accused of coinage once the charges had been laid

Portia donned her mantle and her mercy was not strained

She argued very strongly that all words should be unchained

A Noun, a Verb, an Adjective would not Decline to go

Where every word is equal, down on Derogation Row

.

Einstein can’t believe that quantum physics is a thing

His Universe is infinite, it’s not shaped like a ring

His sage advice to Schrödinger that he should get a pet

Was just ignored, without a word. He doesn’t have one yet

He thought he’d put one in a box, which only goes to show

Life’s just a thought experiment on Derogation Row

.

The word has gone around the world. And all across the planet

They dance the Time Warp in the nude, and pray to Brad and Janet

The songs are getting sillier, Bob Dylan’s clearly mad

Now I’m quoting Richard O’Brien, there’s little more to add

Nothing beats the madness of the Rocky Horror Show

Not even cultural references on Derogation Row

.

You have to be a gentle soul to like Bob Dylan’s verse

It seems to me that you can see this parody’s no worse

I could go on, and show you all the talent that I’ve got

I could go on. But you’ll be cheered to hear that I will not

So for your sake I’ll finish now. Because I’ve come to know.

When it’s time to end the song of Derogation Row.

© 2020 ARF

Spotify

Today I’m listening to a Collection of Beethoven’s sonatas, played by various artists. Right now I’m listening to my favourite, Sonata no. 14, Opus 27, in C sharp minor. Also known as the Moonlight. Or mondschein.

My Spotify account is one of my treasures. For eleven dollars a month it gives me access to a Collection of music I could never afford to buy on CD. I have found almost all the music I liked in my youth. Classical, folk, rock, I have expanded my Celtic folk collection beyond anything I could afford to buy. Now, I am exploring what I missed. Spotify allows me to try new musical genres and artists. My musical appreciation development was stunted in the eighties but I am at last catching up.

Sad to say most modern music, especially hip-hop, leaves me cold but there is still some wheat amongst the chaff.

By clicking on the links above you can listen to my playlists, though you’ll have to put up with advertising unless you have an account.

HCP

Yesterday, my favourite young nurse, with whom I am completely in love, helped me complete my health care plan for the coming year. I’m in love not because she is beautiful, although she is, but because she understands me. If only I was forty years younger.

That smile.

We see each other only once or twice a year, and since my last visit much has changed. I can tell when people are gushing and cooing because it is their job to be encouraging, and when they mean it. Her genuine pleasure at my progress was touching. Her understanding of my mental state and my pragmatic approach to it tells me she has a black dog too.

It was she who introduced me to the MyFitnessPal app, which helped me get my main issue under control. I thanked her for that. Now at last we can turn to the matter of the legs and feet, and the pain. Not just to manage it, but to do something about it. That was not really an option until I shed some weight.

She laughed when I told her about the Really Really Fat Persons Support Group, she told me I was her favourite patient. I bet she says that to all the boys.

By pure coincidence, while I was waiting at the surgery, I received a call from Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, asking me to do another blood and urine test. They had already supplied me with the necessary form, which I carried with my medical summary in my man-bag. The pathology lab is right there at the surgery so it was a simple matter after my appointment to drop in, bleed and pee in a cup.

I then checked out the op-shops in Woodford for clothes. But I think I’m too fussy. I’ll try Caboolture later. On the way home I drove straight past Beefy’s for the second time this week. That’s willpower.

I felt so positive that rather than stop off at the pool for a swim on my way back, I drove all the way home, had a light lunch, hopped on the bike,’ and pedalled back to the aquatic centre. That’s dedication.

After the swim I rode home and immediately took a nap until 8 pm. That’s old age.

Buoyancy

I’m not doing nearly as well as I expected, despite some positive signs. In the pool yesterday, I spotted something someone had dropped in the deep end and dived to retrieve it. Successfully. That may not seem much of an accomplishment but not so long ago I was so buoyant with adiposity that I could not sink no matter how I tried. Though I could float on my back and snooze without fear of drowning, I could not reach the bottom of the pool no matter how hard I tried. Now, I can swim down.

This positive sign perhaps explains why my weight loss graph has plateaued in the last couple of weeks. I’m developing muscle, which is denser than fat. I am still incrementally tightening the drawstring in my waistband, so something positive is happening.

The best time of day is when I am weightless in the pool. I am virtually pain and discomfort free . I feel as fit as I was when I made my marathon swim around Mayor Island over 47 years ago. But climbing out and returning to the gravity of the world leaves me limping and hobbling like the old man I have become. Riding the bicycle is my second pleasure. Seated, so my knees bear no weight, and with my feet positioned properly on the pedals, the discomfort in my knees is minimal, and the ache in the muscles of my calves and thighs is an acceptable sign of effort being rewarded. Climbing off the bike at the end of my journey is a painful return to reality. I have to take care not to fall over. I believe it is time to talk to the doc about new knees, and get onto that waiting list.

My mental buoyancy is better. Despite occasional bouts of loneliness when I am acutely aware that I am far away from my family and closest friends, I am coming to embrace solitude, and the self-awareness that comes with it. I have left so much behind. Lost so much. I am not, and never was, the person I wanted to be. Perhaps I am where I am now because it is where I deserve to be. That is not self-pity, it is self-appraisal.

Part of me wants to return to New Zealand, but why? My family don’t need me. I actually have fewer friends there than I do in Western Australia – and the weather is worse. I’d be financially worse off. Plus there is the inertia that seems to come with old age. I find it difficult to even contemplate moving on from the camp I am in.

One of my neighbours has a sign on his cabin “Der Komandant, Stalag Luft 13”. The old chap has a sense of humour like mine. Despite the title he has given himself, he knows he is a prisoner, like the rest of us.

The Curragh of Kildare

JThe winter it has passed
And the summer’s come at last
The small birds are singing in the trees
And their little hearts are glad
Ah, but mine is very sad
Since my true love is far away from me

And straight I will repair
To the Curragh of Kildare
For it’s there I’ll finds tidings of my dear

The rose upon the briar
By the water’s running clear
Brings joy to the linnet and the bee
And their little hearts are blessed
But mine can know no rest
Since my true love is far away from me

A livery I’ll wear
And I’ll comb back my hair
And in velvet so green I will appear
And straight I will repair
To the Curragh of Kildare
For its there I’ll find tidings of my dear

All you who are in love
Aye and cannot it remove
I pity the pain that you endure
For experience lets me know
That your hearts are filled with woe
It’s a woe that no mortal can cure

Songwriters: CHRISTY MOORE / DOMINIC BEHAN / HAROLD SHAMPAN

The Wrens of the Curragh’

In 1856 The Curragh Military Camp had been established on the plains of Kildare, and attracted a community of Irish destitute women. The women, mostly in their twenties, lived on the plains about a mile from the camp. Outcast by society, they supported each other within their community and lived difficult lives in furze-covered shelters dug in the ground using any protection from the weather they could find.

Because they mostly iced in ‘nests’ in the ground the women became known as The Wrens. Their choices were limited to either living rough on the Plains of Kildare or in the workhouse where they would have no control and no dignity whatsoever.

Their only means of income was the oldest profession. They sold their bodies to the soldiers of the camp.

The women were ostracised by society, the church, and the local communities. Many had young children living with them but such was the nature of society at the time that they received little compassion. They were beyond the pale of so called ‘respectable society’. They were stoned, spat at, and beaten in the the local communities. Shopkeepers refused them service. Only one business, run by a widow, would allow them to enter and be served.

The army permitted them to buy necessities twice weekly at the camp store and sent water wagons out to the ‘nests’ twice weekly.

There are accounts of gangs of local men who considered it sport to terrify the women and burn down their nests.

There are accounts of incidences of gang rape by groups of soldiers. An incident reported in the town of Newbridge concerns a local priest who attacked one of the Wrens, tore the thin shawl and gown from her shoulders and beat her with his riding crop until her blood splashed all over his riding boots. Though witnessed by many locals, no one voiced any protest.

Another priest was known to attack any Wren he encountered with scissors he carried for the purpose. He would cut off their hair, marking them with the “shame” of the Corinthian prostitutes. No one ever objected or tried to help.

For fifty years, until the end of the nineteen century, the Wrens of the Curragh lived in the ditches of the Plains of Kildare and died there of from disease and exposure. When they fell ill the workhouse usually refused to take them in and those few they did were kept away from sight in conditions no better than those they had left on the plains.

Because of the hypocrisy of religion we Irish, usually renown for generosity, could be just as uncharitable as anyone else.

THE CAMP, C 1860