Andrew Poleson SA1971.269.9
This sad tale, a broadside, known also as Donald Munro’s Tragedy , dates back to a chapbook of 1778 according to W.H. Logan in his collection A Pedlar’s Pack (1869, p. 413). Emigration to Canada and America was common among Scots at this time but the American War of Independence began in 1775 and this ballad is obviously connected with it. Several broadside printers printed this ballad, including Sanderson of Edinburgh, which is probably from where Andrew learned his version – “When I was a young chap more than 40 years ago.” A later recording (SA1974.237.7), made at the Cook’s House, where older men gather and socialize while the meat for a wedding feast is boiled up, was sung at the same pitch and with identical words. Clearly Andrew had soundly memorized this ballad for such occasions.
(Roud Index no. 521.)
When the sons of north Britain were forced for to range
And seek foreign countries and lands that were strange
Amongst that number one Donald Munro
Away to America he quickly did go
Two sons with a brother he forced for to stay
Because of the passage he could not well pay
When seven long twelve-months were over and gone
They went to their uncle one day all alone
And begg’d his consent to go over the sea
That they with their parents in plenty might be
To which said their uncle “Dear children you know
You have got no money therefore you can’t go.”
“The price of your passage you know will be dear
I would have you advised to stay with me here.”
Being so discontented no comfort could find
The thoughts of their parents did run through their minds.
On leaving their uncle they went till they found
A regiment of soldiers to America was bound,
To which they enlisted to go over the sea
In hopes with their parents in plenty might be.
But when they arriv-ed the country they spied
Surrounded with rivals on every side
With humble submission they both of them went
Unto their good captain and begged his consent
For to go up the country their parents to see
Which their good captain at last did agree
So leaving the camp with a boy for their guide
To show them the place where their parents reside.
They had not gone far when one of them did say
“If we just could find our dear parents today
How happy they would be to find us so near,
For of our enlisting they never did hear.”
On walking a little further they came to a grove
Where the trees and the bushes all seemed for to move.
This being two robbers that lurked in the wood [rebels, in some broadsheets]
Soon pointed the place where these two brothers stood [their pieces]
And lodged their bullets within their two breasts
And rushed at the prey like two ravenous beasts
To take all their money and strip off their clothes
And finding them not dead dispatched them with blows.
The oldest in expiring just lifted his head
And seeing them approaching in agony he cried,
“Oh you cruel monsters, you bloodthirsty hounds
Why did thou kill us before we were found.
Our parents we were seeking this day with great care
If they know we are dead I am sure they will grieve
They left us in Scotland seven twelve-months ago
Perhaps you may know them, their names were Munro.”
At this said the old man he stood in amaze
And viewing these persons with greater surprise
And seeing them lie bleeding says “What have I done
Cursed be my own hands I’ve killed my own sons.”
“Then if you’re my father the oldest replied
I am glad that I’ve seen you before that I died.
But since it is so that no better can be,
We’ll blame our hard fortune, dear father, not thee.
Don’t tell my ag’d mother if still she does live,
For if she knows we are dead I am sure she will grieve.”
Then having this said then down dropped his head
His father observing him found he was dead.
But I’ll sink beneath sorrow, give way to despair
An’ linger my life on [till death end the care]
When I hope to meet you on a happier shore
Where I will be able to kill you no more.