Andrew Moar       [Sir Niel & Glengyle or Sir Niel & MacVan]     SA1971.215.11

This ballad  was first printed in Peter Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (Vol.2, 1828). Differing versions of it later appeared in broadsheets some of them lending confusion to this sorry tale.  This version, which Andrew partly sings and then recites, seems also to have come from a broadsheet, but Andrew further confused the plot when he accidentally confused the names of two of the protagonists in his third stanza (highlighted).  The third man in the tale was the brother to the  Lady Anne, McVan, who was slain in a duel with Sir Niel.  Glengyle then arrives and slays the victor but for his pains is ostracised by Lady Anne who vows she will mourn the loss of her brother for seven full years.  We have printed below just some of the many verses that Andrew recited, but more verses can be listened to here and a complete set can be read on a broadsheet version published by the Bodleian library.  Roud index no. 1914.

In yonder isle beyond Argyle,  where flocks and herds are plenty,
Lived a rich squire whose sister fair, was the flower of all the country;

A knight, Sir Niel, had woo’d her long, expecting  soon to marry,

A young highland laird her suit preferred, young handsome, brisk and merry.

Long had she woo’d the young Glengyle because he wrote sincerely,
But soon she found the brave Sir Niel had won her heart entirely

Till some lines to her brother came, that Niel had boasted proudly,
Of favours from the  lady Anne that made him vow thus rudely. 

I swear by all our friendship past  that e’er this time next morning,
That knight or I shall breathe our last; I’ll show him who he’s scorning. 

To meet on the shore where proud waves roar, was a challenge he defied him,
E’er the sun was up those two youths met; no living creature nigh them.


Why should I fight with you MacVan  who never me offended
And if I aye ye ill have done,  I’ll own my fault and mend it.

“It’s not coming too fast is it?”  ” No, that’s alright”

Is this thy boasted courage knave?   Who would not now despise thee?
And if thou still will scorn to fight  I’ll let each dog chastise thee

Combined with guilt thy wondrous skill  From fate shall neer defend thee
My sister’s wrongs shall brace my arm. This stroke to death shall send thee.

But this and many a well aim’d blow the generous baron warded,
Being loath to harm so dear a friend, himself he only guarded.

Till mad at being sore abused, one furious push he darted,
Which pierc’d the brains of bold MacVan who with a groan departed…..


“Were did I get that from?  Me sister, mistress Andrew Poleson’s mother”

“And where do you think she got it from?”

“From me father, I doot”.