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|The air Gilderoy appears in the 1707 volume of Thomas D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy and in Tea Table Miscellany (c 1726).** It also appeared in Orpheus Caledonius (1733). The verses here were written by Thomas Campbell and were adapted to the air in 1856.* Robert Burns later used the melody for From Thee Eliza.
A broadside of The Scotch Lover's Lamentation or Gilderoy's Last Faewe' was printed in 1690. According to George Farquhar Graham, the ballad Gilderoy was published as early as 1650. A copy circa 1850 was rewritten by Lady Wardlaw, who wrote Hardyknute. Gilderoy, the hero of the ballad, was a freebooter in Perthshire. He and five of his gang were hanged at the Gallowlee, between Leith and Edinburgh, in July 1638.*
In The Annals of Scotland (1797), Lord Hailes notes there was also an Irish chief, Gilrodh, who raided Scotland in 1233. He speculates that the name Gilderoy is a corruption of the Irish Gilruadh, which means red-haired lad.*
The story here also appeared with different words on several broadsides in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These can be found at the Broadside Ballads Online.
According to sources cited in the Ballad Index, Gilderoy was a highwayman named Patrick McGregour, who was said to have robbed Cardinal Richelieu, picked Cromwell's pocket and hanged a judge. He was betrayed by his mistress and killed several men and stabbed her during his capture. Those sources give the date of his hanging as 1636.
The Complete Newgate Calendar (1926) states that Gilder-Roy killed his mother and sister, hanged a judge and was executed in 1658.
The Star of County Down is a variant of this melody.
The last, the dreaded hour is come,
That bears my love from me:
I hear the dead note of the drum,
I mark the fatal tree.
The bell has toll'd; it shakes my heart;
The trumpet speaks thy name:
And must my Gilderoy depart,
To bear a death of shame!
No bosom trembles for thy doom;
No mourner wipes a tear;
The gallows' foot is all they tomb,
The sledge is all thy bier.
Oh Gilderoy! I bethought we then
So soon, so sad to part,
When first in Roslin's lovely glen
You triumph'd o'er my heart?
Your locks they glitter'd to the sheen,
Your hunter garb was trim;
And graceful was the ribbon green,
That bound your many limb!
Ah! little thought I to deplore
Those limbs in fetters bound;
Or hear, upon the scaffold floor,
The midnight hammer sound.
Ye cruel, cruel, that combined
The guiltless to pursue;
My Gilderoy was ever kind,
He could not injure you!
A long adieu! but where shall fly
Thy widow all forlorn,
When ev'ry mean and cruel eye
Regards my wo with scorn?
Yes! they will mock thy widow's tears,
And hate thine orphan boy;
Alas! his infant beauty wears
The form of Gilderoy.
Then will I seek the dreary mound
That wraps thy mouldering clay,
And weep and linger on the ground,
And sigh my heart away.
From *The Songs of Scotland (George Farquhar Graham)
See Bibliography for full information.
Additional information from
**Bruce Olsen's Roots of Folk Website