Dae yi mind in lang lang syne? Lyrics, History & Video.

I first heard this song from Tam Reid, in the early nineties at the Garlogie Ceilidhs.  I always liked Tam.  He was the kind of gent that personified all that was teuchter and Aberdeenshire.  His eyes glinted, like he’d been born with a dram in his veins, though I can say I never saw him drunk or ower foo.  I remember his white hair, dark eyebrows and Rosie red cheeks. He was a thick set strong man with a gentle smile, big hands and a weather worn face. Everyone I knew liked him.  He was known as ‘The Bothy Ballad King’.

Naturally I had assumed it was a north east song but its origins go back to Ayrshire or Edinburgh around 1800.

I made a YouTube video of the song using family pictures from my mums side.

Littlejohn brothers from Turriff
Littlejohn brothers from New Deer, Turriff. Douglas, Alister and my Grandpa Jimmy on the right.

The original author, Rev George S. Lawrie, also the son of a Kirkmicheal minister studied at Edinburgh University. He was ordained in 1763 at Galston, Ayrshire. (He was to remain there for the rest of his days.) The following year he married Mary Campbell, the daughter of a divinity Professor from St. Andrews University. – Archibald Cameron.  They had 2 Children, the oldest daughter was also a talented musician.

In 1786 George had read the Kilmarnock Edition, by Robert Burns.   Burns was having problems in his career at the time was thinking on giving up writing poetry altogether, fearing his words were falling on deaf ears and was considering leaving Scotland forever.

George was so impressed by the Poetry and songs from Burns he sent a copy of the works to Edinburgh to a Dr. Blacklock.   Blacklock was known to George as an influential member of high society in Edinburgh.   Blacklock immediately wrote back to George enthusiastically with great passion about Burns’ works.  George showed this letter to a friend Gavin, who showed it to Burns….

Later, in an autobiographical letter from Burns to a Dr. Moore, burns says the following about Lawrie and Blacklock..

I had taken the last farewell of my friends; my chest was on the road to Greenock; I had composed my last song I should ever measure in Caledonia, “The gloomy night is gathering fast”, when a letter from Dr Blacklock to a friend of mine overthrew all my schemes by rousing my poetic ambition.’

Burns and Lawrie remained friends and Burns would frequently visit the manse and stay over.

Without the help of Lawrie, Robert Burns may have quit his craft and Scotland would have been a poorer culture for it. Can you imagine a Scotland with no Burns?

No auld Lang Syne, No Red Rose, Nae sleekit’ cowerin beasties? Nae parcel o rogues….oh wait, that would probably be good J!

old picture of mum on a pony
My Mum on a Pony, Mains of Idoch, Turriff.

In this song “Di yi mind in lang lang syne” I feel there is a great depth of nostalgia for the past and an acceptance of what is finally to come.  I can imagine an old George S. Lawrie. Sitting in the manse in front of his fire, sipping a malt. Thinking back on his childhood, all the landscapes of places he played as a young boy in Perthshire, all the friends he misses who have passed on, all the hard-working farm folk who ‘rose wi the lark in the morning’.

I remember my own experiences with my family and friends and draw my own comparisons.  I miss people I have lost. I remember all the same places in my own mind where I once played. The fun my own generation had as children.  It all seems golden in my memory.  It’s also sad because it will never happen again for me. …. I am 43 and I would get arrested for guddling in a burn 😉

I fear my own kids will never have such a good childhood as I enjoyed.  iPads and technology seem to be strangling childhood.

I have seen some slightly different lyrics to the song on-line but I learned these from a Tam Reid recording.

Dae ye mind on Lang Lang Syne? 

Dae ye mind on lang, lang syne?
When the summer days were fine,
and the sun shone brighter far
Than it’s ever deen sin syne?
Dae ye mind the Haa Brig Turn
Whaur we guddled in the burn,
And were late for the school in the mornin?

Dae ye mind the miller’s dam
Whaur the frosty winter cam?
We slid amongst the curlers’ rinks
And made their game a sham;
When they chased us through the sna,
We gid leg bail yin and aa,
But we did it a’ again in the mornin’.

Dae ye mind the sunny braes
Far we gaithered hips and slaes,
And we fell among the brummle bushes,
Tearin aa wir claes?
And for fear we wid be seen,
We gid slippin hame at een,
Bit were licket fir oor pains, in the mornin’.

Far are a thon leal hearts noo,
That were eynce sae fond and true?
Aye there’s some hae left this troubled scene,
Bit there’s some still aye strugglin through;
and there’s some hae risen higher,
and gan tae life’s destiny,
Bit they rose wi the lark in the morning.

Well noo, life’s sweet spring is past,
And the autumn’s come at last;
Oor summer days hae passed away,
and winter’s comin fast;
But though lang the nicht may seem,
We shall sleep wi’oot a dream,
Till we waakin on yon bright summer’s mornin.

turriff cousins abel littlejohn

Above: My 2 brothers and I with my cousins at Ardin Farm, Turriff. Many moons ago.

No much wonder we grew up with drink problems. 🙂

Flower Pot Brothers
Flower pot brothers

My Brother Stuart and I, dressed as Flower Pot Men, ready to explore the word.


Leave a Comment

  1. Spot on description o’ Tam and a lovely rendition o’ een o my favourite songs…love the photos x

  2. Just to add to this, Lawrie served as the minister in Newmilns, which is the town along from Galston. The “Hag Brig Turn” is just outside Newmilns, on the road to Galston – and the “Miller’s Dam” is in the middle of Newmilns, between the Institute Brig & the Brigend. In that sense, I’ve always looked at the specifics of this song as being about Newmilns, although obviously with the broader themes you’ve written about above. As an aside, Lawrie Street in Newmilns was named after him. Burns also spent some time in the manse in Newmilns – they still have a wooden pane in the manse, where Burns used his diamond to inscribe “lovely Mrs Lawrie, she is all charms” into the wood. Hope that’s useful.

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