This Scottish folk song is based on the story of one James McPherson or MacPherson, a gypsy thief who was executed in 1700. It goes under several names: McPherson's/MacPherson's Rant/Lament/Farewell. Robert Burns' version is perhaps one of the best known.

The song is based on the story that after McPherson was tried and sentenced to hang, he wrote this song to play on his fiddle, and played it before he was hanged. When no-one came forward to take his fiddle from him, he is said to have broken it, either over his knee, or over the head of his executioner. A further twist is provided by the tale that a reprieve was due to arrive, and the town's clock was put forward to bypass it, and ensure McPherson's death. The song has remained popular with its stirring rhythm and macabre tale, and has been sung by many Scottish folk artists, including The Corries. I've pipe-linked some of the Scots words which might be unfamiliar to some readers.

McPherson's Rant
Scots traditional

Fareweel ye dungeons dark an' strang,
Fareweel, fareweel, said he.
McPherson's time will no' be long,
Below thon gallows tree I'll hing.

So rantingly, sae wantonly, and sae dantin'ly went he;
He played a tune then danced a-roon' below the gallows tree.

"There's some cam' here to see me hang't,
An' some to buy my fiddle;
But before 'at I do part wi' her,
I'll break her though the middle."

He took the fiddle into both of his hands
An' he broke it over a stone;
Says he: "There's no anither han'll play on thee
When I am dead and gone.

It wis by a woman's treacherous hand
'At I wis condemned to dee:
Below a ledge a windae she stood,
Then a blanket she threw ower me.

The laird o' Grant, the Highland sa'nt,
'At first laid hands on me;
He played the cause on Peter Broon
Tae let McPherson dee.

Untie these bands from off my hands,
An' gae bring to me my sword,
For there's no a man in all Scotland
But'll brave him at his word.

The reprieve was comin' o'er the brig o' Banff
For tae let McPherson free,
When they put the clock a quarter before,
Then hanged him to the tree.

I've lived a life o' sturt an' strife;
I die by treachery.
O it breaks my heart, I must depart,
An' live in slavery.

Fareweel you life, you sunshine bright,
And all beneath the skies;
For in the place I'm ready to:
McPherson's time tae die."

McPherson's Farewell
Robert Burns, 1788
Tune: McPherson's Rant.

Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong,
The wretch's destinie!
McPherson's time will not be long
On yonder gallows-tree.

Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,
Sae dauntingly gaed he;
He play'd a spring, and danc'd it round,
Below the gallows-tree.

O, what is death but parting breath?
On many a bloody plain
I've dared his face, and in this place
I scorn him yet again!
Sae rantingly, etc.

Untie these bands from off my hands,
And bring me to my sword;
And there's no a man in all Scotland
But I'll brave him at a word.
Sae rantingly, etc.

I've liv'd a life of sturt and strife;
I die by treacherie:
It burns my heart I must depart,
And not avenged be.
Sae rantingly, etc.

Now farewell light, thou sunshine bright,
And all beneath the sky!
May coward shame distain his name,
The wretch that dares not die!
Sae rantingly, etc.