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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Deil's awa wi' the Exciseman', 'The

Lockhart, in his Life of Burns, published in 1828, states that on the authority of one of Burns's brother Excise officers, it was written as Burns tramped the wet sands of the Solway, keeping watch on the movements of the crew of a stranded smuggler while his companion went to get help so that the vessel could be boarded. It made its bow in an undated letter, conjectured by Ferguson to belong to March 1792, to the General Supervisor of the Excise in Edinburgh, John Leven, which mostly relates to tax permits, but adds:

'Mr Mitchell mentioned to you a ballad which I composed, and sung at one of his Excise Court dinners: here it is — 'The deil's awa wi' th' Exciseman', Tune — 'Madame Cossy'. If you honor my ballad by making it one of your charming bon vivant effusions, it will secure it undoubted celebrity.'

Dick thought the tune 'Madame Cossy' was 'The Quaker's Wife', which derives from a Gaelic air, though gives no reason for this supposition. The fact is that the song was first published in the Scots Musical Museum in 1792, with Burns's approval, to a tune called 'The Hampdresser', an English tune, which nevertheless found its way, titleless, into the Caledonian Pocket Companion, c. 1756, which is doubtless where Burns found it.

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Robert Burns Store

NEW!! robert burns store View our exclusive range of distinctive Robert Burns related products. Register with our Shopping Club for further offers and unique member offers.Click here...


Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
Search our huge CD and music store for any Burns-related phrase!
Hint: Type "lang syne" or "peck maut" etc. into the Search box there for all artists, titles, descriptions or track listings with the words entered.
Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

ScotwebThe finest Scottish shopping site in the world, with the world's largest choice of kilts and tartans, exclusive jewelry, Highland Dress, Bagpipes and piping supplies, cashmere, and much more. Buying from these sites helps pay for the upkeep of Burns Country! Click here...