Many songs have such a long history that no-one is sure where they began: The Parting Glass is one of those songs. It has been sung, in one form or another, since at least the 18th century, and quite probably as early as the 17th century (Kloss, 2012). In the same vein, nobody knows who wrote it either. Because it has been covered by so many groups and artists, credit for this song is often mistakenly given to many different artists who have performed the song, such as Ed Sheeran and Shaun Davy (Song meanings, 2014). It appears, however, that the most reliable credit for at least part of the lyrics has been attributed to Thomas Armstrong, who was: “… executed for the murder of Sir JOHN CARMICHAEL of Edrom, warden of the middle marches” (Scott, 2016) in 1600 (Sir John Carmichael, Sandeis Ringan and Lang Sandy, 2013). In a section of a letter written by Thomas Armstrong on the eve of his execution and now referred to as Armstrong’s Goodnight, he reportedly wrote:
This night is my departing night,
For here nae langer must I stay;
There’s neither friend nor foe o’ mine,
But wishes me away.
What I have done thro’ lack of wit,
I never, never, can recall;
I hope ye’re a’ my friends as yet;
Goodnight and joy be with you all!
These words are close to those that are sung today. The Parting Glass is widely acknowledged as a farewell song, used by both the Scottish and the Irish. It fell out of favour with the Scottish when Auld Lang Syne was written but the Irish continue to use it to this day (Irish Music Daily, 2017).
My story will be my a fictional interpretation based loosely in fact – because no-one knows the truth. But that is the beauty of writing historical fiction: I can do that!
Kloss, J. (2012). Some notes on the history of The Parting Glass. Retrieved April 2nd, 2017, from Just another tune: songs and their history: http://www.justanothertune.com/html/partingglass.html
Scott, W. (2016). Armstrong’s Goodnight. In W. Scott, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (p. Chapter 14). Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Retrieved April 2nd, 2017, from https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/minstrelsy-of-the-scottish-border/chapter14.html
Sir John Carmichael, Sandeis Ringan and Lang Sandy. (2013, February 27th). Retrieved April 2nd, 2017, from The History Jar: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/sir-john-carmichael/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-2
Song meanings. (2014). Ed Sheeran- The Parting Glass. Retrieved March 31st, 2017, from Song meanings: http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858888755/
Kerry A Waight - Author
A writer of historical fiction and paranormal stories.