"Gilderoy was as bonny a boy as e'er cam tae the glen." The singer describes his charms and how lovingly he once cared for her. He taken as an outlaw. He is convicted (falsely, in her mind) and hanged because the laws were so strict


Claude Simpson, _The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music,_ pp. 252 ff., [notes that Gilderoy] seems to have been so glorified that he appears in historical legends not long after [his execution]. Simpson cites a broadside ballad printed "in the 1690s..." "probably written much earlier," entitled "The Scotch Lover's Lamentation: or, Gilderoy's Last Farewell... To an excellent new Tune, much in request." That ballad begins, "Gilderoy was a bonny boy." It is to be found in Pepys, Craford, Bagford and _A Collection of Old Ballads,_ 1723-1725. - EC

William Rose Benet's _Reader's Encyclopedia_ has this to say:

"Gilderoy. A famous cattle-stealer and highwayman of Perthshire, who is said to have robbed Cardinal Richelieu [died 1642] in the presence of the King, picked Oliver Cromwell's pocket [Cromwell, however, was not of any note in 1636, and had not yet led his armies into Scotland], and hanged a judge. He was hanged in 1636.... Some authorities say there were two robbers by this name."

David Brandon's _Stand and Deliver: A History of Highway Robbery_ (p. 76) gives another version of this, but with a twist: the robber is named "Gilders Roy." Brandon reports that "when he stopped a judge... his gang stripped his two footmen, tied them up and threw them into a pond, whereupon they drowned. Roy himself smashed the judge's carriage, shot the horses, and then hanged his hapless victim." Right. Shoot valuable horses?

Much of this seems to be derived from Percy, but Wheatley adds a much less flattering commentary: "The subject of this ballad was a ruffian totally unworthy of the poetic honours given him.... [H]e was betrayed by his mistress Peg Cunningham, and captured after killing eight of the men sent against him, and stabbing the woman...

"He was one of the proscribed Clan Gregor, and a notorious lifter of cattle in the Highlands of Pethshire for some time before 1636. In February of that year seven of his accomplices were taken, tried, condemned, and executed at Edinburgh.... [I]n July, 1636, [he] was hanged with five accomplices at the Gallowlee."

The National Library of Scotland site, however, lists his death year as 1638.

Ford lists certain others of his exploits; he too is cautious about their veracity.

Sam Hinton notes the most likely source for the robber's name (cf. Ford): "Gilderoy" could be a corruption of Gaelic "Giolla Ruadh" ("Gillie Roy") -- "red-haired boy."

There is another piece called "Gilderoy" in the _Scots Musical Museum_ (#66); this is probably a rewrite based on the traditional tune. I strongly doubt it ever went into tradition itself; it begins "Ah! Chloris, cou'd I now but sit As unconcern'd as when Your infant beauty could beget No happiness, nor pain!" - RBW

Historical references

  • 1636? - execution of "Gilderoy," aka Patrick McGregour, in Edinburgh

Cross references


  • NLScotland, S.302b.2(020), "Gilderoy," unknown, after 1700


  1. Percy/Wheatley I, pp. 318-323, "Gilderoy" (1 text)
  2. Ford-Vagabond, pp. 27-31, "Gilderoy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Greenleaf/Mansfield 63, "Gilderoy" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  4. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 40-41, "Gilderoy" (1 fragmentary text, 1 tune, connected with the Scottish ballad more by the tune than the text)
  5. BBI, ZN955, "Gilderoy was a bonny boy"; ZN1821, "My love he was as brave a man"
  7. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #87, "My Handsome Gilderoy" (1 text)
  8. Roud #1486
  9. BI, RL040


Alternate titles: “I Blowed Her with My Horn”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1725 (an isolated stanza appears in "Westminster Drollery," 1671)
Found in: US(So) Britain(Scotland) Canada(Newf)