Traditional Scottish Songs
- The Deil's Awa' Wi' Th' Exciseman

Robert Burns worked as an exciseman, or customs officer, in Dumfries. While he was apparently good at his job, he would be well aware that tax collection and chasing after smugglers was not always popular! It has been suggested that Burns wrote this song while waiting for reinforcements before boarding a smugglers's ship. He certainly sang it - at an excisemen's dinner - a month after such an incident.

The Deil's Awa' Wi' Th' Exciseman

The Deil cam fiddlin' through the toun
And danced awa' wi' th' exciseman,
And ilka wife cried, 'Auld Mahoun,
I wish you luck o' the prize, man.'

The Deil's awa,' the Deil's awa',
The Deil's awa' wi' th' exciseman.
He's danced awa', he's danced awa',
He's danced awa' wl' th' exciseman.

We'll mak oor maut and we'll brew our drink.
We'll laugh, sing and rejoice, man,
And mony braw thanks to the muckle black Deil
That danced awa' wi' th' exciseman.


There's threesome reels; there's foursome reels
There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man,
But the ae best dance that cam o'er our land
Was 'The Deil's Awa' Wi' Th' Exciseman'.


Meaning of unusual words:
Mahoun=literally 'Mohammed' but meaning 'devil'
maut=malt, ale
reels=a dance using a figure of eight
strathspeys=a dance (slower than a reel)

Return to the Index of Traditional Scottish Songs

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line