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and Bandanas: from Highland Drover to Wild West Cowboy
A new book by Rob Gibson
Cowboys and Drovers – their routes and roots
Many have explored the travels and traditions of the Scots in the wider world and their contribution to the history and culture of other nations through exploration, enterprise and adaptation. Not many however, know of the Scottish diaspora that produced Indian chiefs, cowboys, gunslingers and outlaws in the United States and Canada. Rob Gibson realised that, like most Scots, he probably knew more American cowboy songs and more about Wild West traditions than he knew about droving songs and the Highlanders that drove their cattle. In Plaids and Bandanas: from Highland Drover to Wild West Cowboy Gibson researches the roots of the songs and the routes of the drovers, and establishes clear and coherent links between the Wild West and the no-less-wild Highlands.
Cattle droving in Scotland was an established profession from the 16th century and with the mass emigration of Scots to North America many such migrants took cowboy jobs in the American West. With them they took their culture, their language, and their skills. The medium of music paints a vivid picture of their social and personal lives and the exchange was not all one way. The music crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic creating strong links between the old culture and the new. A Gaelic cowboy song, ‘Leaving Coigach’, by Murdo MacLean, crossed in such a way and landed in the lap of Rob Gibson and became the unlikely starting point, and the beginnings of a fascinating journey, for Plaids and Bandanas.
-What drew Highlanders to the
Many of the people who drove the cattle in the Highlands and in America are looked at showing yet again the links between Scotland and the USA. Just as James Hunter in his "A Dance Called America" made the links between the history of the Highlands to America and Canada who took their experience and knowledge to a new land so Rob Gibson has told a more specific story of the men and their families involved in the cattle trade. This was the movement of people who had hundreds of years of history in the dealing with cattle in the Scottish Highlands. They helped develop the early wealth of the country opening up routes that others might have said were not possible at that time.
Rob Donn - the drover bard (1714-78) from Duthaich MhicAoidh who is buried at Balnakeil helped drive Mackay herds to the Tryst at Crieff on many occasions. He one of many who worked for the clan gentry of his day who transformed themselves in future years into the livestock sellers who plied their trade in Scotland and overseas.
Murdo Maclean, Achiltibuie -
contract cowboy/shepherd in Montana around 1905 who wrote the song
'Leaving Coigach' in Gaelic while earning cash to return to marry his
sweet #heart in the Black Isle and whose song's recovery in 1988 sparked
‘Go beyond Hollywood cliché and learn the truth is even more colourful and fascinating. Plaid or bandana, the cattle trade was an international brotherhood and sisterhood whose story has now finally been explored: with humour and sensitivity.’ TOM BRYAN
‘Rob Gibson … brings to the forefront Scots who were instrumental in forming the cattle kingdom of the American Wild West.’ DAVID WILKIE