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Taking the long drive home

There’s a song by Jim Malcolm, Losin’ Auld Reekie, which follows in the notable tradition of wistful, somewhat melancholic and yet not quite sad, singing about places and scenes in the home country. It charts a driver’s decision (implicitly, Malcolm himself as he leaves Edinburgh and its busy, business-oriented music scenes behind) to take the “lang way home”, whereby instead of taking the more direct route from North Queensferry up the M90 via Perth and Dundee to get to Forfar (short of 2 hours), they take a lengthy route along country roads, driving through a number of Scottish towns.

The drive sounds quite charming, and I’ve been meaning for years to give it a go one idle afternoon… though charting it on a map, it turns out they really, *really* took the long way, winging significantly west for the first half, and on the final lap, arcing much further north than one would expect to go through Kilry (if I transcribed the song correctly!). I would in fact have to consider giving it a full day’s worth, just to be sure I don’t roll in to forfar past dinner time!

So unlike our traveler, I *won’t* be holding out for a Forfar bridie the whole way !

I drew up a map, each red X is a place the traveler seems to have driven through, the blue X’s marking places mentioned, but not traversed. The last parts of Sma’ Glen, Amulree and Dunkeld look as though they were indeed driven through, though it is merely implied.

So what would I do on this trip? Well, in the spirit of the song, I would say it is about enjoying the ride. I might take a film camera to be old fashioned about it with two or three rolls of film, and take a few pics at each named destination, plus anything nice on the way, as well as a guitar should I be able to chance a song or two at my stops along the way.

And maybe I’ll make a point of baking some bridies before I set off.

Here’s the music video, and I’ve made some brief annotations on references in the song lyrics, as well as on some of the quintessentially Scottish words and curios, for those not attuned to the dialect.

Losin Auld Reekie*

Fourty pence in tens*, I can’t wait to spend
Get me north across the Forth Road Bridge
Windin’ down my window, reachin’ out to pay the man
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Singin’ though there’s no-one there to hear me
A good old tune of which I never weary
No city critics to cramp my style or jeer me
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Turn off for Dunfermline, the motorway’s gie borin’
Ga’n tae treat myself the lang way home
Motorways faster, but that’s not what I’m after
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Truckin’ on through Dollar, Castle Cambell o’er my shoulder
Glen Devon* is the passage that I’m seeking
And my motor’s working harder, as it climbs to Auchterarder
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Singin’ though …

Fields are full of action, with the fairmers in their traction
Tattie* pickers bendin’ over baskets
Gulls ahint the tractor, as it rips the ground wi’ clatter
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Not that far from Crief, Comrie* tries to tempt me
With the finest chip shop in the county*
But I vowed to keep my hunger for a bridie* o’er in Forfar
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Singin’ though …

Sma’ Glen*, Amulrie, Dunkeld, Blairgowrie
Hurtlin through Blairgowrie
Sun shinin’ but it’s show’ry
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Skitin‘* into Angus, via Kilry* and Padanaram
Stoppin’ on the other side of Forfar
Well I could have got there quicker, but I’m fed up cutting corners
Cruisin, losin, Auld Reekie

Singin’ though …


[Auld Reekie] Translates roughly as “old smokey”, the generally fond nickname given to Edinburgh, once full of smoke from the peat fires used to warm peoples’ homes.

[Fourty pence in tens] Four times ten pence pieces, the toll that used to be in place to use the bridge to cross northwards, abolished by the SNP presumably for the popularity boost.

[Glen Devon] Between Dollar and Auchterarder, there is a windy country road passing through Glen Devon. Anybody undertaking this trip might need a proper four-wheel drive, and this is probably not the only tricky track the “truckin'” traveller takes, an additional clue being in the hard-working engine.

[Tattie] Potato, compare “‘tater”. Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew.

[Crief, Comrie] (see below)

[finest chip shop in the county] Not sure if there is a chippy there with a reputation, or if the songwriter happened on an advert as he was going through the area…! Given how far off the traveller’s arc both are, it would presumably have been an advert…

[bridie] Pronounced “bry-” (to rhyme with “cry”) “-dee”, a meat-filled baked flaky pastry, common throughout Scotland in chip shops, bakeries, various food stalls, and sometimes pubs.

[Sma’ Glen] Literally, “Sma’ Glen”, and indeed a small valley, is a scenic stopover

[Skitin’] depending on who you ask, I think you get a different interpretation. Some definitions I have found list it as being a fast, darting movement, but given the pace of the song and its content, I’d interpret it more as a saunter. In a vehicle. “Trundling” might be a good substitute here.

[Kilry] It’s not clear what is sung here – it sounds like “Arkillie” but that does not seem to be a name that exists. It could be an abbreviation “Kirrie,” for any of the “Kirri-*” towns along the way, but most notably Kirriemuir, encountered just before Padanaram when heading in from the west. It could also be the much farther Kilry, west of Loch of Lintrathen, which involves arcing far north compared to the Blairgowrie-Padanaram line – but the traveller has already demonstrated their fondness for taking the “laing way home.”

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