The Deil’s awa wi’ the exciseman

Music: Trad. arr. Brad Pierson. Words: Robert Burns
Performance time approx 1m 20s
Range: S: c' – f'' (descant g'') / A : c' – d'' / T : c – f' / B: F – d'
Price code: D
Complexity: **

See a perusal copy of the music.
Hear a synthesized realisation
This song by Robert Burns, written in 1792, humorously portrays popular dislike of excisemen — government officials whose chief job was to track down whisky distilleries and tax the proceeds. Burns himself worked as an exciseman from 1788 until his death, so he knew first hand how much they were hated.

Burns’ original lyrics reflect racial stereotypes of the 18th century: the devil is described as ‘old Mahoun’ (a medieval name for the prophet Mohammed) — and as ‘black’. Our edition uses alternative lyrics. We also include a guide to the pronunciation and meaning of the more unusual Scots words.

The tune is very similar to a 17th century English dance tune called The Hemp Dressers.

Brad Pierson’s arrangement is homophonic throughout, easy to learn and fun to sing. The action switches around between the voices and there’s a descant in the last chorus.


The deil cam fiddlin’ thro’ the town,
And danc’d awa wi’ th’Exciseman,
And ilka wife cries, “Evil one,
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 danc’d awa, he’s danc’d awa,
He’s danc’d awa wi’ th’Exciseman.

We’ll mak our maut, and we’ll brew our drink,
We’ll laugh, sing and rejoice, man,
And mony braw thanks to the meikle auld deil,
That danc’d awa wi’ th’Exciseman.

There’s threesome reels, there’s foursome reels,
There’s hornpipes and strathspeys, man,
But the ae best dance ere cam to the land
Was the deil’s awa wi’ th’Exciseman.

Robert Burns (slightly adapted)

Purchase – 1053: The Deil’s awa wi’ the exciseman

Before you click the "buy" button, please enter the name of your group and select the appropriate size.
Name of group
Size of group
The price depends on the number of singers in your group. This is a single payment for a licence to make as many copies as you need for your group to rehearse and perform the song. You can also re-print - for instance, to replace copies that get lost or worn out.

Copies must not be given, lent, hired or sold to any other group.

Orders are normally despatched within 24 hours - not instantly, because each PDF file is created specially for the purchaser.

Canasg sales are processed via Paypal. Paypal lets you pay with a simple credit or debit card if you don’t have a Paypal account. Your Paypal transaction will be in sterling and it will be converted automatically if your credit card draws on a different currency. Paypal passes none of your secure information to Canasg.

If you would like us to send an invoice before you pay, or if you would like your order priced in $US or Euros, then please e-mail your order to us instead of using the form above.
Canasg Choral Music Publishing
Canasg Music
16 Morningside Park,
Edinburgh EH10 5HB, Scotland
Contact us