[1984:] This is a lengthy ballad. Jane Turriff, formerly of Fetterangus but now living in Mintlaw, has 52 verses, but for reasons of time she usually cuts it to about a third of this length. She assumes that her audience knows the story. The verses cut include those describing the physical brutality; says Jane, "I don't like to sing that verses". [...] This dreadful story is based on historical fact. [Proof: the gravestone ...] Child remarks, "... the gentleness and fidelity of Annie under the brutal behaviour of her family are genuinely pathetic, and justify the remarkable popularity which the ballad has enjoyed in the north of Scotland". One's first reaction might be that "pathetic" is the word in more senses than one: the slang meaning appears applicable to Annie's passivity. But on second thoughts, what more could she have done? She tries three times to warn Andra of the fate in store for her during his absence, but he ignores this warning.
Professor Trevelyan in his 'History of England' writes: "Wife-beating was a recognised right of man, and was practised without shame by high as well as low. ... Similarly, the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents' choice was liable to be locked up, beaten and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted upon public opinion. Marriage was not an affair of personal affection, but of family avarice ...". The historian is speaking here of the year 1500, but these practices continued for many long years and died hard. (And violent treatment of women by members of the family still continues, in Scotland and elsewhere.) The "remarkable popularity" of the ballad may have had something to do with an atavistic clinging to outworn modes. Women were supposed to be gentle and passive - "under the bludgeonings of chance" their heads should be bloody and bowed. Also this continuing popularity could well imply a touch of the sadism-masochism vicious circle; many people enjoy the depiction of violence.
Yet violence cannot be ignored, and it is of course an ingredient in many of the finest ballads. Andrew Lammie has an epic quality, with some powerfully evocative language. Above all it is a true love story ... a story which ends on a note of apocalyptic doom, with a hint of the Pauline "last trump" [...] Jane Turriff's complete version ends on this repeated note:
He hied him to the head of the house
To the house-top o' Fyvie
He blew his trumpet loud and shrill
'Twas heard at Mill o' Tifty
(Munro, Revival 147ff)
[1993:] 'The muckle sangs' or the long descriptive ballads reflect life in bygone days, not only noting worthy events in the historical calendar but telling something of the lives of ordinary working people. Perhaps the best known of the ballads is Mill o' Tifty's Annie. Sometimes referred to as Andrew Lammie, it tells simply yet poignantly the story of the daughter of the miller of Tifty Mill in the parish of Fyvie, Agnes Smith (or Nan or Annie as she is called), and her forbidden love for Andrew Lambe (in local dialect altered to Lammie), the trumpeter to the Laird of Fyvie. During their courtship, usually seeking the seclusion of the woods between the mill and Fyvie Castle, they swore everlasting love for each other despite the reality that Annie's father, William Smith, would go to any lengths to prevent the couple meeting. The resistance from Smith was founded on no more than selfish intentions on his part for his daughter's future. Whoever his choice for Annie's marital partner was to be;
"It will be some higher match than the Trumpeter of Fyvie".
One ploy tried by Smith was to convince the Laird that Andrew Lammie had bewitched Annie into falling in love with him. No doubt Smith's aim was that on being tried as a wizard and found guilty Lammie would be condemned to death, thus removing his mastery over Annie. Where this contrivance did succeed however, was in removing Lammie to the Laird's residence in Edinburgh, long enough for Smith to try and resolve the difficulties with his family - more particularly his pining daughter. The couple met and parted for the last time at the Brig o' Skeugh (Slugh), a special place for their secret rendezvous between Tifty and the castle, knowing that they would never meet again in this world.
What is all the more tragic is the irrefutable [sic!] evidence that the events which occurred in the parish during the late 17th century are true! Not only do the locations mentioned still exist but so too does the grave of Agnes Smith in Fyvie churchyard surrounded by decorative railings. Also, a stone statuette of Andrew Lammie blowing his trumpet in the direction of Tifty is set high on the apex of the Preston Tower of Fyvie Castle.
The first public recitation of the ballad was apparently performed a short time after Annie's death in 1673. Around 150 years later that great collector of songs, Peter Buchan, wrote in 1825 that; "This is one of the greatest favourites of the people in Aberdeenshire that I know. I took it down from the memory of an old woman and afterwards published thirty thousand copies of it. There are two versions but I prefer this one, the younger of the two having been composed and acted in the year 1674."
The key player in this tragedy emerges as William Smith. It is important and necessary to fully appreciate Annie's plight to understand something of her father's temperament and position in the local community. Probably little would have been heard of William Smith outwith the lines of the ballad if it had not been for the practices of one Gavin Sinclair in 1650, a so-called, self-professed charmer who claimed to be able to cure sick cattle, oxen and sheep. Sinclair and the tools of his trade - a stone brought with him from Ireland, "which hade ane secret vertue in it to cure beasts of the quarter evil!", was employed by the superstitious inhabitants of the area including, it was alleged, Smith at Tifty Mill.
The magical healing powers of Sinclair came to the attention of Mr George Sharpe, the minister of Fyvie who, eager to stamp out unholy work in his parish notified the Turriff Presbytery. It was stated that Sinclair was paid two or three pecks of meal by Smith's wife, Helen Black for his services in curing a sick cow. This charge (and one of a number involving other recipients of Sinclair's occupation) put to Smith by the Presbytery on December 5th, 1650, was strenuously denied by the miller.
[...] By all accounts Smith was a man with a vile temper and a man to be reckoned with, and it appears his staunch defence was favourably considered by the members of the Presbytery. Another factor and possibly a consideration in the Presbytery's decision, was Smith's own family background which had connections in the nearby estate of Inveramsay and the adjoining property of Drimmies. In 1674 proceedings in the form of an Edict of Curatorio were placed before the Sheriff of Aberdeenshire following the death of John Smith, a Bailie of Aberdeen and the Laird of Inveramsay. This legal process on behalf of the children of the deceased Laird names the nearest of kin who had to act as curators until such time as the eldest son was old enough to assume control of the estate. William Smith was listed along with four others as younger brothers of the late John Smith. The miller's inclusion in the higher echolons of society is further underlined by an entry in the Poll Book of 1695 along with his son William as "Tenants in Milne of Fyvie and gentlemen".
Smith was no doubt assured, as the above entry proves, that his eldest son would follow him into managing the mill, and had designs that his "daughters three" would marry into a social class befitting his own prestigious standing and well above the working peasantry and servants of the parish. Whether Smith had intended that Alexander Seton, Third Earl of Dunfermline and the unmarried Laird of Fyvie would be the ideal suitor for his "bonnie Annie" is speculative. However, it was a thought which had crossed the Laird's mind (through the pen of the balladeer) that her "beauteous form" matched a more elevated position in the social ladder of the day. Even if a union with the miller's daughter had been acceptable to the young Laird, Annie's polite refusal angered her father - fuelled further by Lord Fyvie's rejection of the Smith family's lowly status in comparison to the household at Fyvie Castle - and dealt his daughter the first of many beatings which would hasten her demise.
The ballad is lengthened with threats and counter threats of retaliation between Annie and William Smith. Other versions include verses accusing her brother and mother of cruelty, beating her into denying her love for the absent Andrew Lammie - which she never did! Annie's cause was lost from the beginning and one may question her mother's motives in drawing her daughter's attention to the trumpeter of Fyvie.
Eventually, weak and broken Annie died, but not before instructing her mother:
O mother dear make me my bed
And lay my face to Fyvie
Thus I will lie, and thus will die
For my dear Andrew Lammie
Annie was buried in "the green kirk-yard of Fyvie". A roughly cut stone was erected by her repentant family with the inscription; "Heir lyes Agnes Smith who departit the 19 of Janvari 1673". The original headstone decayed through age and about the middle of the 19th century the then Laird of Fyvie, General William Gordon replaced it with a replica, identical in every respect. In 1869 a cross of polished granite was erected by public subscription.
It is believed that Andrew Lammie first heard of his true love's death when the ballad was sung in Edinburgh. He was shocked into silence until at last he uttered a deep groan which burst the buttons of his waistcoat - not an uncommon symptom in severe cases of melancholy at that time when clothes were tightly fitting and restricted movement. The ballad tells us he returned to Fyvie to mourn for the loss of Annie. He revisited the old haunts where he spent many happy hours with his beloved. If the writer is accurate Andrew Lammie remained at Fyvie until he followed Annie to eternal rest.
William Smith's place in the records of the parish was not concluded with his daughter's death. In 1676 a Note of Execution was served on him offering a Tack of the same value as "the lands and mill of Tiftie". He refused and another attempt to evict him was made on April 12th of that same year. How the situation was resolved is not known but documents for 1695 reveal that Smith was still living at the Mill of Tifty. It was not until 1705 that "the town and lands of Tiftie and mill of Gourdas" was transferred to Alexander Dunbar, the husband of Elizabeth Smith, one of Annie's two sisters.
Alexander Seton, Lord Fyvie, outlived Agnes Smith only by three years, when, at the age of 33 he died in 1676. (Greg Dawson Allen, The Living Tradition 2, 26f.)