African American Activists in Scotland 'The Free Kirk and her Boy Tammy'

Distributed on the streets of Edinburgh, ‘The Free Kirk and her Boy Tammy’ is a broadside that was thought to be published in 1843. However, the song writer’s decision to include a reference to Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) – a man whose visit to the country was not until 1846 – makes it likely it was published a few years later.

Originally a broadside was a single sheet of paper, printed on one side only, designed to be read unfolded and posted up in public places. Broadsides became a vehicle for political agitation.

In this song, the writer satirises the decision of the white Scottish elders of the Free Church of Scotland – Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) and William Cunningham (1805-1861) among others – for their body-and-soul-destroying decision to line their coffers with the blood-stained money of white US southern enslavers. As the Kirk – representing the Free Church of Scotland – readily realises in this song, ‘There's bluid upon the bawbees,’ a hard-hitting vindication of Frederick Douglass and his supporters’ cry that they, ‘Send Back the Blood-stained Money.’ The Scots word ‘bawbee’ referred to a Scottish coin of base silver (‘Dictionary of the Scots Language’).

The writer of this broadside is under no illusion regarding where the evidence lies for the realisation that there’s ‘bluid upon the bawbees’ by immortalising the testimony of one man in particular: Frederick Douglass.


‘KIRK? (solemnly)
" I've heard a voice on thunder borne,
My boy Tammy;
I've seen the' finger raised in scorn,
My boy Tammy :
Heaven rings wi' DOUGLAS'S appeal,
An' thrills my heart like burnin' steel,
An' conscience racks me on the wheel-
Ye've wrang'd? ye've griev'd your


KIRK? (indignantly)
" Shall I, as free as ocean's waves,
Shake hands wi' women-whippin knaves,
An' build kirks wi' the bluid o' slaves ??
Sen' back? SEN' BACK THE MONEY !''


KIRK? (resolutely)
" Yes; ' put away th' accursed thing.'
My boy Tammy;
Oh ! cleanse awa' the filthy stain-
Return them a' their plunder'd gain."
TAMMY? (shaking his noddle)
" I canna do't, an' yet I'm fain."?
Exit TAMMY? overturning in, in his progress, the
table with the coppers, while MOTHER CHURCH
and DOUGLAS cordially shake hands.’