Article MT191

In Memory of ...

Lizzie Higgins

1929-1993


Musical Traditions Records' first CD release of 2006: Lizzie Higgins: In Memory of ... (MTCD337-8), is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the record, or who might find the small print hard to read, I have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

[Track Lists] [Foreword] [Introduction] [Biography] [Lizzie's Singing] [Performance venues] [Language] [Meaning] [The Songs] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

Track Lists:

CD One:
1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
 
Three Gypsies
Johnny My Man
Bonny Udny
The Banks of Red Roses
Proud Lady Margaret
Tammie Toddle
The Beggarman
Adieu to Bogieside
The College Boy (Young Craigston)
Sandy is a Sailor
Twa Brithers
The Dottered Auld Carle
The Deein Plooboy (The Term)
The Maid of Glenshee
The Forester
She's Only My Old Shoes (The False Bride)
 
5:14
3:01
5:21
1:31
14:32
1:08
3:33
3:05
5:29
1:32
9:01
5:06
3:11
5:17
3:10
6:00
 Cover picture
  Total: 77:23
CD Two:
1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -

Alison Gross
Auld Roguie Grey
The Lassie Gatherin Nuts
Lord Lovat
Macaphee Turn the Cattle
MacCrimmon's Lament
The Cruel Mother
Soo Sewin Silk
What a Voice (I Wish, I Wish)
The Muir o Culloden
Up and Awa wi the Laverock
The Butcher Boy
London Lights
Son David
Betsy Bell
MacDonald of Glencoe
Johnny Sangster
Young Emslie

 
5.49
1:37
4:15
5:55
0:51
8:16
2:54
1:15
6:19
3:02
1:32
6:09
3:56
5:48
1:12
10:14
3:41
5:42
  Total:78.23

Foreword:

I began thinking about this CD project back in 1998 when John Howson kindly copied all my old reel-to-reel tapes onto DAT, and I discovered that the recordings of Lizzie I'd made during her visit to the King's Head folk club in Islington, back in 1970, were not half as bad as I'd remembered.  1998 was also the year of Topic Records' publication of their 20-CD set, The Voice of the People, and my realisation that there were only seven Lizzie Higgins songs included.

However, there were lots of other CDs for which the recordings were easier to gather together in those days - and I kept assuming that a commercial record label would soon produce (or re-release) a 'proper' record of her singing.  Sadly, this was not to be, and about two years ago I discovered that Topic had no plans for a future release of such a CD, and that Lismore were similarly inclined.  So it was down to me.

Equally sadly, sales of traditional CDs of this sort are so low that I wasn't able to afford even Topic's specially reduced rates for licensing their two LP recordings.  Having heard that Lismore were in financial difficulties, I enquired about buying their recordings of Lizzie but, after the initial exchanges, I heard no more from them.  So I started to make further enquiries.

Tom Spiers was able to start the ball rolling in a big way by offering me digital copies of recordings made by the late Peter Hall (as he had with the Daisy Chapman record), and Mike Yates helped by supplying me with partial listings of the recordings Lizzie had made for various collectors from the School of Scottish Studies.  Dr Ian Olson, a friend of Lizzie's for some 20 years, agreed to write the booklet.

Things move slowly at the School of Scottish Studies Archive, and it was over a year after my visit there that the last few tracks arrived here in Gloucestershire.  Not time wasted, as I was able to assemble a fair selection of photographs for the booklet, gather further information and a couple more recordings … but it has taken a lot longer than I had been expecting.  This may, in part, be due to my having to get the co-operation of, and then liaise with, some dozen different people - many more than is usual for a Musical Traditions Records CD.

Be that as it may, the long process is now over, and its result is a very full double CD, almost all of which is previously unpublished material.  I hope that it proves a fitting memorial to a great singer, and that - as was Lizzie's wish - many of you will want to learn and sing some of these wonderful songs.

Rod Stradling - October 2006

Introduction:

Lizzie Higgins [Mrs Elizabeth Ann Youlden] 1929-1993

The story of this gentle woman and superb singer is simply told.  Born into a Traveller family in Aberdeen, she lived a largely settled life, working as a fish-filleter and marrying before coming to public attention at the age of 38, and dying of cancer only twenty-six years thereafter.

Brief Biography:

Lizzie was born in the Guest [ghaist = ghost] Row of Aberdeen, an ancient side street which was to vanish under desperately needed slum clearance in the 1950s, leaving behind only the house previously known as the Duke of Cumberland's Lodging.  It was here that the infamous Butcher had his quarters while resting and training his Government army in the techniques that at the battle of Culloden in 1746 were to utterly destroy Bonnie Prince Charlie's feared Jacobite forces - a grim history she was later to recount movingly in song.

Her parents were settled Travellers: Donald ('Donty') Higgins, a piper of great repute, and Jeannie Robertson. In the house also was her uncle Isaac ('Seely') another fine piper.  Beyond the Guest Row, the old Gallowgate (road to the gallows) led north out of the city.  This cobbled 'causey' road split half a mile further on, the main road thereafter winding west, while a north spur climbed the ridge of Mounthooly ('holy hill', where mediaeval monks had once tended the leper hospital) on the way to Old Aberdeen.  A huge ugly roundabout now occupies this junction, covering the site of the house at 21 Causewayend from which she was to attend the school across the road; in Lizzie's day the area could also well have served as the place on which her mother firmly placed the action of the great ballad, Geordie:

Ah, my Geordie nivver stole nor calf nor cow
He nivver injured ony;
Slew sixteen of the King's royal deer
And selt them on Mounthooly
[sold]
Lizzie's parents: Jeannie Robertson and Donald ('Donty') Higgins These were happy times, and Lizzie was to recall the kindness of the headmaster, Mr Craig, who encouraged her love of literature, especially poetry.  To him she was a 'child of the arts' and he got her to represent the school at a poetry reading.  Brought up as a town child with a love and respect for learning, this pleasant, shy, twelve year old had her world shattered when the school was twice bombed during the Second World War and her mother moved the family 17 miles west to the country town of Banchory on Deeside.

Despite her manner and education, in the playground of the Banchory school she learned what it was to be abused, isolated and discriminated against, for the country folk especially despised the 'tinks', suspicious and fearful of their itinerant ways of life, frightening demeanour, and what they feared as their 'taking ways'.  Uncle Isaac (Seely) HigginsYet they were happy enough to use Traveller labour, and every year, between 1941 and 1945, Lizzie happily spent the months from April to September pulling flax with her family, which included her Uncle Isaac and little brother James ('Jeemsie').  The Government agent, Robbie Allan, who owned the inn at roadside clachan [hamlet] of Garlogie, employed them on this essential wartime activity, and they would work along the fields of Deeside and Donside, living in a fine 'Gypsy Queen' wagon pulled by their magnificent Clydesdale horse, Tibbs.  But the winters and springs at school continued to be a misery and Lizzie ended her education at fifteen to work as a fish filleter in Aberdeen.  This was a cold, hard occupation although not badly paid (just under £5 basic per week, almost what a bus conductor earned) and she took the opportunity to learn to stand on her own two feet while earning the liking and respect of her fellows.  She was proud of the fact that she could lift her own weight - 9 stone - in fish, and work the arduous 12 to 14 hour day to earn much-needed overtime.  In slack times, when laid off, she would work as an agricultural labourer.  Over the years she was to develop into a big, strong woman, whose appearance belied the shy, sensitive and rather vulnerable person within.

In 1953, Hamish Henderson came to record her mother, Jeannie Robertson for the School of Scottish Studies, introducing himself by standing on the doorstep and singing The Battle of Harlaw.  Jeannie was thus launched on a singing career which brought her international fame, but although Lizzie was also recorded singing with her mother, she refused all invitations to perform in public, being not just shy but unwilling to be seen as competing with Jeannie.  There was more to it than that, for as Lizzie later said: "The folk scene claimed Jeannie.  I didnae want it tae claim me" (and it should be noted that to 'claim' someone in Scots can also carry the darker meaning of both challenge and injury).  Lizzie held out until 1967, when the late Peter Hall persuaded her to sing at the Aberdeen Folk Song Festival.  With a sad irony Lizzie's debut was also to be her mother's last public performance.

She made an immediate impact on the audience, for singer and performance were both remarkably composed, to the delight of her highly supportive parents from whom she had learned most of her repertoire.  From such a beginning she became greatly in demand throughout Scotland, England and Wales, but there were catches: her audiences at first consisted of 'Jeannie's followers' who expected to hear her perform her mother's repertoire, and Lizzie was persuaded to produce a solo record on such lines, with which she was little pleased.  Lizzie with husband, Brian Youlden, and old friend, Ray FisherShe determined to succeed thereafter on her own terms, with her own songs and style of singing, attributing both largely to her father.

Travelling, however, stressed her greatly (not that this ever affected her actual performances), as did the deaths of her mother and father in the early seventies, but although this was greatly alleviated by her marriage to the kindly and supportive Brian Youlden, Lizzie as a young womanshe had many periods of ill health, from which she would recover to impress the world as a superb exponent of Scots traditional song, making two more solo recordings and appearing on a School of Scottish Studies release.

Lizzie had a vivid imagination, especially visual, which empowered the stories she sang and the scenes she envisaged so clearly, and she often seemed carried away with the intensity of her beliefs.  Not all her accounts seemed credible, and folk would smile when in her last years she would excuse any hesitation or defect in her singing by blaming a nervous 'catch' in her throat.  It was, in fact, early cancer of her gullet, which she faced with realism and great courage when told the diagnosis in 1992. 

This was a hard year for the Scottish tradition.  David Buchan, the great Aberdeen folklorist, author of The Ballad and the Folk, was over on sabbatical from Newfoundland when his cancer broke through and he was admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.  By dreadful coincidence his old friend and informant Lizzie was being treated in the ward below.  Brave and determined, only once was there anything like despair, when she said: "Who will sing the auld sangs now?"  Cut down at the height of her powers, she was to die the following February, to be buried on the Broad Hill, close to where her mother lay.


Postscript. In 1987, the Buchan Heritage Society, newly formed to celebrate and preserve the true traditional way of life and song of the countryside of North-East Scotland, had held a festival in the rural village of Strichen, attended by over 10,000 country folk and their families. The guest of honour (and judge of the heavily subscribed singing competitions) was one Lizzie Higgins.

Lizzie's singing:

Lizzie was the daughter of a famous mother, and, as already noted, this gave rise to two problems for her.  Initially, audiences expected both a similar performance and repertoire, and drew comparisons between mother and daughter.  This was not alleviated when, to her later regret, Lizzie's first recording, made two years after her appearance in public, The Princess of the Thistle (Topic, 1969) contained much of her mother's repertoire.  Lizzie as a young womanWhen appraised academically in journals such as the 1970 Scottish Studies, it was also along the lines of 'how did the daughter compare with the mother?'

It is even less surprising, therefore, that Lizzie attempted to break out of this perceived straightjacket by claiming to perform a repertoire derived mainly from her father, and in a singing style, furthermore, derived from his piping.  Neither was strictly true.  Lizzie gained many of her songs both via her mother and maternal grandmother, Maria Stewart, and from her father and his mother, Christine Stewart.  She was more eclectic than her mother, leading Hamish Henderson once to claim, 'Lizzie is a child of the Revival'.

How did mother and daughter compare?  Early recordings show some similarity in their singing, but whereas Jeannie progressed to a dark and passionate delivery, slow and measured, Lizzie's tone and pacing varied considerably.  Lizzie as a young womanAs Peter Hall related (comparing their 'big' ballads), 'where Jeannie invested them with a majestic and objective grandeur, Lizzie brought a more subjective and humane intensity.'  The daughter employed little of the mother's vibrato and sliding, but used similar subtle melodic changes to bring out emphasis and meaning, well demonstrated in her recordings Up and Awa' wi' the Laverock (Topic 1975), What a Voice (Lismor 1985) and her two ballads in The Muckle Sangs: Classic Scots Ballads (Tangent 1975).

Did Lizzie's singing really derive from piping?  That there were such things as 'pipe ballads' was a fundamental belief of hers (shared by other Travellers), and she would describe learning pipe tunes such as Brae Lochiel (for The Muir of Culloden) by leaning her head against her father's chest while he played, imitating especially the ornamentation that was to become her trademark, absorbing the notes and grace notes perfectly before fitting them to her father's words.  Academic critics were dismissive, considering it 'impossible to imitate vocally the complex ornaments of pipe music' and suggesting 'the ornamentation of eighteenth century art music as a more likely source' (though quite where a Traveller lassie would have experienced this was far from clear).  Peter Hall, however, one of Lizzie's greatest admirers, considered firmly that 'Lizzie's singing owes a clear debt to pipe music', later elaborating this to:

The decorations she used served the same function, in delineating the melody, as the elaborate gracing on the chanter, even if the voice was not capable of the same technical feats.

Performance venues:

Lizzie a little olderThe romantic idea that 'true' 'tradition-bearers' solely absorbed their repertoire of folksong aurally from other 'tradition-bearers' is fading at long last, as we realise that 'folksingers' have not only had 'folksongs' only as a part of their repertoire, along with every other type of song, including popular and music-hall (and especially Country & Western with the Travellers) but also that they gain their favourite songs from every source possible, including print and others' performances, live or, since the rise of the gramophone in the early 20th century, recordings.  Lizzie was an especially good example of the omnivorous, eclectic singer, starting with absorbing songs from her family, expanding her repertoire from printed sources, learning classical violin as a teenager, getting her father to set tunes to printed songs she had come across, and, as she became a public performer after 1967, getting her mother to teach her new songs before Jeannie's death in 1975.

'Performers' - although they dominate our vision of the folk scene - are rare, and probably quite atypical, birds. Most 'folksingers' sing for their own pleasure, or that of those very close to them, during daily life, often to help pass the monotony of repetitive tasks.  Some move on to singing at family gatherings, a few further on to impromptu concerts and perhaps even competitions, and a very few to full-blown public performances where they are centre of the show, requiring not only a repertoire suitable for a variety of audiences but the ability to context their songs with suitable talk or patter.

Lizzie among the ballad books in Aberdeen University LibraryLizzie described being taught songs by her father and grandmother Maria, (she appears initially to have only picked up Jeannie's songs by listening to her around the house) and encouraged by Maria to sing them at family gatherings - in contrast to the popular songs that the others preferred.  After her mother was 'discovered' in the 1950s, it began to be noticed that Lizzie was also a singer, but it appears to have taken until 1967 for her to be persuaded to sing at one of Aberdeen Folk Club's concerts.

The following year she performed with Jeannie at the National Folk Festival (then at Keele), where both greatly impressed Vic Smith, who offered to set up a folk club tour for Lizzie, the first of many, based on the Smith's home where she displayed her considerable talents as an engrossing storyteller and conversationalist.  Lizzie greatly appreciated the efforts they made on her behalf, regarding them as her 'agents'.  This was not without problems as there were often great difficulties in getting her to engagements; travelling stressed her greatly until she married and was accompanied by her kind and understanding husband, Brian.  But it must be emphasised that any such problems never spilled over into her actual performances, which she could sustain with great strength and beauty.

For whereas her mother's performances eventually became more stately and often diva-like, Lizzie developed a warming, comfortable rapport with her audiences, drawing them in not only by the sheer quality and lyricism of her singing but also with the stories, family and personal history, reminiscences, and the detailed backgrounds with which she would encompass her songs.

Language of Lizzie's songs:

As the very name 'Traveller singer' might imply, Lizzie's song sources are widespread, not only geographically but also in time.  Ballads many centuries old mingle with relatively modern 'concert-hall' songs (the type of eclectic repertoire, in fact, we now realise to be that of most so-called 'tradition- bearers').  As a result the vocabulary and its handling varies widely, and it is interesting that Lizzie usually tries to fit her pronunciation to the texts, using, for example a 'high' form for Child-type ballads (or 'foreign' songs such as London Lights), or a full-blown Aberdeen Scots ('Aiberdeen spik') for the likes of Auld Roguie Grey.

Lizzie with her friend Sara GreyWith regard to the Scots words and their transcription, it should be pointed out that Lowland Scots condensed as a language from Old English before English as such, and thus also has a longer history of divergence into dialects.  Lizzie's region is particularly noted for the use of f instead of wh, e.g. far or faur for where.  Aberdeen city pronunciation is also regarded by the Aberdeenshire speakers as harsh ('coorse' = coarse) and even non-Aberdonian Scots may find it difficult to follow.  Lizzie was familiar with 'proper' English (for which she won prizes at school) but in its RP form this has considerable limitations, being unable to articulate the likes of wh, ch or the rolled r, all of which she automatically corrects, sounding the 'Germanic' loch, for example, instead of the RP lock.

Although northern Europeans will be familiar with words such a ken for know, or dochter for daughter, most who listen to these CDs will be approaching her with modern English, and I have provided translations of these older Scots words.  But I have also attempted to avoid the use of the 'apologetic apostrophe' which mistakenly represents Scots words as 'corrupted' forms of English, unless confusion with another English word would result.  Where her Aberdeen dialect results in pronunciation variants - she often sings bit or bet for but, or a'll for I'll, I have not printed these.  I must, finally, admit that there is considerable controversy, even within Scotland, as to how many words should be transcribed; I have attempted merely to be both non-confusing and as consistent as possible.

The way Lizzie 'meant' her songs:

Lizzie prided herself on the clarity of her communication and would often top and tail her songs with explanations for audiences likely to be unfamiliar with both her vocabulary and the settings and meanings of her songs.  What gave her renderings a particularly haunting, vivid character, whether singing of the fate of some great noble lady or a poor abandoned farm lassie, was her belief in the truth of the story.  "And that's authentic" she would assert.  When singing a version of Child's favourite ballad Johnny Cock (Johnny the Brine), for example, she would recall the very spot - shown to her by her father - where its hero had been slain.  This powered her other great gift - her ability to visualise completely the scenes about which she sang.  She was neither describing nor recounting - she was there, whether by the moonlit graves dug by a desperate girl or sashaying down Aberdeen's Gallowgate in search of a husband.

The Songs:

Roud numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud. Currently containing over 270,000 records between them, they are described by him as "extensive, but not yet exhaustive".  Copies are held at: The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London; Taisce Ceol Duchais Eireann, Dublin; and the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.  They can also be purchased direct from Steve at Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK.  E-mail: sroud@btinternet.com. It can also be accessed online via the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website: http://library.efdss.org/cgi-bin/home.cgi

Child numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, Boston, 1882-98. Laws numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, Philadelphia, 1957.  G/D numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, 8 Volumes, Aberdeen University Press / Mercat Press, 1981-2002, expressed as G/D 2:123 meaning volume 2, song no 123.  SA numbers refer to the accession numbers of the School of Scottish Studies tapes.

Our researches produced a list of some 86 songs which Lizzie Higgins had recorded at one time or another, and we were able to assemble a total of 145 recordings of 61 of them - of these, some were poorly recorded, and some were only fragments.  Then, of course, Lizzie was a slow singer: few of her full songs are much less that 5 minutes in duration, while some are very long indeed (Proud Lady Margaret is over fourteen minutes!) Even using the double-CD format with 160 minutes playing time, it has been necessary to make a selection from the songs we had available.  We have tried to make one which reflects the breadth of her repertoire, and primarily uses recordings which have not been published before.  The Peter Hall recordings, for the most part, did not have notes of the times and places they were made - so it's possible that some may actually be ones used on the early Topic and Lismor LPs, or they may not.  Also, we have tried to avoid using recordings which are the same as, or very similar to, those currently available in CD format on Topic's Voice of the People series.

The details, where we have them, of who made the recordings, where and when, are given below the titles of the songs.

Where we know that another version of the song by another traditional singer exists as a CD recording, details are given in the notes to the song.

CD1:

1-1 Three Gypsies (Roud 1, Child 200, G/D 2:278)
Recorded by Peter Cooke and Ailie Munro, Aberdeen, 1970 (SA1970.78.A2)

Three gypsies came to oor hall door
An oh, but they sang bonny-o,
They sang sae sweet and too complete
That they stole the heart of our lady-o

She came tripping doon the stairs
Lizzie with Ray Fisher at The National, 1978 Her maidens still before her-o
An when they saw her weel-faured1 face
They throwed their spell aroun her-o

When her good lord came home that night
Asking for his lady-o
The answer the servants gave tae him
"She's awa wi the gypsy laddies-o"

"Come saddle to me ma bonny bonny black,
Ma broon it's ne'er sae speedy-o,
That I may go ridin a lang summer day
In the search of my true lady-o."

He rode east, an he rode west,
An he rode through Strathbogie-o
Until he's seen a gey auld2 man
He wes comin through Strathbogie-o

"Did ye come east, did ye come west,
Did ye come through Strathbogie-o,
And did ye see a gay lady,
She wes follyin three gypsy laddies-o?"

"I've come east, and I've come west,
An I've come through Strathbogie-o,
An the bonniest lady that e'er I saw
She was follyin three gypsy laddies-o."

"The very last nicht I crossed this river,
I had dukes an lords to attend me-o.
This nicht I must put in ma warm feet and wide,3
An the gypsies waden4 before me-o."

"Last night I lay in a good feather bed
With ma own wedded lord beside me-o.,
This nicht I must lie in a cauld5 corn barn
An the gypsies lyin aroon me-o."

"Will you give up your houses and your lands,
Will you give up your baby-o?
An will you give up your own wedded lord,
An keep follyin three gypsy laddies-o?"

"I'll give up my houses and my lands,
An I'll give up my baby-o.
An I'll give up my own wedded lord
And keep follyin three gypsy laddies-o."

"There are seven brothers of us all,
We all are wondrous bonny-o,
An for this very night we all will be hung
For the stealing of the earl's lady-o."

1 lovely; 2 very old; 3 wade; 4 wading; 5 cold.

A hugely popular ballad all over the Anglophone world, with 535 Roud entries - all but 165 of which come from North America.  England and Scotland have around 65 each and, of the latter, almost all are from Aberdeenshire.  Of the 129 sound recordings, few appear to have made the move to CD format.  Only Eunice Yeatts McAlexander - EFDSS CD 002 A Century of Song; Lawrence Older and Frank Proffitt - Folk Legacy CD-125 Ballads & Songs of Tradition; Texas Gladden - Rounder CD1800 Ballad Legacy; Harry Cox - Topic TSCD512D The Bonny Labouring Boy; Walter Pardon - TSCD656 Tonight I'll Make You My Bride; and Jeannie Robertson - TSCD667 It Fell on a Day, a Bonny Summer Day seem to have currently available CDs.

This great ballad has two main versions.  In one, the lady is bewitched by the singing and magic of the Gypsies and her husband forgiving and understanding; in the other, she leaves of her own accord.  The latter appears to be a deliberate slander of the wife of the Earl of Cassilis, who had been accused by his neighbours of not enforcing the 1609 Act of the Scottish Parliament banning Gypsies from the country under pain of execution.  He appears as a result to have imprisioned and hanged at least seven who were living locally, although this seems not to have prevented his wife being slandered in song as having run off with Johnny Faa, the Gypsy king.  Lizzie, perhaps unsurprisingly, sings of the famous 'charming' power of the Gypsies, despite the fate to which it inevitably dooms them.  This was very much one of Jeannie's great songs, which her daughter initially did not perform.

1-2 Johnny My Man (Roud 845, G/D 3:587)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

"Johnny, ma man, dae ye no think o risin?
The nicht it's weel spent1 And the time's wearin on.
Yer siller's aa deen2 An your stoup's teem3 before you.
Arise up, my Johnny, an come awa hame."

"Oh wha4 is that I hear, speakin sae kindly?
For I ken5 it's the voice o my ain wifie, Jean.
Syne6 come by me, dearie and sit doon beside me;
There is room in this taivern for mair than een7."

"But Johnny, my man, oor bairns is aa greetin.8
Nae meal9 in the barrel tae fill their wee wames.10
While sittin here drinkin, ye leave me lamentin.
Arise up, my Johnny, an come awa hame."

But Johnnie he's raised and he has got the door open,
Saying, "Cursed be the taivern that e'er let me in,
And cursed be the whisky that mak's me sae thirsty.
Fareweel tae ye, whisky, for I'll awa hame."

1 almost over; 2 money is all gone; 3 tankard's empty; 4 who; 5 know; 6 so; 7 one; 8 crying; 9 oatmeal; 10 stomachs.

Roud has 31 instances of this song, all from Scotland except Eddie Butcher's version from Magilligan, Londonderry.  Isla St Clair has a fine version in Tatties & Herrin: The Sea Greentrax CDTrax 145.

As Greig and Duncan assembled their great pre-Great War collection they noted to their great surprise that - unlike what was taken to be 'Scottish Song' as per Burns and co, genuine Scottish traditional song was not swaggering, maudlin, or pseudo-patriotic - nor did it celebrate drink and drunkeness.  Instead, temperance songs such as this one, composed around 1850, were popular, for both on the farms and on the fishing boats inebriation was seen as not only as an occupational danger, but also an insidious destroyer of men and their families.  Lizzie learned this as a child - one of her 'pipe' songs, which moved her greatly - from her father.  The music of Lizzie's version is examined in Tocher 1, (1971), p.16-17.

1-3 Bonny Udny ( Roud 3450, G/D 6:1089)
Recorded by Ailie Munro, Aberdeen, 1970 (SA1970.21.A2)

Udny, bonny Udny,
Ye shine far1 ye stand
An the mair I gaze upon you
Oh the mair my hairt2 yearns.
An tae keep my eyes from weeping
What a fool I would be,
For aa yer lands in Scotland
Bonny Udny for me.

For it's you pu3 the red rose
An it is I'll pu the thyme.
You drink tae your love
An I'll drink tae mine.
We will drink and be merry,
We'll drink tae we're fu,4
For the lang, lang walks o Udny,
They are aa tae go through

They hae stolen my sweethairt
An they've put him on the spree.5
They hae stolen my sweethairt
An they've taen him frae me.
They hae stolen my sweethairt
But that they will rue,
Oh, the lang, lang walks o Udny,
They are aa tae go through

We will drink an be merry,
We will drink an come hame.
If we bide6 here ony langer7
We'll get a bad name,
An tae get a bad name, love,
For that it winnae dae.8
O aa yer lands in Scotland,
Bonny Udny for me.

1 where; 2 heart; 3 pick or pull; 4 drunk; 5 got him drunk; 6 stay; 7 longer; 8 won't do.

Roud has 33 instances, all from Scotland, and only 6 are sound recordings.  Of these, Daisy Chapman, also of Aberdeenshire, can be heard on Musical Traditions MTCD308 Ythanside, while Alan Lomax's 1957 recording of another Aberdonian, John Strachan, is on Rounder CD1835 John Strachan.

Although another 'totem' song of the North-East of Scotland, it has in fact many variants throughout Britain, such as Yarmouth is a Pretty Town, and is probably of Irish origin, appearing in Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs (1881) as Bonny Portmore, with the tune also serving the Irish Johnny Gallacher. Fine recent 'local' versions are by Jane Turriff in Singin is Ma Life Springthyme SPRCD 1038 and Tom Spiers in Living Tradition's Allan Water LTCD1005. A celebration of a lovely Aberdeenshire village, Lizzie stated that it had been in her family 'for years', but although a favourite, it required her to be in top form to sing, because of its great range.

1-4 The Banks of Red Roses (Roud 603)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

When I wis a wee thing I heard ma ma mither say
Before I would work I would raither sport an play,
Before I would work I would raither sport an play,
Wi ma Johnny doon among the red roses.

Johnny took oot his tune box tae play his love a tune.
In the middle o this tune she stood up and cried,
"Oh Johnny dear, oh Johnny dear, it's dinnae leave me noo
In the bonny bonny banks beneath the roses."

But Johnny took oot a knife, it was long, thin and sharp;
He's plunged it right in to his bonny Mary's heart,
He's plunged it right in to his bonny Mary's heart,
And he's left her lying low beneath the roses.


Roud says this was sung in Scotland and Ireland, and was rarely found in England - though Sharp heard two Somerset versions in 1907.  He has around 30 instances, of which most of the earlier collected versions are a simple love song, usually from the male standpoint.  More recent ones, often from Traveller/Gypsy sources, have a female perspective, and often include a murder, which seems to have crept in from the Oxford Girl / Lily-White Hand family of ballads.  Duncan McPhee sings it on Saydisc CD-SDL 407 Songs of the Travelling People and there's another recording of Lizzie on Topic TSCD660 Who's that at my Bed Window?

Lizzie learned this from her aunt, Elizabeth McDonald, who sang a faster version; indeed, it remains highly popular in the North-East of Scotland - at waltz speed.

1-5 Proud Lady Margaret (Roud 37, Child 47, G/D 2:336)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

It was on a night, and an evening bright
When the dew begun tae fa,
Lady Margaret was walking up and doon,
Looking ower the castle wa.
She looked west, she looked east,
Tae see what she could spy,
When a gallant knight came in her sight
Unto her gates drew nigh.

"God mak ye safe an free, fair maid,
Lizzie at The National, 1978 God mak ye safe an free."
"What is yer will wi me, Sir Knight,
Oh what's yer will wi me?"
"My will wi you is nae sma, lady,
My will wi you nae sma,
An syne1 there is nane2 your bower within,
You'll hae ma secrets aa."

"It's I am come tae this castle
Aa for the love of thee.
If you do not grant me love
All for your sake a'll dee3."
"If you should dee for me, Sir Knight,
It is few for you will mean.4
There's many a better has died for me
Wha's5 graves are growin green.

"What is the flooer6, the ae7 first flooer
That grows on muir and dell?
What is the bird, the bonniest bird
That sings next the nightingale?
What is the colour, the bonniest colour
That king or queen can wale?8
Oh what is the flooer, the ae first flooer
That grows on muir and dell?"

"The primrose is the ae first flooer
Tae grow on muir and dell.
The mavis9 is the next bird
Sings next the nightingale.
Yellow is the bonniest colour
That king or queen can wale.
The primrose is the ae first flooer
That grows on muir and dell.

"Ye hiv ower ill washen10 feet, Margaret,
An ye have ower ill washen hands.
Ye've too coarse o robes on your body,
An wi me ye winnae gang.11
The worms are my bedfellows
The cauld12 clay is my sheet.
An the louder that the wind does howl
The sounder dae13 I sleep.

"My body is buried in Dunfermline
Sae14 far ayond the sea.
Nae15 peace or rest ony day I get
Aa for the pride of thee. 
Lay up yer pride, Margaret," he said,
"Use it nae ony mair.16
If you hae been far17 I hae been
Ye will repent it sair.18

"Tae sit in Pirie's chair, Margaret,
It is the lowest seat o Hell.
If you do not amend your ways,
It's there that ye maun19 dwell."
Wi that he vanished frae her sicht20
In the twinklin o her ee,21
An naething mair the lady saw
But the gloomy clouds in the sky.

1 since; 2 none; 3 die; 4 moan, mourn; 5 whose; 6 flower; 7 single; 8 select; 9 song-thrush; 10 have too badly-washed; 11 won't go; 12 cold; 13 do; 14 so; 15 no; 16 not any more; 17 where; 18 sore = grievously; 19 must; 20 from her sight; 21 eye.

Another rare song; Roud only cites four singers who knew it, so maybe its length daunted most others.

This (literally) haunting ballad was given to Walter Scott by an Edinburgh music-seller 'with whose mother it had been a favourite', and published in his Minstrelsey of the Scottish Border in 1803. The story is not altogether clear, and there is much suspicion that it has resulted from the merging of two ballads, the riddles perhaps taken from Captain Wedderburn's Courtship.  On the surface it appears to be a warning, from beyond the grave, from the brother of a dangerously proud lady to amend her arrogant ways before it is too late.  But are the men whose graves 'are growing green' simply broken-hearted, rejected suitors, or the victims of witchcraft?

This has the hallmark of a song surviving in Traveller oral tradition.  Greig and Duncan only found two fragmentary pieces in the 1900s, and although Lizzie's version has verses which were printed in Peter Buchan's Ballads of the North of Scotland published in 1828, she also has verses (including the unique one referring to 'Pirie's Chair') which Peter collected from North-East tradition around 1800, but never published, and remained in his manuscripts. Lizzie was adamant that it was not only her father's favourite ballad, learned from his mother, but that he wrote it down before his death and gave it to her alone, for safekeeping, never having given it to his wife.

1-6 Tammie Toddle (Roud 2497)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

Tammy Toddle, he's a canty chiel,1
Sae canty and fae coosie2
The fairies like him unco weel3
An built him a wee hoosie.4

An when the hoosie it was built
All finished but the door
The fairy man cam skipping in
An danced upon the floor.

He lowped5 up, he lowped doon,
He frisked and he flung
'Til peer wee6 Tammy Toddle
Wes mal maist amang the throng.7

Tammy Toddle he's a canty chiel,
Sae canty and tae coosie
The fairies liked him unco weel
An built him a wee hoosie.

1 pleasant fellow; 2 couthy = sociable; 3 extremely well; 4 small house; 5 leapt; 6 poor little; 7 right in the middle of the crowd.

Only Lizzie and her mother Jeannie have been recorded singing this.

Tom Spiers notes that this song appears as Tammie Doodle in The Ballad Minstrelsy of Scotland Romantic and Historical (Glasgow: M Ogle and Co, 1871), p.198, annotated ‘The following lively little nursery piece is here set down from recitation’.  Lizzie learned this song from her father.  It's a Victorian view of fairies, providing sympathetic intervention - minus their calamitous over-enthusiasm of which the Travellers were rightly wary.

1-7 The Beggarman (The Gaberlunzie Man) (Roud 119, Child 280 + 279 App, G/D 2:274/5)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert, 1977

A beggar, a beggar cam ower the lea
He was asking lodgings for charity
He was asking lodgings for charity
"Wid ye loo1 a beggar man-o,
Lassie, wi ma tow row ray?"

"A beggar, a beggar, I'll never loo again.
I had a dochter2 and Jeannie was her name.
I had a dochter and Jeannie was her name;
She's run awa with the beggar man-o,
Laddie, wi ma tow row ray."

"I'll bend my back an I'll boo my knee
An I'll pit3 a black patch oer my ee4
And a beggar, a beggar they'll tak me to be
An awa wi you a'll gang5o,
Laddie, wi ma tow row ray."

"Oh lassie, oh lassie, yer far too young
An ye hannae got the cant6 o the beggin tongue.
Ye hannae got the cant o the beggin tongue
An wi me ye winnae gang-o,
Lassie, wi ma tow row ray."

She's bent her back and she's booed her knee
An she's put a black patch oer her ee.
She has kilted her skirts up aboun her knee
An awa wi him she's gan-o,
Laddie, wi ma tow row ray

"Yer dochter Jean is comin ower the lea;
She's taken hame her bairnies three
She has yin on her back, ay, another on her knee
An the other yin is toddlin hame-o,
Lassie, wi ma tow row ray."

1 love; 2 daughter; 3 put; 4 eye; 5 go; 6 way.

Very widely sung in Scotland, and all but one of Roud's 67 instances are from here.  [Extraordinarily, though, Lizzie is the only singer of whom he has a recording]. Cilla Fisher and Artie Tresize sing a version in Cilla and Artie Greentrax CDTrax 9050 (1979).

The lively tune first appear in the Balcarres Lute Book (1690-1700), with tune plus words in Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius in 1725 (see the remarkably detailed accounts in Nick Parkes and John Purser's 2006 CD-Rom of James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion). The words alone also appeared in Allan Ramsay's highly influential Tea Table Miscellany in 1724, and together with the equally popular thereafter, Jolly Beggar, has been attributed to James V (1512-1542), the hanger of Johnny Armstrong, who reputably wandered his kingdom in disguise, often as a beggar, as The Guidman of Ballangeich, in his sympathy with the common people, (although this may have been simply a liking for low life).  His short life and troubled reign would not have left him much spare time for such sojourning, nor his marriages to two wives, the second bearing him the future, tragic Mary Queen of Scots (and France).  Lizzie said this was the first song she learned from her father, when she was aged 4, and was a genuine 'pipe folksong'.

1-8 Adieu to Bogieside (Roud 4593, G/D 7:1396)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

Assist me, all ye Muses,
Your downcast spirits raise,
And join me in full chorus
To sing brave Huntly's praise,
For the girl I left behind me
Whose charms were all my pride,
When I said fareweel tae Huntly Toun1
On bonny Bogieside.

For it's doon the road tae Huntly Lodge
Wi pleasant steps I've rode,
Almost inspired with rapture
The sweet girl that I loved,
Who join't me in my rambles
And choosed me for her guide
To walk upon the Deveron's banks,
On bonny Bogieside

Lizzie with her husband Brian Fareweel, ye lads o Huntly Toun,
Tae you I'll bid adieu;
The pleasures of a even's walk
I'll share nae mair wi you;
The sky was clear an bonny
When on an eventide
I'll lay me doon and rest awhile
Upon that Deveronside.

May the powers above protect this girl,
So young and fair and fine,
And save her from all dangers
Who has this heart of mine,
Until ma hairt2 forgets to beat
And aifters3 us divide.
For I'll return tae Huntly Toun
On bonny Bogieside.

1 town; 2 heart; 3 afterwards.

Roud has only 20 instances, all from Scotland with Lizzie the only singer of whom there is a recording.

Adieu/Farewell to Bogieside is but one of a number of 'goodbye to' songs extremely popular in Lizzie's area, addressing both people and places, as can be seen in Volume 8 of the Greig-Duncan, where 17 versions of this song alone are recorded.  Although the attributed author, John Riddell (of Jock o' Rhynie fame) departed only for London, many emigrated further, especially to the States on the relatively cheap and fast steamships, especially following the economic downturn of farming from the 1880s onwards.  Lizzie learned the tune, The Corncraiks Amang the Whinny Knowes from her mother as a child, but later set this version of Farewell to Bogieside to it (although singing the Corncraiks itself in private, when about household tasks).

The lovely Strathbogie [valley of the River Bogie] south of Huntly gave rise to a number of songs.  In contrast to this rather 'flowery' piece in 'high' English is one of the 'totem' songs of Aberdeenshire, the earthy and moving Bogie's Bonnie Bell, sung in the vernacular.  In that, the hero is flung off the Bogieside farm for getting the farmer's daughter pregnant (as sung by Tom Spiers, accompanying himself on fiddle, in Beware of the Aiberdonian, the 1976 Topic debut album of The Gaugers, re-released by Sleepytown as SLPY CD008).

1-9 The College Boy (Young Craigston) (Roud 31, Laws O35, G/D 6:1222)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Aberdeen Folk Festival, 1973

Oh father, dear father,
Pray what is this ye've done?
You have wed me to a college boy,
A boy that's far too young,
For he is only sixteen years
And I am twenty-one;
He's ma bonny, bonny boy
And he's growin.

As we were going through college
When some boys were playin ball,
When there I saw my own true love,
The fairest of them all,
When there I saw my own true love,
The fairest of them all;
He's ma bonny, bonny boy
And he's growin.

At the age of sixteen years,
He was a married man,
And at the age of seventeen,
The father of a son;
Oh, and at the age of twenty-one
He did become a man,
So the green grass o'er his grave
It was growin.

I will buy my love some flannel,
And I'll make my love a shroud.
With every stitch I put in it,
The tears will flow down,
With every stitch I put in it,
The tears will flow down,
For cruel fate put an end to his growin.

Roud shows this is widely known, with 171 entries from right across the Anglophone world, but with the majority from England.  It is most usually titled The Trees they do Grow High, but examples along the lines of Long a-Growing are also very frequent.  Clearly its popularity endured until recently, since about one third of his entries are sound recordings.

Versions still available on CD include: George Dunn - Musical Traditions MTCD317-8 Chainmaker; Mary Ann Haynes - Musical Traditions MTCD320 Here's Luck to a Man; Fred Jordan - Veteran VTD148CD A Shropshire Lad; Joe Heaney - Topic TSCD 518D The Road from Connemara; Harry Cox - Rounder CD1839 What Will Become of England; Duncan Williamson - Kyloe 101 Travellers' Tales 2; and Walter pardon - Topic TSCD514 A World Without Horses.

Mary Ellen Brown considers there are two main subsets of this song - The Trees they do Grow High and The Bonny Boy is Lang a -Growin.  Although the sad tale of such failed arranged marriages was universal, Aberdeenshire claims it firmly for the marriage and death three years later of the young Laird of Craigston in 1634, as attested by James Maidment in A North Country Garland (1824).  Nevertheless, Greig and Duncan only found four versions (and a Lady Mary Ann variant).  Although Child did bring in lines from Lady Mary Ann when discussing The Cruel Mother, he did not think fit to include it amongst his 305 ballads, (leading the late David Buchan to maintain it should really have been known as 'Child 306').  For a thorough consideration of this song, see Mary Ellen Brown Lewis's account in Philological Quarterly 52 (1973).  Lizzie learned the song in her teens from her father.

1-10 Sandy is a Sailor (Roud 12924)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

Sandy is a sailor, he works in Ferryhill;
He gets his peys1 on Setterday
And buys a half-a-gill.
Come a rinkle, trinkle, tra la la, tra la la
Come a rinkle, trinkle, tra la la,
An a bonny bunch o' roses.

He gings tae kirk2 on Sunday, a half an oor late.
He taks the button aff his shirt,
And he pits3 it on the plate.
Come a rinkle trinkle tra la la ...

I can wash a sailor's shirt, an I can wash it clean.
I can wash a sailor's shirt,
An I'll hing4 it on the green.
Come a rinkle trinkle tra la la ...

If you go down to see his ship,
Ye'll never get him in;
Ye'll fin' him at the Hairy Bar,
Drinkin back the gin.
Come a rinkle trinkle tra la la ...

1 wages; 2 church; 3 puts; 4 hang.

Lizzie's recording is the only entry for this song in Roud's Index.

An Aberdeen children's song almost entirely composed of 'floating verses' from other comic songs.  Most versions have Sandy 'bide [live] in Ferryhill.  Aberdeen's first suburb (established in 1821), leafy Ferryhill, was once open countryside where the citizens went on holiday and is now dominated by the beautiful Duthie Park.  Overlooking the harbour and the sea, it has been home to many sailors, including the famous William Penny (1809-1902), the navigator who discovered the fate of the Franklin Expedition.  Despite its being the site of the Devanha Brewery, Sandy travels across town to the 'Hairy Bar' in West North Street for his gin.  This was Murdo's Bar, which closed in 1972.  It bordered on the Mealmarket, a major horse stabling area; farmers came to the bar to barter for horsehair for stuffing mattresses and other bedding.  Lizzie used this sort of piece very effectively to 'lighten' performances, especially after 'heavy' ballads.

1-11 The Twa Brithers (Roud 38, Child 49)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert, 1977


There wes twa brithers at the schule1
And when they hae got awa
There is "Will ye play at the stane chuckin,2
Or will ye play at the ba,
Or will ye ging3 up to yon bonny green hills
An there we'll wrastlin fa?"4

"I winnae play at the stane chuckin
Or will I play at the ba.
But a'll ging up tae yon bonny green hills
An there we'll wrastlin fa."

They wrastled up and they wrastled down
'Til John fell tae the ground.
A dirk5 fell out of William's pooch6
Gave John a deadly wound.

"Lift me, lift me, on your back
Tak me tae yon7 well sae fair,
Wash the blood frae8 off my wound
So it may bleed nae mair."

He's lifted him upon his back
Taen him tae yon well sae fair
Washed the blood frae off his wound
But aye it bled the mair.

Ye'll tak off yer holland sark9
Reive it frae gare tae gare10
Stap11 it in the bloody wound
'Til it nay bleed the mair.

He's taen off his holland sark
Reived it frae gair tae gair
Stapped it in the bloody wound
But it aye it bled the mair

"Lift me lift me on your back
Tak me tae yon well sae fair
Wash the blood frae off my wound
So it nay bleed nae mair

"Lift me lift me on your back
Tak me tae Kirkland fair
Dig a grave baith12 wide and deep
An lay my body there.

"Lay my arrows at my head
My bent bow at my feet.
My sword and buckler13 by my side
As I wes wont tae14 sleep."

1 school; 2stone throwing; 3 go; 4 wrestle to the ground; 5 knife; 6 pocket; 7 that; 8 from; 9 shirt; 10 tear it from seam to seam; 11 plug; 12 both; 13 small round shield; 14 used to.

Another big ballad which seems well-known, yet the great majority of Roud's 196 instances refer to US or Canadian sources; only 38 Scots instances are listed.  Although there have been some 30 sound recordings, only 5 remain available on CD: Hobart Smith - Rounder CD1799 Blue Ridge Legacy; his sister Texas Gladden - Rounder CD1800 Ballad Legacy; Sheila Stewart - Topic TSCD 515 From the Heart of the Tradition; Belle Stewart - Topic TSCD653 O'er his Grave the Grass Grew Green; and Ellen Mitchell - Musical Traditions MTCD315-6 Have a Drop Mair.

Back in the 1880s Child marvelled at the fact that all his Scottish versions of this great ballad had first flourished and then vanished at the beginning of the century but that it was 'still in the mouths of children in American cities' - a country where clearly it has remained a considerable favourite to this day, despite often being, as he then noted, 'considerably damaged'.  Lizzie's version is remarkably close to that published by Jamieson in the first volume of his 1806 Popular Ballads and Songs, (although it misses out the final verses of William's return home to face the family and exile).  The extent that the Travellers' tradition depends on printed sources (her mother certainly owned book and chapbook versions of her songs) has yet to be determined.  Lizzie learned it from her father.

1-12 The Dottered Auld Carle (Roud 362)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert, 1977

A dottered aul carle1 cam ower the lea;
Oh-ho, but I wouldnae hae2 him;
He cam ower the lea, an aa tae court me,
Wi his grey baird newly shaven.

Ma mither telt me tae open the door;
Ah-ha, but I wouldnae hae him.
I opened the door, and he stottered3 in o'er,
Wi his grey baird newly shaven.

Ma mither telt me tae gie him a chair.
Ah-ha-ha-ha, it's I wouldnae hae him.
I gaed him a chair and he sat on the flair,4
Wi his grey baird newly shaven

Ma mither telt me tae gie him some meat,5
But, ah-ha-ha, it's I wouldnae hae him.
I gaed him some meat, he had nae teeth tae eat,
Wi his aul6 grey baird newly shaven.

Ma mither telt me tae gie him a drink.
Ah-ha, it's I wouldnae hae him.
I gaed him a drink, he begun tae wink,
Wi his aul grey baird newly shaven

Ma mither telt me tae gie him a kiss,
But ah-ah-ha, it's I wouldnae hae him.
"If ye like him sic weel7 ,ye can kiss him yersel
Wi his aul grey baird newly shaven."

"Wi his grey beard newly shaven
Wi his grey beard newly shaven
If ye like him sic weel, ye can kiss him yersel,
Wi his aul grey baird newly shaven.
Wi his aul grey baird newly shaven.
Wi his aul grey baird newly shaven.
If ye like him sic weel, ye can kiss him yersel,
Wi his aul grey baird newly shaven."

1 old man in his dotage; 2 have; 3 staggered; 4 floor; 5 food; 6 old; 7 so well.

Another very popular song in Roud with 131 entries, although two-thirds of those are from the USA.  England and Scotland have more or less equal numbers of instances, while Ireland has only one.  Despite the existence of 30 sound recordings, the only other one Roud mentions as available on CD is Mabs Hall on Veteran VTC5CD When the Wind Blows.

When Allan Ramsay (Poems, 1721) printed The Carle he Cam O'er the Croft he was probably not the first to recount this perennial scene, but his was a much more overblown and frankly venomous demolition of a wealthy but elderly suitor than Lizzie's neatly hilarious version.  Almost as comical is Jane Turriff's jaunty, Wi his Grey Baird on Singin is Ma Life Springthyme SPRCD 1038.  Both Jeannie and Lizzie learned this song from Donald, and both performed it.

1-13 The Deein Plooboy (The Term) (Roud 2514, G/D 3:700)
Recorded by Vic Smith at the Royal Oak FC, Lewes, 21.03.73

The gloamy1 winds are blawin saft2
Aroon my lonely stable loft.
Amid the skylight's dusky red
The sunbeams wander roon my bed.

The doctor's left me in good cheer
But something tells me death is near.
My time on earth'll no be lang,
My time is come, an I must gang.

Ah me, tis but a week the morn
Since I was weel, an hairstin3 corn,
As full o health, an strength, an fun,
As ony man among the throng.

But something in my breist gaed wrang,4
A vessel burst, an the blood ootsprang,5
An as the sun sets in the sky,
They'll lay me doon, nae mair to rise.

Fareweel my horse, my bonny pair,
I'll yoke an loose6 wi you nae mair.
Farewell my ploo7, wi you this hand
Will turn ower nae mair fresh land.

Farewell my friends, my comrades dear,
My voice ye shall nae langer8 hear.
Farewell to yonder settin sun,
My time has come, an I must gang.9

I've served my maister weel an true,
My weel done work I'll never rue,
An yet, forby10, I micht11 hae striven
Tae reach the Pearly Gates in Heaven.

Tis weel my Maker knows my name.
Will He gie me a welcome hame?
As I should help in need afford,
Receive me in thy mercy, Lord.

1 twilight; 2 blowing gently; 3 harvesting; 4 chest went wrong; 5 burst out; 6 set to work and finish; 7 plough; 8 no longer; 9 go, leave; 10 besides; 11 might.

Roud has 15 entries for this relatively recently composed song which is really only known in Buchan.

The song was later one of many north east songs and bothy ballads recorded by Willie Kemp in the 1930s (twice - once solo [Beltona BL1687] and once with Curly McKay [BL2162]) - his version appears in Kerr's Cornkisters pp.57-59 (version a), the music credited to a Mrs Shand.  By the 1930s, the name Annie Shand (1872-1936) was synonymous with Scottish Country Dancing, famous for her dance band, her solo performances and as an accompaniist. She was noted for piano arrangements, one of which was her setting of an 'old air' to this song for Kemp, and now the usual musical setting. (Details from Bill Dean-Myatt's forthcoming Scottish Vernacular Discography, 1888-1960).

There are many current CD versions of this local song, such as those sung by: Davy Stewart - Rounder CD 1833 Go On Sing Another Song; Jock Duncan - Sleepytown SLPY CD006 Bothy Songs & Ballads of N E Scotland 2; a two-verse fragment from Daisy Chapman on Musical Traditions MTCD308 Ythanside; Isla St Clair Tatties & Herrin': The Land Greentrax CDTRAX 145.

This touching tale was one of many poems fashioned by 'A Herd Loon' [boy] - a.k.a the Reverend Robert Hogg Calder - brought up on his father's Durris farm down in Kincardineshire, before he moved up to the living of Glenlivet in Banffshire.  Having appeared first in newspaper form in 1882 and later in two highly popular books of his verses (1900:1918), it soon caught the imagination of the farming community, was sung to at least two tunes, and the imaginary hero firmly attested as having perished on numerous farms, especially up in Banffshire, after having suffered a variety of causes of death (see Daisy Chapman's version).  This was hardly surprising, for many a dying young farm servant would have been carted out, perishing from tubercular bleedings and other work-induced disorders, from the insanitary, unheated and overcrowded outhouse accomodation of the time.  Interestingly enough, Calder's final version was unsentimental - as might be expected from an author who had worked his way though college as a farm labourer, but by the time the version that Lizzie sings - now the standard - was published in John Ord's posthumous Bothy Songs and Ballads in 1930 - the Bible of the bothy balladeer - lines such as the final, 'Receive me in thy service, Lord' had become more mawkish.  Such grimly sentimental songs struck a chord in what was deep-down a religious part of the world; Victorian ministers objected in vain, for example, to hearing powerful Moody and Sankey hymns being belted out of bothies and public houses.  Despite happy memories of field work, Lizzie had few 'agricultural' songs in her repertoire.  This one she learned from Stanley's mother.

1-14 The Maid of Glenshee (Roud 292, Laws O6, G/D 5:953)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

Ae braw1 summer day
When the heather was blooming
And the silent hills hummed
Wi the honey-laid bee,
It was in my returning
I spied a fair maiden
A-tending her flocks
On the hills of Glenshee.

The rose in her cheek
It was gent2 wi a dimple
An blithe was the blink
O her bonny blue ee.
Her face was enchanting,
Sae3 sweet and sae simple;
Ma hairt soon belanged4
To the lass o Glenshee.

"Believe me, dear lassie,
Caledonia's clear waters
May alter their course
And run back frae5 the sea;
Her brave hardy sons
May submit to that fetters,
But alter what will,
I'll be constant to thee."

"The lark may forget
His sweet song in the morning,
The spring may forget
To revive o'er the lea,
But never will I,
While my senses do govern,
Forget to be kind
To the lass o Glenshee."

"Believe me, dear lad,
For I'm sure I would blunder
An set aa the gentry
A-laughing at me.
They hae book-taughten manners,
Baith auld6 and young yonder,
Aathing we ken nocht7
On the hills o Glenshee."

They would say "Look at him,
Wi his dull highland lady,
Set up in a show
In the windae8 tae see,
Rollt up like a witch
In her hame-spun plaidie.
An laughing they'd jeer
At the lass o Glenshee."

It is several long years
Since we buskit9 thegether
The seasons hae changed
But there's nae change in me;
She's ever as gay
As the fine summer's weather
When the sun's at its height
On the hills o Glenshee

To pairt10 wi my Jenny
My life I would venture,
She's sweet as the echo
That rings o'er the lea,
She's spotless and pure
Like a snaw11 robe o winter
When laid out to bleach
On the hills of Glenshee.

1 one fine; 2 enhanced with; 3 so; 4 heart soon belonged; 5 from; 6 old; 7 everything we know not; 8 window; 9 got ready, prepared; 10 part; 11 snow.

Roud displays that this is another song better-known in North America, with only 18 of his 67 entries being from Scotland, and Lizzie's being the only sound recording from here.

There are a number of songs celebrating the crossing of the Highland/Lowland divide by lovers, usually after much consideration of the problems involved.  This would place them well after the 1745 Rising, at a later period when kilted Highland men had finally and safely morphed from dangerous savages into romantic, erotic entities in the eyes of the rest of the country.  (Songs celebrating Lowland women being carried off/away to the Highlands resemble the Rudolph Valentino-induced feminine craze in the 1920s for swooning abduction by 'Sheikhs of Araby').  Composed by an Andrew Sharpe of Perth it was widely popular, especially in Aberdeenshire, where Greig and Duncan found 13 versions.  This was a poignant song for Lizzie; she had learned it from her cousin, Mary McDonald, who died young.

1-15 The Forester (Roud 67, Child 110, G/D 7:1465 UAL)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

"I'm a forester in this wood,
An you're the same design.
It's the mantle o your maidenhead,
Bonny lassie, never mind."
Singing didio, sing falado,sing didio-iay

"Syne1 you've let me doon,2
It's come pick me up again,
An syne you've taen the wills of me,3
Come tell to me your name."

"Sometimes they call me James
And sometimes they call me John,
And when I'm on the King's Highway,
Young William is my name."

"They neither called you James
Or they neither called you John,
And when you're on the King's Highway,
Young Daniel is your name."

When he heard his name called out
He's mounted on his steed;
She's buckled up her petticoats
And efter him she's gaed.

He's run and she's run,
The lang summer day,
'Til they come til the water,
It was cried the River Tay.

"It's there you see yon4 castle,
It's ower on yonder green,
There is the bonniest maiden there,
That would dazzle your een5."

"I see the castle,
It's ower on yonder green,
And I have seen the maiden there
That would dazzle your een"

"It's did he stealed your mantle,
Or did he stealed your fee,6
Or did he stealed your maidenheed,
The floor7 o your body?"

"He neither stole ma mantle
An he neither stole ma fee,
But he stole ma maidenheed,
The floor o my body."

"I wished I drunk the water
The nicht I drunk the wine.
Tae hae a shepherd's dochter8
Tae be a love o mine!"

When the marriage it come off -
Tae laugh tae see the fun -
She was the Laird o Urie's dochter,
He was a blacksmith's son.

1 since; 2down; 3 had your way with; 4 over there; 5 eyes; 6 wages; 7 flower; 8 daughter.

Roud has 79 instances of this ballad more usually known as The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter, almost all of which are from England or Scotland - the Scots having slightly more.  The John Strachan recording, on Rounder CD1835 John Strachan, being the only other one, of 12 instances, available on CD.

Lizzie's part of the world is fond of ballads where, although physically the weaker sex, strong-minded young women firmly determine their fate - and future husbands - the most famous being Glenlogie /Jean o' Bethelnie. This version of The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter is no exception, including the usual twist that the mere shepherd's lassie the 'forester' has casually assaulted turns out to be his social superior.  Greig and Duncan found seven good versions in the area, and were firmly behind Child's opinion that the very best versions of this ancient ballad were Scottish in origin - especially those where the girl lulls her assailant into thinking she is simply a disposable 'beggar's brat' or suchlike (despite her often suspicious command of Latin). Lizzie learned this from her mother, who had learned it from her mother.

1-16 She's Only My Old Shoes (False Bride) (Roud 154, G/D 6:1198)
Recorded by Rod Stradling at the King's Head FC, Islington, 11.3.70

I saw my own bonny lass,
To the church go,
Gold rings on her fingers,
White gloves on her hands,
Gold rings on her fingers,
White gloves on her hands;
She's away to get wed to another

Says I "My own bonny lass,
Wait a wee while,
For you are false beguiled,
For you are false beguiled;
She's only my auld shoes, and you've got her."

They were serving the glasses
Of brandy and wine:
Here is health tae the bonny lass
That should have been mine,
Here is health tae that bonny lass
That should have been mine,
For she's only my auld shoes
And you've got her

But the ladies and gents,
They enquirt aff of me:
"How many blackberries
Grow in the salt sea?"
I gave them aa back
Wi a tear my ee
"How many ships sails in a forest?"

She has broken ma hairt
And forever left me,
She has broken my hairt
And forever left me;
It is not once or twice
She has lain now wi me:
She is there an she cannae deny it.

But I'll lay doon my heid
And a'll tak a long sleep.
Youse can cover me over
With lilies so sweet,
Youse can cover me over
With lilies so sweet;
That's the only way
I'll e'er forget her.

At 110 Roud entries, this is another of the big ones, and is found slightly more frequently in England than in Scotland.  Indeed, there is a degree to which it has developed into two different songs in the two countries: in England it tends towards the Week Before Easter variant, while Scotland favours the I Once Loved a Lass / False Bride version.  Roud shows 24 sound recordings, of which the following are available on CD: Maggie Murphy - Veteran VT134CD Linkin' o'er the Lea; Harry Burgess - Topic TSCD665 As Me and My Love Sat Courting; Sarah Makem - Topic TSCD 651 Come Let Us Buy the Licence; Gordon Hall - Country Branch CBCD 095 Good Times Enough; Pop Maynard - Musical Traditions MTCD309-10 Just Another Saturday Night; Duncan Williamson - Kyloe 101 Travellers' Tales 2.

The versions of this song from Lizzie's region seem to be the bitterest of all - match hers with that of Elizabeth Stewart's in Binnorrie, Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen EICD002, or Shepheard, Spiers & Watson's My Auld Sheen in They Smiled as We Cam In, Springthyme SPRCD 1042.  A great favourite with local singers, some of whose heroes defiantly sing: 'But I'll not give over to sorrow and woe/ I will pick up my sword and a-rovin I'll go/ I will pick up my sword and a-rovin I'll go/ I am young and will soon find another'.  The riddle verse is usually confined to 19th century Scots versions, and seems to be a regional addition.  Lizzie learned her version from her mother.

CD2:

2-1 Alison Gross (Roud 3212, Child 35)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert, 1977

Aul1 Alison Gross she lives in yon2 tower,
The ugliest witch in the north country,
Has trysted3 me ae4 day til5 her bower
And many a braw6 speech she's made to me

Awa, awa7, ye ugly witch,
Haud8 far awa an lat me be.
Afore I kiss your ugly mou9
I'd raither toddle around the tree

She showed me a mantle of reid scarlet
Wrocht10 wi golden fringes fine.
"Gin11 ye will be my leman12 so true,
This goodly gift it sall be thine".

She showed me a sark13 o the saftest silk,
Weel wrocht wi pearls aboun14 the band.
"Gin ye will be my leman so true,
This goodly gift at yer command."

She showed me a cup o the guid red gowd15
Weel set wi jewels and they're sae fine.
"Gin ye will be my leman so true,
This goodly gift it shall be thine."With Brian and a very young Keiron Means

She's taen oot16 her grass green horn,
She's blew it three times loud and shrill,
Swore by the moon and stars aboun17
She'd gar18 me rue the day that I was born.

She's taen oot her silver wand,
She's turned three times aroun the tree,
Muttered sic19 words that my sense did fail
And I fell doon senseless tae the ground.

Wi silver basin an silver kaim20
Tae kaim my headie21 upon her knee,
Aye on ilka22 Saturday nicht
Aul Alison Gross she comes tae me.

But it fell upon last Halloween
When the Seily23 Court cam ridin by,
The Queen's lichted24 on a gowan25 bank,
Nae far frae26 the tree where I did lie.

She's lifted me in her milk-white hand.
She's pricked27 me three times on her knee.
She's turned me back tae ma proper shape.
Nae mair I'll toddle aroon the tree.

1 old; 2 that; 3 made an assignation; 4 one; 5 to; 6 fine; 7 go away; 8 hold = keep; 9 mouth; 10 wrought; 11 if; 12 lover; 13 shirt; 14 above; 15 gold; 16 taken out; 17 above; 18 make; 19 such; 20 comb; 21 little head; 22 always on every; 23 blessed (of the Fairy Queen); 24 alighted; 25 daisy; 26 not far from; 27 settled/secured.

Unfortunately, Peter Hall's tape recorder came to the end of the reel before Lizzie reached the end of the song, and so the final three verses in Times face come from another recording made by Tim Neat.

The text originally appeared in Jamieson, Popular Ballads & Songs 2, pp.187-190, said to have been collected from Mrs Anna Brown, of Falkland, Aberdeen, in 1792-1794; the only collection from the oral tradition.

Lizzie was deeply interested in the interfaces between the worlds of ordinary folk, of those who practised the Black Arts in league with the Devil, and - as in this ballad - of those of the Scottish fairies, an amoral, unpredictable tribe of whom Stanley Robertson says, "We call them the Guid Folk - because they can dee you an awful lot of damage" (Barrie's dangerously vicious Tinker Bell being a prime depiction).  The hero of the song can count himself lucky that the Queen of the Fairies took pity on him, even as a much-desired witch's pet (although, as Child observed, the Scottish Queens are reputed to be more favourably inclined to help humans enchanted by their subjects). Stanley Robertson comments that Lizzie started singing this late in life and probably derived it from print.

2-2 Auld Roguie Grey (Roud 5132)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

I walked on the street
Like a decent woman should dae1
Fan the aul2 roguie follyd3 me,
The aul roguie Grey,
An I'll tell yez by and by
Fat4 the roguie done to me.

I went up the stairs
Like a decent woman should dae,
Fan5 the aul roguie followed me,
The aul roguie Grey,
An I'll tell yez by and by
at the roguie done to me.

I gaed intae ma bed l
Lke a decent woman should dae,
Fan the aul roguie followed me,
The aul roguie Grey,
An I'll tell yez by and by
Fat the roguie done to me

Aa nicht6 he slept ben7 me,
The aul roguie grey,
Aa nicht he slept ben me,
The dirty roguie Grey,
An I'll tell yez by and by
Fat the roguie done to me.

Nine months has passed,
I'd a bairnie on my knee,
Nine months has passed
And the roguie's merried me,
And the end of ma tale aboot
The aul roguie Grey.

1 do; 2 old; 3 followed; 4 what; 5 when; 6 all night; 7 beside.

Roud includes only this version from Scotland, plus 3 from the USA and 4 English ones - the most recent of which was collected from Ron Nurse in Shrewsbury, in 1995, by Gwilym Davies.

A much older song than one might expect (and not one that ever looks like dying out): a version called Knaves Will Be Knaves appeared in the New Academy of Complements (1669), while another called A Dainty Ducke, is from Percy's Folio MSS p.487 (1640) - 'I asked her if shee wold drinke/she wondred what I wold doe/ shee answered me with sober winke/ as an honest woman sholde doe'. An Irish version, The Bold Rogue, is sung by Kevin Mitchell on Musical Traditions MTCD315-6 Have a Drop Mair.  (Older folk may recall Doris Day's coy 1951 version, A Guy is a Guy - 'I walked down the street like a good girl should', which reached top of the charts; some themes never lose their appeal).

It certainly appealed in Lizzie's part of the world some 300 years ago.  The Aberdeenshire ballad-monger, Charles Leslie (aka 'Mussel-Mou'd Charlie' from the twisted shape of his mouth - see Ian A Olson and John Morris's life of Leslie in Aberdeen University Review 58 (2000), 317-332), who died at the amazing age of 105 in 1782, hawked broadsheets containing The Knave, printed for him by Chalmers of Aberdeen (later published in G R Kinloch's 1827 Ballad Book). Lizzie recorded her version in 1975 for Up and Awa' wi' the Laverock (Topic 12TS260).

2-3 The Lassie Gatherin Nuts (Roud 5131)
Recorded by Tom Spiers - mid 1970s

There wis a lass an a bonny bonny lass,
To gaither nuts did gang.
She's pu'd1 them east, she's pu'd them west,
She's pu'd them as they hung.
She's pu'd them as they hung.

'Til aft at last she's laid her doon2
An slept the wids amang.3
When by there came three lusty lads,
Three lusty lads an strang.4
Three lusty lads an strang.

The first o them, he kissed her mou5
He thocht he did nae wrang.6
The second o them undid her belt,
Tied up wi London whang.7
Tied up wi London whang.

What the third he did tae her,
Is no put in this song,
But the lassie rising tae her feet
Says "I fear I hae sleept too lang."8
Says "I fear I hae sleept too lang."

1 gathered; 2 down; 3 woods amongst; 4 strong; 5 mouth; 6 thought ... no wrong; 7 leather thongs; 8 long.

A rare song indeed; Roud has only Lizzie's recording.

Possibly a rewriting of the pre-1750 French traditional song of a girl collecting rushes, Fillarette, it appeared as the 72nd song in Robert Burns' considerable collection of obscenity/erotica, The Merry Muses of Caledonia (c.1800) (These are the songs not sung at Burns Suppers around the world).  Revived by Ewan MacColl in his 1960 Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland, it was picked up by Jeannie and in turn taken up by Lizzie. Peter Hall rightly marvelled at the beautiful way the original tune - The Broom of the Cowdenknowes - had evolved in such a short period of transmission.  One of Lizzie's favourite songs learned from her mother, who gave it to her 'to sing on the Folk scene'.

2-4 Lord Lovat (Roud 48, Child 75, G/D 6:1232)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

Lord Lovat he stands at his stable door.
He was brushing his milk steed down,
When who passed by but Lady Nancybell
She was wishing her lover,"Godspeed".
She was wishing her lover, "Godspeed".

"Oh where are going, Lord Lovat?", she said,
"Come promise, tell me true."
"Going over the seas, strange countries to see.
Lady Nancybell, I'll come and see you
Lady Nancybell, I'll come and see."

He hadn't been gone a year or two,
Scarcely had been three,
When a mightiful dream came into his head:
"Lady Nancybell I'll come and see you,
Lady Nancybell I'll come and see."

He's passed down through Capelton's church
And doon through Mary's ha,
And the ladies were all weeping for
And the ladies all weeping for.

"Who is dead?" Lord Lovat, he said,
"Come promise, tell me true."
"Lady Nancybell died for her true lover's sake,
An Lord Lovat was his name
An Lord Lovat was his name."

Roud has 270 entries for this 'big' ballad, usually called Lord Lovell - about 230 of which are from the USA or Canada! England and Scotland have around 20 each, and there's just one from Ireland.  There are 47 sound recordings, with current CD versions on Jeannie Robertson - Rounder CD1720 The Queen Among the Heather; Ethel Findlater - Rounder CD1775 Classic Ballads 1; and Walter Pardon - Musical Traditions MTCD305-6 Put a Bit of Powder on it Father.

Duncan commented that although Child has ten versions, and the story is mirrored in Germany, Scandinavia and Greece, that the nine versions he and Greig collected (all entitled Lord Lovel) were relatively modern, deriving from an 1846 London broadside. Lizzie's version, learned from her mother - apart from calling the hero 'Lovat' and the mention of 'Capeltown', is pretty much a shortened version of those in the Greig-Duncan Collection (which often set the scene in St Pancras, London). Jeannie, who had learned it from an old Perthshire woman, had sung it to Lizzie as a lullaby.  Lizzie's singing and beautiful decoration of the very simple story belie Bronson's harsh description of it as a 'too, too insipid ballad'.

(Are, indeed, the Lords Lovel, Lavel, Travell and Revel who have inhabited the ballad since 1770 in fact the Lords Lovat, Chiefs of the great Clan Fraser, whose lands lie to the north-west of Inverness? A splendidly romantic body of men, from the last noble to be beheaded at the Tower of London, to the one who insisted on leading the 1st Commando Brigade at Sword Beach on D-Day in a bright white pullover, 'head held high', accompanied (completely against orders) by his piper Bill Millin playing Highland Laddie - 'so that my men can see me'.  The clan records do not mention any Lady Nancy Bell, but nothing would surprise anyone familar with these dashing men).

2-5 Macaphee Turn the Cattle (Roud 20741)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert, 1977


Macaphee turn the cattle roon loch a forum.1
Macaphee turn the cattle roon loch a forum.
Macaphee turn the cattle roon loch a forum.
Here and there and everywhere,
The cows are in the corn.

A waiting at the shielin o mhairi ban machree.2
Waiting at the shielin, oh far away to sea.
Hame will come the bonny boats,
Mhairi ban machree.
Hame will come the bonny lads, hi ho and hee.

Macaphee turn the cattle roon loch a forum.
Macaphee turn the cattle roon loch a forum.
Macafee turn the cattle roon loch a forum.
Here and there and everywhere,
The cows are in the corn.

1 Loch More?; 2 fair Mary, my love.

This well-known pipe and fiddle tune Mrs MacLeod of Raasay a.k.a. Mac-a-Phì appears to have been often used for comical mouth music in both Gaelic and English.  It is possible that Lizzie's version, learned from her mother, evolves from a Gaelic original such as this 1908 one:

Dòmhnull Dubh Mac-a-Phì ceann Locha-mòire,
Dòmhnull Dubh Mac-a-Phì ceann Locha-mòire,
Dòmhnull Dubh Mac-a-Phì ceann Locha-mòire;
Ghoideadh e na gobhair ged bhiodh deubhainn air a dhòrnaibh.

Translation: Dòmhnall Dubh Mac-a-Phì of the head of Loch Mòr; he would steal the goats even if there were shackles / fetters on his hands.

2-6 MacCrimmon's Lament (Cumha Mhic Criomain) (Roud 5134)
Recorded by Peter Cooke and Ailie Munro, Aberdeen, 1970 (SA1970.78.A4)

Around Coolin's peaks the mist is sailin;
The banshee croons1 her note o wailin.
My own blue een2 wi sorrow is streamin
For him that shall never return, MacCrimmon.

No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back MacCrimmon.
No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back MacCrimmon.

The breeze on the braes are mournfully moanin,
The brooks in the hollows are plaintively moanin.
My own blue een wi sorrow are streamin
For him that shall never return, MacCrimmon.

No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back MacCrimmon.
No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back MacCrimmon.

MacLeod's withered flag from the grey castle sallies,
The oars are unseated, unmoored are the galleys,
Gleans war-axe and broadsword, clan target and quiver,
For him that shall never return, MacCrimmon.

No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back MacCrimmon.
No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back MacCrimmon.

1 spirit heralding death sings; 2 eyes;

Roud has only 6 instances of this beautiful lament; this one from Lizzie, and five from her mother.

Cha Till e Tuille - Cumha Mhic Criomain (No More Returning - MacCrimmon's Lament) is a pibroch [complex variations on a theme set for the Highland bagpipe] said to have been composed in 1745 by Donald Ban ['fair'haired] MacCrimmon, hereditary piper to Norman, 19th chief of the MacLeods of Harris and Dunvegan, in premonition of his death before the battle of Culloden the following year.  Unfortunately for romance, he and his chief were on the 'wrong' (i.e. Hanoverian Government) side and Donald was unlucky enough to be the only one killed in the ignominious 'Rout of Moy'.  This was an attempt by the Hanoverians to capture Prince Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonny Prince Charlie') quartered at the House of Moy near Inverness, in a midnight attack.  The plans for this were discovered by Jacobite spies and the Hanoverians ambushed in a thunderstorm and routed in panic.  MacCrimmon's body was carted back to Inverness for burial.  The original Gaelic verses (which themselves have evolved over time into variants) are attributed to Donald's sister, but lush English variant translations abound.  (This pibroch, by the way, should not be confused with a later dedicatory pibroch composed by his brother, The Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon as sung and played on the marvellous R Brown & R B Nicol's Masters of Pibroch vol 7 Greentrax CDTrax279).

Isla St Clair has recorded it several times, most recently in The Lady and the Piper, Highland Classics HCLA-C103, where it is followed with its bagpipe tune played by Gordon Walker.  As a young girl, Lizzie learned the words of this from a book, and her father taught her its pipe tune.  She regarded it as an extremely difficult piece both to learn initially and perform, especially the 'pipe decorations'.

2-7 The Cruel Mither (Roud 9, Child 20, G/D 2:193 UAL)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Aberdeen Folk Festival, 1973

She's leant her back against a aik,1
All alone and aloney-o.
She's pushed and she's pushed
'Til her back's near break,
Doon in the bonny greenwoodsidey-o.

She's laid her head against a thorn,
All alone and aloney-o.
Two bonny babies ever were born,
Doon in the bonny greenwoodsidey-o.

She's went back til her father's castle ha,2
All alone and aloney-o.
She wis the sma'est3 maid o them aa,
Doon in the bonny greenwoodsidey-o.

She looked ower her father's castle ha,
All alone and aloney-o.
Two bonny babies playin at the ba,
Doon in the bonny greenwoodsidey-o.

Oh dear babies, gin4 ye were mine,
All alone and aloney-o.
I'd gie5 ye bread, and I'd gie ye wine,
Doon in the bonny greenwoodsidey-o.

Oh dear mither, when we were thine,
All alone and aloney-o.
Aroon our necks you pult6 a twine,
Doon in the bonny greenwoodsidey-o.

We are in the Heavens sae high,
All alone and aloney-o;
In the Hell's fires you will die,
Doon in the bonny greenwoodsidey-o.

1 oak; 2 hall; 3 smallest; 4 if; 5 give; 6 pulled.


One of the 'big' ones, with 275 Roud entries, most of which are from the USA.  Although he gives 35 sound recordings, few remain available on CD.  Vicky Whelan sings There was a Lady Dressed in Green on Musical Traditions MTCD311-2 Up in the North and Down in the South, Lucy Stewart sings it on Traditional singer from Aberdeenshire CTRAX031, originally a Folkways release, and five of the usual suspects share one of those horrible composite tracks on Rounder's CD1775 Classic Ballads 1.

Herd first printed a fragment of this in his Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs in 1776, and similar versions, although with differing locations and choruses, were noted by Child from early in the next century.  Aberdeenshire's Peter Buchan (1790-1854) published an unusual Minister's Daughter of New York version in his Ballads of the North of Scotland in 1828 so it is not surprising that some of Greig and Duncan's 1900's singers identified the story either with 'the Duke of York' or the 'Queen's/Minister's daughter of New York', pointing to considerable 'contamination' from printed sources (mentioned, in fact, by several of them).  The pipe tune it is sung to, The Greenwood Side, is a favourite for Reveille in the Scottish regiments, especially the Gordon Highlanders.  Lizzie's father taught it to her.

2-8 Soo Sewin Silk (Roud 473)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

Soo sewin1 silk - fa's fou, fa's fou?2
Soo sewin silk an the young one's churnin milk
An wir aa blin3 drunk and the jolly man's fou.
 
Loose4 chasin puss5 - fa's fou, fa's fou?
Loose chasin puss in the barn an the hoose,6
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou
 
Caffie's7 laid an egg – fa's fou, fa's fou?
Caffie's laid an egg aa doun8 the fairmer's leg,
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.
 
Fairmer's went tae ploo9 - fa's fou, fa fou?
Fairmer's went tae ploo, wi a turkey an a coo,10
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.

Kye11 are in their bed - fa's fou, fa's fou?
Kye are in their bed, an the bairn's in the shed,
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.
 
Its a tapsalteerie sang12 - fa's fou, fa's fou?
Tapsalteerie sang, as broad as it is lang,13
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.

1 sow sewing; 2 who's full/drunk?; 3 blind; 4 louse; 5 cat; 6 house; 7 little calf; 8 all down; 9 farmer's gone to plough; 10 cow; 11 cattle; 12 tumbled upside-down song; 13 long.

Roud has 28 instances of this nonsense song from Scotland, England and the USA.  Only Lizzie and her mother Jeannie have been recorded singing it here.

The Edinburgh lawyer George Ritchie Kinloch (1796?-1877) privately published The Ballad Book in 1827, containing The Man in the Moon, a version of the above nonsense which has delighted folk for centuries.  He claimed it had been in the repertoire of Charles Leslie (c1677-1782), the long-lived Aberdeenshire itinerant ballad-hawker, who dominated Aberdeen's song stance, the Plainstanes, for almost a century.  His 'deep and hollow roar', great height and wildly wielded staff appear to have seen off any competition, over and above the quality of his songs and repartee.  Of Lizzie's version, Jeannie provided the first two verses, and Andy Hunter composed the remainder.

2-9 What a Voice (I Wish, I Wish) (Roud 495, G/D 6:1189)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert, 1977

What a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear
It's like the voice of my Willie dear
An if I had wings like that swallow high
I would clasp in the arms of ma Billy boy

When my apron it hung low
My love true love followed through frost and snow
Bet now my apron is tae ma chin
He passes me by and he'll ne'er speir1 in

It's up and to yon white hoose grey
He's called a strange girlie to his knee
An he's telt her a tale that he's once told me

There is a blackbird sits on yon tree
Some says it is blind and it cannae see
Some says it is blind and it cannae see
And that's what my true love's tae me

Oh I wish, I wish, oh I wish in vain,
I wish I was a maid again
But a maid again I will never be
'Til a aipple it grows on a orange tree

I wish, I wish my babe wes born
An smilin on some nurse's knee.
An for myself to be dead and gone
An the long green grass growing over me.

1 enquire.

Despite there being only 28 entries in Roud, some 17 of them are of sound recordings, and Walter Pardon - Topic TSCD665 As Me and My Love Sat Courting; George Dunn - Musical Traditions MTCD317-8 Chainmaker; and Jeannie Robertson - Rounder CD1720 The Queen Among the Heather, can still be heard on CD.

A song found mostly in England, where it is generally known as I Wish, I Wish.  Only Lizzie and her mother Jeannie have been recorded singing it in Scotland, and only they begin the song with the words 'What a voice ...' This was the first time Lizzie sang this - her mother's song - in public.

2-10 The Muir1 o Culloden (Roud 3777, G/D 1:127)
Recorded by Tom Spiers - mid 1970s

I'll sing of my country, its deep glens and fountains
Its woods and its bowers, its steep risin mountains;
I'll sing of its battles, renowned in story
That crown't our sires with immortal glory.

On the sixteenth of April, I'll ever remember,
The night it wis dark, dark as December.
The moon showed its beams something awful forebodin
And lulled were the streams as they rolled by Culloden.

As we lay under arms our chiefs were debatin;
Some for tae fight an some for retreatin,
But up jumped the Cameron, and young Lewis Gordon
Drew his sword and swore they would die on Culloden.

Nae mair the the pipes play, "Prince Charlie's a-comin"
Nae mair they'll hooray as the Southron's2 are runnin
But every Scot's hairt3 for its Prince it is sobbin
Crying "Cauld4 lies oor lads on the Muirs o Culloden."

1 moor of; 2 non-Highlanders; 3 heart; 4 cold = dead.

On the 17th April 1746, two young royal princes in their mid-20s supervised the last battle in Britain, fought across a bleak, rain and wind-swept moor outside Inverness.  Charles Edward Stuart was attempting to restore the exiled 280-year-old Stuart dynasty with a Scottish (Highland and Lowland) / Irish / French / English army by defeating the English / Scottish (Lowland and Highland) / German army of William, Duke of Cumberland, representing his father's 57-year-old Hanoverian Government.  The song encapsulates the recall of a common soldier of the miserable night before the battle (when an unsuccessful and exhausting night raid was attempted on the Government forces) and of the decisive defeat of Charles' forces the following day.  Cameron - 'the gentle Lochiel' - was a typical loyal clansman who followed the Prince despite his better judgement.  Lewis Gordon, from the great Anglo-Norman Aberdeenshire family, bordered on the insane (and was years later locked up as such by the French).

Cumberland ordered the pistolling or burning of all the defeated on the battlefield, wounded or surrendered (Ensign James Wolfe courageously refused to obey), and instigated the genocide thereafter that dealt Highland life and culture a mortal blow.  (Spare a thought for what Cumberland's young English soldiers must have been thinking that night, 500 miles from home, facing an enemy on the morrow on its own territory, an army that had never been defeated and whose infamous 'Highland charge' had totally annihilated - in four minutes flat - a similar Hanoverian Government army at Prestonpans the year before.  Brave lads also.)

A very rare song, seemingly only collected twice, by Greig and Ord.  Ord had no comments, and Greig only noted that Culloden was rarely mentioned in song, never mind folk song.  Sadly for romantics, all the famous 'Jacobite' songs were written long after the Bonnie Prince Charlie was safely in his grave, and this will be no exception.  But it is sung to the haunting pipe tune Brae Lochiel (Bràigh Loch Iall), which Lizzie learned from her father.  She later added verses when shown the fuller version in the Greig-Duncan.

2-11 Up and Awa wi the Laverock (Roud 5133)
Recorded by Peter Hall at the Aberdeen Folk Festival, 1973

Up and awa and awa wi the laverock,1
Up and awa and awa in the morning,
Up and awa and awa wi the laverock,
Up and awa tae the hills for me.

Wi your cast and your gut and a wee puckle2 luck,
Wi your cast and your gut and your rod and your reel,
Wi your cast and your gut and a wee pickle luck,
Ye'll hae plenty o fish for tae fill up your creel.
Up and awa…..
 
Wi your troot in the Jaw3 and there's troot in Loch Awe,
There's troot in the Leven, the Tummel, the Spey.
Loch Keterin's watter is guid for a batter;4
The mair5 ye can slaughter, the mair ye can fry.
 
Up and awa….
 
Wi your drum6 on the fire ye're laird o the Shire,
Wi your drum on the fire, ye're makkin your tea,
Wi your drum on the fire, ye're laird o the Shire;
Oh, the wheeplin curlews are coorlin free
[crying: calling]
 
Up and awa…

1 away with the lark; 2 small amount of; 3 trout in Jaw Loch; 4 Loch Katrine's water is good to thrash; 5 more; 6 billy can.

Lizzie's recording is the only entry for this song in Roud's Index.

Andy Hunter, who was taken into Jeannie Robertson's family when a student in Aberdee, composed this song, the tune having been taken from the third and fourth parts of Pipe Major G S MacLennan's Jig of Slurs.  He heard this tune played by Eddie Hutchison on his box and was enchanted by it.  The 'Jaw' refers to the Jaw Loch reservoir in the Old Kilpatrick Hills where his father used to take him and his brother fishing.  Lizzie did not know this loch and transformed the line from 'For there's troot in the Jaw' into '...there's troot in yer jaw…' Also the second verse should begin 'Wi your cast and your gut and your flea[fly] and your heuk' and the third line of the sixth should be 'Wi your drum on the fire ye canna weel tire'.  Songs Andy created were readily sung by Lizzie and her mother - Jeannie also sang Andy's Ye Heilan Chiels - a good example of their constant willingness to take on new material. .

Andy's song originally appeared on his King Fareweel (Lismore LIFL 7002) in 1984, and has since been lifted by a number of singers such as Heather Heywood, Lassies Fair and Laddies Braw (The Living Tradition LTCD1007), where, curiously, Heather says she prefers to sing Lizzie's version to Andy's original!

2-12 The Butcher Boy (Roud 263, Laws P35, G/D 2:200)
Recorded by Ailie Munro, Aberdeen, 1970 (SA1970.22.B4)

"My parents gave me good learnin,
Good learning they gave unto me,
They sent me to butcher's shop
For a butcher's boy to be.

It was there that I met with a fair young maid
With the dark and a-rolling eyes,
And I promised for to marry her
On the month of sweet July."

He went up to her mother's house
Between the hours of eight and nine
And he asked her for to walk with him
Down by the foaming brine.

"Down by the foaming brine we'll go,
Down by that foaming brine,
For that would be a pleasant walk,
Down by the foaming brine."

But they walked it east and they walked it west,
And they walked it all alone,
'Til he pulled a knife from out of his breast
An he stabbed her to the ground.

She fell upon her bended knees
And for mercy she did cry,
Roarin, "Billy dear, don't murder me,
For I'm not prepared to die."

He's taen her by the lily-white hand
And he's dragged her to the brim,
And with a mighty downward push
He pushed her body in.

He went home to his own mother's house
Between the hours of twelve and one.
Oh, little did his mother think
What her only son had done

He asked her for a handkerchief
To tie around his head,
And he asked her for a candlelight
To show him up to bed.

No sleep, no rest could this young man get,
No rest he could not find;
For he thought he saw the flames of Hell
Approaching his bedside.

But the murder it was soon found out
And the gallows wes his doom,
For the murder of sweet Mary Ann
Lies where the roses bloom.

Despite its title, this is actually a version of the Oxford Girl, and thus really quite rare in Scotland; Roud has only 5 instances from here, and one of those is from Orkney.  Most of the other 290 examples are from England or North America, but of the 75 sound recordings, only those by Harry Cox - Topic TSCD512D The Bonny Labouring Boy; Mary Ann Haynes - Musical Traditions MTCD320 Here's Luck to a Man; Mary Delaney - MTCD325-6 From Puck to Appleby; The Carter Family - Bear Family BCD 15865 In the Shadow of Clinch Mountain; and the Blue Sky Boys - BCD 15951 The Sunny Side of Life seem to be available on CD.

Gavin Greig considered that such 'Ballads of Murder and Execution' had been imported to his area via broadsides emanating from the Emerald Isle where they were highly popular.  Lizzie learned it from her mother, but performed it infrequently.

2-13 London Lights (Roud 18815)
Recorded by Rod Stradling at the King's Head FC, Islington, 11.3.70

See how those London Lights are gleaming
Through the frost and falling snow.
Sleep on, sleep on my blue-eyed treasure,
Your mother's got nowhere to go.

See how my sister they despise me,
And my brothers do the same.
Father says he will not own me,
And my mother hangs her head in shame.

See how ...

Oncet a young man learned to love me,
And he taught me do the same.
Now he's went away and left me,
And on my brow there is written shame.

See how ...

Rod comments that Steve Roud was hitherto unaware of this lovely little song (so it has a new number) and it doesn't appear anywhere in the School of Scottish Studies Archive indices, at least, not under this or similar title.  So we may assume that it was a song Lizzie knew of, but did not sing, until her visit to the King's Head folk club in London made it appropriate.  If so, this gives an insight into the degree to which she considered her audience's needs and interests.

This delicate version of the perennial abandoned unmarried mother song would appear to be relatively modern, presumably from the music halls.  Lizzie's mother, a wide-ranging singer, was indeed especially fond of music-hall songs, but the source of this one is unclear.

However, Rod has just discovered - quite by chance - that May Bradley, the Gypsy singer from the Marches, sings essentially the same song.  It's titled Blue Eyed Lover in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library archives, since her first verse is from that song - but the remainder is the verses from London Lights, without Lizzie's chorus, but sung to her tune.  This doesn't alter the attractions of Lizzie's song as it stands, but we now know that it wasn't unique to her, and that the tune and some of the text had a wider distribution in the Gypsy tradition.  Also, a Web search comes up with the fact that the Nova Scotia Archives have a 1952 recording by a Jack Thurple of Hants County, Nova Scotia.

2-14 Son David (Roud 200, Child 13)
Recorded by Ailie Munro, Aberdeen, 1970 (SA1970.21.A3)

"Oh what's the blood that's on yer sword
My son David, oh, son David?
What's the blood it's on your sword?
Come promise tell me true"

"Oh that's the blood o my grey meer,1
Hie lady mother, ho, lady mother.
That's the blood o my grey meer,
Because she widnae ru'2 by me."

"Oh that blood it is ower3 clear,
My son David, oh, son David.
That blood it is ower clear,
Come promise tell me true."

"Oh that's the blood o my huntin hawk,
Hie lady mother, ho, lady mother.
That's the blood o my huntin hawk,
Because it widnae ru' by me."

"Oh that blood it is ower clear,
Hey son David, oh son David.
That blood it is ower clear,
Come promise tell me true."

"Oh that's blood o my brother John,
Hie, lady mother, ho, lady mother.
That's blood o my brother John,
Because he widnae ru' by me.

Bit I'm gan awa4 in a bottomless boat,
In a bottomless boat, in a bottomless boat.
Oh I'm gan awa in a bottomless boat,
An I'll ne'er return again."

"Oh when will you come back again,
My son David, oh, son David?
When will you come back again?
Come promise tell me true."

"When the sun an the moon meets in yon glen,
Hie, lady mother, ho, lady mother.
When the sun and the moon meets in yon glen,
For I'll return again."

1 mare; 2 be ruled by; 3 far too; 4 leaving.

This old ballad is almost universally called Edward (or something similar), and the Son David title appears only in Scotland.  Of Roud's 233 entries, almost two thirds are from the USA, and Scotland boasts the next highest number with around 40.  Of the 53 sound recordings, only George Dunn - Musical Traditions MTCD317-8 Chainmaker; Paddy Tunney (Topic TSCD653 O'er His Grave the Grass Grew Green; and Mary Delaney - TSCD667 It Fell on a Day, a Bonny Summer's Day appear to be avalable on CD.  Oh, and there's one of those awful 'one-verse-each' compilations from the usual suspects on Rounder's CD1775 Classic Ballads Vol 1.

When Hamish Henderson 'discovered' Jeannie Robertson in 1953 and demonstrated her repertoire to the world, this particular ballad caused a sensation amongst scholars, as it had been thought to have been completely lost from the oral traditions for well over a hundred years, and caused the rest of her repertoire to be examined with the greatest of interest.  (It became so much her keynote song that before a performance at the Edinburgh Festival Club, the Lord Provost condescended to her with, "How is the blood on David's sword tonight?" Later that evening, from the front of the stage she serenaded him, sitting in the front row with his rather young wife with, An Auld Man Cam Coortin Me).  Considering this very much her mother's song, requiring Jeannie's 'big classical ballad' style, Lizzie nevertheless went on to perform it after her death.

2-15 Betsy Bell (Roud 5211)
Recorded by Rod Stradling at the King's Head FC, Islington, 11.3.70

Ma name is Betsy Bell, in the Gallowgate I dwell;
Nae doot ye'll wunner fit1 a'm daein here?
I am looking for a man, be he auld or be he young
Ay, onything in breeks2 'll dae wi me

For as I gaed oot ae nicht, I met wi Sandy Wricht.
He asked me for to be his loving bride
An I jumpit at the chance, it fairly made me dance;
The weddin was tae take place there and then.
When I bought ma weddin frock,
He said, "Lord, it's aa a joke",
So I wonder fit's adee3 wi aa the men?

Is there onybody here, who'll tak a nice wee dear,
Even though I'm three score and ten?
Be he young or be he auld,
Grey-heided4 fringe or bald,
So I wonder fit's adee wi aa the men?

1 wonder what; 2 trousers; 3 what's wrong with; 4 headed.

A song popularised by Belle Stewart, and instances of her, or her daughter Sheila, singing it comprise the whole of Roud's 6 entries.  Belle can be heard on Topic TSCD 660 Who's that at my Bed Window? She claimed to have got the words from a penny song-sheet in The Poet's Box, a little shop in the Overgate, Dundee, when she was about 12 years old, and fitted them to the tune of Harry Lauder's We Parted on the Shore.  Lizzie learned this when fifteen from two elderly fish workers (who had shifted the location to Aberdeen's Gallowgate - the 'gates' in both cases deriving from the Nordic 'gata' = street).

2-16 MacDonald of Glencoe (Roud 515, Laws N39, G/D 5:1044)
Recorded by Peter Hall, 1970s

As I was a-walking one evening of late
Where Flora's gay mantles the fields decorate,
I carelessly wandered to I did not know
On the banks of a fountain that lies in Glencoe.

To her whom the prize of Mount Ida I'd won,
There approached me a lassie as bright as the sun.
The ribbons and the tartans around her did flow
That once graced MacDonald, the pride of Glencoe.

With courage undaunted tae her I drew nigh;
The red rose and the lilies on her cheeks seemed to vie.
I asked her her name, and how far she'd to go.
"Young man," she replied, "I am bound for Glencoe."

I said, "My dear lassie, your enchanting smile,
An your comely sweet features, my heart is beguiled.
If your kind affections on me you'll bestow,
Then you'll aye bless the hour that we met in Glencoe."

"Young man", she made answer, "your wit I disdain.
I onced had a sweetheart, young Donald by name.
He went to the wars nearly ten years ago,
And a maid I'll remain 'til he comes to Glencoe."

"Perhaps your young Donald regards not your name,
But has placed his affections on some foreign dame?
He may have forgotten, for aucht that ye know,
The bonny wee lassie he left in Glencoe?"

"My Donald's true valour when tried in the field
Like his proud ancestors disdaining to yield.
The French and the Spaniards he will soon overthrow
And in triumph return to my arms in Glencoe."

"The prowess of the French, love, is hard to pull down;
They've destroyed many heroes of fame and renown,
And with your young Donald it may have happened so;
The lad ye love dearly, maybe is laid low."

"My Donald from his promise can never depart,
For love, truth and honour are there in his heart;
And if I never see him, I single will go,
And I'll mourn for my Donald in bonny Glencoe."

Now finding her constant, he pulled out a glove
Where in parting she gave him, in a token of love.
When her eyes fell upon it, the tears down did flow
"Oh you are my Donald, returned to Glencoe"
.

Another seemingly well-known ballad, yet the great majority of Roud's 112 instances refer to US or Canadian sources; only 26 Scots instances are listed.  Nor has it been much recorded here; aside from Lizzie, only the Stewart sisters are listed, and only Sheila's, on Topic TSCD515 From the Heart of the Tradition is available.

A 'broken token' song widely known to Greig and Duncan's informants a hundred years ago.  Peter Hall considered its flowery language suggested an Irish origin, and the constancy of the recorded texts 'does suggest wide printed currency, dating perhaps back to the time of the Peninsular War to which the song refers.'

The favourite ballad of Lizzie's aunt, Elizabeth McDonald - immensely proud of her clan, of whom it was truly said, "There is no joy without Clan Donald".  Brooding Glencoe, the site of the infamous Government 'Massacre of Glencoe' of MacDonalds in 1692 ("with a death roll of about forty, perhaps the most famous massacre per fatality in history") casts no shadow on this idyll of a much later date.

2-17 Johnnie Sangster (Roud 2164, G/D 3:407)
Recorded by Vic Smith at the Royal Oak FC, Lewes, 21.03.73

O aa the seasons o the year
When we maun1 work the sairest,2
The hairvest is the foremost3 time
An yet it is the rarest.4

For you, Johnny, you Johnny,
You, ma Johnny Sangster,
I'll trim the gavel5 o ma sheaf
For you're the gallant bandster6

We rise as seen as morning licht7
Nae craiters8 can be blither.9
We buckle on oor finger steels10
An followed oot the scyther.
For you, Johnny ...

A mornin piece11 to line oor cheek12
Afore we get the forder.13
Wi cloods14 a blue tabacca reek15
We then set oot in order.
For you, Johnny ...

The sheaves are risin thick an fast
An Johnny he maun16 bind them.
The busy group for fear they stick,
They cannae look behind them
For you, Johnny ...

I'll gie ye bands that winnae17 slip;
I'll pleat them weel and thraw18 them
And sure they winnae tine19 the grip,
Hooever weel ye draw20 them.
For you, Johnny ...

"I'll lay ma leg oot ower21 the sheaf
An draw the band sae handy,
Wi ilka strae's as straucht's a rash22
And that will be fine dandy."
For you, Johnny ...

If e'er it chance to be ma lot
To be a gallant bandster,
I'll gar23 him wear a gentle24 coat
An bring him gowd25 in handfu's.
For you, Johnny ...

But Johnny he can please hissel;
I widdnae wish him blinket.26
Sae aifter he has brewed his ale,
He can sit doon and drink it.
For you, Johnny ...

A dainty cooie27 in the byre
For butter and for cheeses,
A grumphie28 feedin in the sty
Will keep the hoose in greases.
For you, Johnny ...

A bonny ewie29 in the bucht30
Would help to creesh31 the ladle
An we'll get ruffs o canny woo32
Would help to theek33 a cradle.
For you, Johnny ...

1 must; 2 hardest; 3 most important; 4 most exciting; 5 gable = base; 6 one who binds sheaves; 7 soon as morning light; 8 creatures/people; 9 happier; 10 finger stalls = leather or cloth protective guards; 11 snack; 12 mouth; 13 get to work again; 14 clouds; 15 smoke; 16 must; 17 will not; 18 twist; 19 lose; 20 tighten; 21 out over; 22 every straw as straight as a rush; 23 have, make; 24 decent; 25 money; 26 hindered; 27 smart looking cow; 28 pig; 29 good quality ewe; 30 sheep-fold; 31 grease; 32 tufts of wool left on whin bushes; 33 thatch, line, thicken.

For a song still so widely sung in Scotland, it's very surprising to find only 12 Roud entries - only one of which was a sound recording; the 1951 BBC disc of a Mrs Mearns, from Aberdeen.  Isla St Clair gives a spirited version on Tatties & Herrin': The Land, Greentrax CDTrax 145 (on which, interestingly, the male bandster's perspective is also given in Band o' Shearers)

Before the reaping machine transformed harvesting from the 1850/60s onwards (together with the later binder and the combine harvester) harvesting teams consisted of scythers, followed by gaitherers (such as the song's singer) who would lay out on straw bands the bundles of cut grain, which the following bandster would convert into sheaves to stook for drying.  The teams (first recorded in 1642) employed by the larger farms were professional and paid by results - hence the need for speed and efficiency.  Thistles made the life of such workers a misery - thus the need for finger protection.  The singer appears so infatuated by her bandster that she says she is willing to work extra hard, by dunting the base of her bundles in order to make them easier for him to handle and stack.  Wages were good for these teams and her dream of sharing a self-sufficient small holding with her intended was not unrealistic.

A song Lizzie learned from her great-uncle Geordie Mhor ['Big Geordie'] Robertson of New Deer, himself a famous horseman, who was a frequent visitor to the house in the 1950s. Geordie had been a friend of Gavin Greig's, playing the pipes in Greig's highly popular stage plays Prince Charlie and Mains's Wooin'.

2-18 Young Emslie (Roud 182, Laws M34)
Recorded by Ailie Munro, Aberdeen, 1970 (SA1970.20.A2)

Young Emslie loved a sailor boy
Young Emslie loved a sailor boy
And why she loved that sailor boy
Because he ploughed in the lowlands low

"If you go to a public house,
A public down by the shore,
An if you chance to enter it
Do not let my parents know"

As young Edward sat a-drinking
As young Edward sat a-drinking
Little, little was he thinking
That sorrow crowned his head

As young Emslie lay a-slumbering
As young Emslie lay a-slumbering
She dreamed a fearful dream

She dreamed they murdered her own true love,
They robbed him and they stabbed him
And they sunk his body-o

"Oh mother dear, oh mother dear,
Come tell to me no lies.
What did youse do with the stranger
Youse had in here last night?"

"Oh daughter dear, oh daughter dear,
To you we will tell no lies.
We murdered him and we stabbed him
And we sunk his body low."

"Oh you cruel, cruel parents,
Oh you cruel, cruel parents,
And for the murder of my ain true love
Youse will die on a public show."

Not a song found in the repertoires of too many current British singers, in Rod's experience, yet Roud has some 203 instances.  But 56 of these are broadsides and another 94 are from North America, so perhaps it's not so surprising.  Unusually, Scotland's 19 entries come from 16 different singers - none of them have been collected twice.  Again unusually, England's 25 entries contain the name of only one well-known singer, Harry Cox, while Ireland's 8 boast Maggie Murphy, Geordie Hanna and Eddie Butcher amongst them.

There are 32 sound recordings in Roud, though only 6 remain available on CD: Maggie Murphy - Veteran VT134CD Linkin' o'er the Lea and Musical Traditions MTCD329-0 The Hardy Sons of Dan; Gabrielle Ijdo - Kyloe 101 Travellers' Tales 2; Harry Cox - Topic TSCD667 It Fell on a Day, a Bonny Summer Day; Geordie Hanna - Topic TSCD653 O'er his Grave the Grass Grew Green; and Ollie Gilbert - Rounder CD1701 Southern Journey 1: Voices from the American South.

Peter Hall considered that this was an English song, its stanza form perhaps modified by chapbook transmission, brought by coastal fishing trade almost a century ago to Aberdeenshire, where it is always sung to this air.  Although also a great favourite of Betsy Whyte's, Lizzie seems to have learned if from her grandmother Maria, in a house filled not only with traditional song but also with popular music of all kinds, from Caruso to Victorian ditties.

Credits:

The introduction and most of the song notes (some by Rod Stradling) were written by Ian Olson, of Aberdeen, who was generously guided by Lizzie's cousin, Stanley Robertson, and also by reference to writings by Stephanie Smith of the Smithsonian Institute.  He was invaluably supported (in alphabetical order) by Bill Dean-Myatt, Sandy Fenton, Andy Hunter, Caroline Macafee, Donald Meek, Tim Neat, Colm O'Boyle, John Purser, Vic Smith, Tom Spiers, Elizabeth Stewart, Jack Taylor, Malcolm Taylor, Brian Youlden, and sadly, posthumously, by the writings of the incomparable Peter Hall and David Buchan.  The enthusiastic librarians of Aberdeen University's Special Collections and Archives gave their customary unstinting help.  Ian also did the final song transcriptions, deeply grateful for Danny Stradling's valiant wrestlings with the Doric in her original draft.

The recordings come from divers sources - principally from tapes made by the late Peter Hall in studios, in his home, in Lizzie's home, and at two concerts in Scotland.  They are used by kind permission of Marion Hall.  Other recordings come from the Archive of the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh, and were made by Ailie Munro and Peter Cooke; the Archive's tape reference numbers are shown after the recording credits.  Still other recordings come from Vic Smith, Tom Spiers and Rod Stradling.

The photographs have also been supplied by several different people: Derek Schofield, Ray Fisher, Marion Hall, Vic Smith, Malcolm Storey, Sara Grey and Arthur Watson.

My sincere thanks to all of them - and to everyone else who has contributed so willingly of their time and expertise:

Booklet: editing, DTP, printing
CD: formatting and production
by Rod Stradling

A Musical Traditions Records production
© 2006

[Track Lists] [Foreword] [Introduction] [Biography] [Lizzie's Singing] [Performance venues] [Language] [Meaning] [The Songs] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

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