The Hairst o Rettie

On Springthyme SPRCD 1039
Jock Duncan - Ye Shine Whar Ye Stan!

One of the greatest of the serious bothy ballads (GD 408, Ord p271). This famous song tells of the change over from the scythe to the back delivery reaper which took place in a big way in the middle of the last century. Jock dedicates this song to the late Charlie Murray of Craigeassie by Forfar who 'never failed to sing a good Hairst o Rettie.'

1: Oh I've seen the Hairst o Rettie lads
An twa three on the throne, [i.e. farms of that ilk
I've hard for sax or seiven weeks [i.e. heard
The hairsters girn an groan;
For a covie Willie Rae
In a monthie an a day,
Gars aa the jolly hairster lads
Ging singin doun the brae.

2: Oh a monthie and a day ma lads,
The like wis niver seen,
It's beats tae sticks the fastest strips
O Vicker's new machine;
A Speedwell noo brings up the rear,
An a Victory clears the way,
An twinty acre daily yields
Nor stands tae Willie Rae.

3: For he drives the horses roun the parks
At sic an awfa rate,
An he steers them in an oot again
At mony's a kittle gate;
And he wiles them safely ower the clods [i.e. coaxes
An roun mony's a spootie hole, [i.e. spring of water
But he comes by nae mishanter [i.e. no mishap
If you leave him wi the pole. [i.e. in charge

4: An he sharps their blades tae mak them bite,
An he taps them on the jaws,
An if he fins them dully like, [i.e. blunt
Weel he brawly kens the cause;
A boltie here, a pinnie there,
A little oot o tune,
An he shortly stops their wild career
An brings the slushet doun. [i.e. into gear

5: He whittles aff at corners,
An maks crookit bitties stracht,
An he sees that man and beast alike
Are equal in the draucht;
An aa wir shavies lyin stracht [i.e. sheaves straight
An neen o them agley, [i.e. none out of line
For he can count wi ony dominie [i.e. any teacher
Fae the Deveron tae the Spey.

6: Oh he's nae made up o mony words
Nor kent tae puff an lee,
He's jist as keen a little chap
As ever ye did see;
If ye be scarce o harvest wark [i.e. short of
Upon a market day,
Tak my advice, be there on time
An look for Willie Rae.

7: Noo we hae gotten the shavies in about
An aa wir ruckies ticht, [i.e. the corn ricks built
We gaither roun a festive board
Tae spend a jolly nicht;
Wi Scottish song and mutton broth
Tae drive all cares away,
An we'll drink success tae Rettie lads,
An adieu tae Willie Rae.

8: Oh come aa ye jolly Rettie coves,
A ringin cheer, hurrah!
A band o better workin lads
A gaffer niver saw;
Aa eager aye tae play their part
And ready for the fray,
It was you that made the boatie row,
'Twas steered by Willie Rae.

Jock: There wis Jimmy (McBeath), ootside the beer tent an aa the boys wis roun him ready poised wi the beers in their hand listenin tae Jimmy. "Fit wad ye like tae hear," he says. "The Hairst o Rettie, Jimmy." He started and stuck at the second line. So I telt him, "Aye an twa three on the throne." An on he went. And then after he'd finished he cam over. "Fit wey ye ken that sang man?" Well I'd heard it from aul John Strachan . . . . . .

c p 1996 Springthyme Records :