The Bleacher Lassie o Kelvinhaugh

On Springthyme SPRCD 1042
Shepheard, Spiers & Watson - They Smiled as We Cam In

Pete Shepheard: A sailor returns to the Clyde after seven years at sea and meets his old sweetheart walking beside the banks of the Kelvin river where she is employed as a bleacher lassie. He makes a playful attempt to proposition her and she initially fails to recognise him. The song proceeds to a happy ending, they get married and keep an alehouse to which they welcome in the sailor laddies to go drinking ‘wi the bleacher lassie o Kelvinhaugh’.

The song which probably dates from around 1800 has remained popular throughout Scotland. This version with its rather unusual and fine tune is from John McDonald of Motherwell who sang for me what he referred to as ‘the old way of the song’ in his trailer on Marshall’s field, Alyth during the berrypicking season of August 1965. (GD 5:1041; Roud 3325)

Pete (vocal) with Tom (fiddle) and Arthur (whistle)

1: As I roved out one fine summer’s morning,
Doun by the banks o sweet Kelvinhaugh;
It was there I spied a wee bleacher lassie,
She had cheeks like the roses, her skin like snaw.

2: Says I, “Ma lassie, where are ye going,
And what ye do I would like to know.”
“Kind sir,” she answered, “I am but a bleacher,
Fae Cochrane’s bleach fields near Kelvinhaugh.”

3: “O lassie, lassie, I’ve gold and silver,
And I would buy you silks sae braw.”
“O no kind sir, it’s the truth I tell you,
For I have a sweetheart and he’s far awa.”

4: “For it’s seven lang years since he’s gaed and left me,
And seven more I would wait on him;
O no kind sir, I would raither tarry,
And bleach ma claes here on sweet Kelvinhaugh.”

5: “O lassie, lassie ye are hard hearted,
But such a fair face I never saw;
For ma heart’s aye breakin, baith night and mornin,
For the bleacher lassie fae Kelvinhaugh.”

6: “Dae ye see thon ships sailing doun the ocean?
Dae ye see them sailing doun the Broomielaw?
O lassie, lassie dae ye no remember,
The day we pairted on sweet Kelvinhaugh.”

7: “O laddie, laddie I weel remember,
The day we pairted on sweet Kelvinhaugh;
Aa the sailor laddies, they aa got tipsy,
Wi the bleacher lassie fae Kelvinhaugh.”

8: It’s noo this couple they hae got mairried,
They keep an alehoose atween them twa;
And aa the sailor laddies, they aa go drinkin,
Wi the bleacher lassie fae Kelvinhaugh.

c p 2006 Springthyme Records • Springthyme Music