Pete Shepheard from Balmalcolm, Fife: On Autumn Harvest ah010: Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: Hurrah Boys Hurrah! Live from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2010.
The hero of this fine old ballad is known by various names - Johnny Cock in the borders, Johnnie o Braidislee, Johnie o Cocklesmuir and in Jeannie Robertson's Aberdeenshire version as Johnnie the Brine. Francis James Child was particularly keen on the ballad for which he includes 13 texts and two tunes in his English and Scottish Popular Ballads and he refers to it as this precious specimen of the unspoiled traditional ballad. Bronson includes 15 versions. Almost all the known versions have been collected in Scotland (all of Bronson's 15 versions) and it is still part of the living tradition with traditional singers from Fife to Aberdeenshire and to the Borders continuing to provide fresh variants. The version sung here is more or less as collected by Pete in 1968 near Cupar, Fife from Willie Stewart a traveller aged around 25 at the time who learned the song from his father Dights (David) Stewart (Child 114, GD 2.250, Roud 69).
|1: Johnnie arose on a May, May morn,
He called for water tae wash his hands;
Saying, "Lowse tae me ma twa grue hounds,
That lie bound in iron bands, bands,
That lie bound in iron bands."
2: Johnnie's mother was a-standing by,
And a tear cam tae her ee;
Sayin, "Dinna ye gang doun by yon merry green woods,
Or your heid it will be set free, set free
Or your heid it will be set free."
3: But Johnny he's awa doun be Monymusk,
An by thon whinnie knowe,
And there he spied a young roe deer,
She was eating a bush o broom, o broom
She was eating a bush o broom.
4: He's taen his arrow fae his back.
And his bow fae aff his side,
Saying, "If my arrow does prove true,
I'll spoil that young deer's pride, her pride
I'll spoil that young deer's pride."
5: And the very first arrow he fired at her,
He wounded her on the side,
And atween the water and the woods,
His twa dogs laid her pride, her pride,
His twa dogs laid her pride.
6: And they ate so much o the venison,
And they drank sae much of her bleed;
That Johnny and his twa grey hounds
Lay a-sleep as they were deid, were deid,
Lay a-sleep as they were deid.
7: Then by there cam a silly auld man,
And an ill death may he dee;
For he's awa and he's telt the foresters,
That the poacher he did see, did see,
That the poacher he did see.
8: Then up and spak the eldest forester,
The eldest amangst them aa;
Saying, "If that is John o Graidie," he says,
Then we'd better leave him a-be, a-be,
Then we'd better leave him a-be."
9: Then up and spak the youngest forester,
He was Johnny's sister's son;
"If that be Johnny o Graidie," he says,
"Then his heid will come wi me, wi me
Then his heid will come wi me."
10: And as he's gaed doun be Monymusk,
And by thon bunch o scroggs;
It was there he spied the poacher bold,
Laid asleep atween twa dogs, twa dogs,
Laid asleep atween twa dogs.
11: Now the very first arrow he fired at him,
He wounded him on the thigh;
And the very next arrow he fired at him,
His hert’s blood blinned his eye, his eye,
His hert’s blood blined his eye.
12: "Is there a bird into this forest,
That would carry the tidings hame,
That would go up an tell my mother dear,
Johnny o Graidie's deid an gane, an gane,
Johnny o Graidie's deid an gane?"
13: Then up an spak the robin bird,
The sma'est amangst them aa,
Saying, "I'll go an I'll tell your mother dear,
John o Graidie's deid and awa, awa,
John o Graidie's deid and awa."
14: For I'll tell her a story she'll believe that's true,
I'll carry the tidings hame,
That the poacher boy fae Monymusk,
He is laid as cold as stone, as stone,
He is laid as cold as stone."
c p 2011 Autumn Harvest : www.springthyme.co.uk