Old Songs & Bothy Ballads

For Friendship and for Harmony

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1: The Hairst o Rettie * Joe Aitken

One of the greatest of the serious bothy ballads. 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 1800s. Joe picked up this song from the late Charlie Murray of Craigeassie near Forfar who had learned it in turn from the singing of Jimmy McBeath.

I hae seen the Hairst o Rettie, aye an twa three on the throne,
I've heard for sax or seiven weeks the hairsters girn an groan;
But wi a covie Willie Rae a monthie an a day,
Sends aa the jolly hairster singin blithely doun the brae.
[on the throne = farms of that ilk

2: When I Wis Noo but Sweet Sixteen * Stanley Robertson

Widely known in Scottish tradition today and a favourite song in Stanley's family. Stanley's aunt Jeannie Robertson's shorter version was published in Buchan and Hall: The Scottish Folksinger (1973) and a bothy version sung by Charlie Murray is on SPR 1003 recorded at the Kinross Festival in 1974.

When I wis new but sweet saxteen,
In beauty all in bloomimg O,
Oh little, little did I think,
At nineteen I'd be greetin O.

For the plooman lads they're gey wee lads,
They're fause an deceivin O,
For they'll pack their kist and they'll sign an list,
And they'll leave the lassies greetin O.

3: The Butcher Boy * Elizabeth Stewart

This widely popular murder ballad appears to derive from a text first published in the early 1700s under the title The Berkshire Tragedy or The Wittam Miller. Elizabeth has a particularly complete version of this ballad with elements of the story often absent elsewhere.

Oh ma parents they gaed tae me good learning,
Good learnin they gaed tae me;
They sent me tae a butcher shop,
A butcher boy tae be.

4: Ythanside * Jock Duncan

Jock understands this popular north east song to have been composed by John Gordon of Mansfield around 1830. The river Ythan rises 7 miles east of Huntly in Aberdeesnhire. It flows east to Bruckhills, northeast to Mains of Towie and then south to Fyvie from where it meanders generally southwards to Ellon before reaching one of the most unspoiled river estuaries in the British Isles at Newburgh Bar 12 miles north of Aberdeen.

As I cam in by Ythanside,
Whaur swiftly flows the rolling tide,
A fair young maid passed by ma side,
She looked at me and smiled.
She was a maid of beauty bricht,
That ever trod the Braes o Gight,
I could hae spent a leelang nicht,
Wi her on Ythanside.

5: Bold Princess Royal * Louis Killen

Of all the pirate ballads, this one, in which crime emphatically does not pay, is perhaps the best known - on both sides of the Atlantic. In England it has been recorded in sea-faring communities right down the east coast from Yorkshire to Sussex and East Anglian singers are particularly fond of it. This version is close to the first of three versions in the Greig Duncan collection in both tune and text.

On the fourteenth of February we sailed from the land,
On the bold Princess Royal bound for Newfoundland;
We had forty brave seamen in the ship's company,
And it's boldlye from the eastward to the westward sailed we.

6: I am Wearin Awa John * Chris Miles

It was probably a version of this old song that gave Lady Nairne the inspiration to write her verses The Land o the Leal in 1798. Gavin Greig received a number of versions when he enquired for verses of the song for inclusion in his weekly column in the Buchan Observer from 1907 to 1911.

I am wearin awa John,
I am wearin awa John,
I'm wearin awa tae the land o the leal,
Sae be kind tae your nainsel John O.

Ye'll heat anither drink tae me John O,
Ye'll heat anither drink tae me John O,
Wi a wee bit o butter and a little puckle sucker,
And a wee, wee drappie o a dram John.

7: Up a Wild and Lonely Glen * Stanley Robertson

A song that is still widely found in the living tradition under various titles including the Bonnie Lass among the Heather - often with very beautiful modal tunes as here.

It's up a wild and lonely glen,
Shaded by many a fearful mountain,
'Twas far fae the busy haunts o men,
The first day that I gaed oot a-huntin.

8: Binnorie * Norman Kennedy

Binnorie or the Twa Sisters is one of the oldest of the classic Scots ballads - number 10 in Francis J Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads - and widely popular, with more than 100 versions with tune in Bertrand Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads.

There wis twa sisters bade in a booer,
Binnorie O, Binnorie,
There cam a knight tae be their wooer,
By the bonnie mill dams o Binnorie.

9: Bogie's Bonnie Belle * Joe Aitken

Most traditional singers in the North East have a version of Bogie's Bonnie Belle in their repertoire - sung to a variety of rather beautiful tunes. The farmer Bogieside o Cairney or Bogie for short, did not approve when his daughter Belle fell pregnant to one of his fee'd farm servants, and the young lad was sent packing without a penny o his fee in spite of his love for Belle and his offer to marry her. The farmer Bogie comes to rue his actions after Belle runs off with a tinker and is seen hawking his goods from town to town.

Ae Witsuntide at Huntly toon, 'twas there I did agree,
Wi auld Bogieside the fairmer a saxmonth for tae fee;
Auld Bogie wis a surly carle and this I knew fu well,
But he had a lovely dochter and her name was Isabelle.

10: Ferretin * John Malcolm

Written by retired police officer Norman Burns of Elgin with a tune put to it by local bothy song enthusiasts Raymond Wood and Millie Herd.

I never thocht I'd see the day that Hillie's Jock wis mairrit,
For the only love he seemed tae hae wis poachin wi a ferret;
But ye'll never ken when rabbitin will lose a loon's attention,
And he starts tae tak an interest in - the things ye mauna mention.

11: The Cruel Mother * Elizabeth Stewart

One of the most enduringly popular of the classic traditional ballads with many versions from England, Scotland and North America. Elizabeth's version of this horrific ballad is from her family tradition - first recorded by American folklorist Kenneth Goldstein from Elizabeth's aunt Lucy Stewart of Fetterangus in the 1950s.

It's Logan's woods and Logan's braes,
Whaur I helped ma bonnie lassie on wi her claes;
First her hose then and her sheen,
She gaen me the slip when I wis deen.

12: Guise o Tough * Jock Duncan

One of the most popular and widely known of the older bothy ballads. It's popularity certainly partly due to it's inclusion in John Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads published in 1930.

As I gaed up tae Alford for tae get a fee,
I met in wi Jimmy Broon, wi him I did agree.
Come a hi come a doo, hi come a day,
Hi come a diddle come a dandy O.

13: When Fortune Turns the Wheel * Louis Killen

A song often printed as a broadside and whose popularity may also have been helped by its inclusion in John Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads.

Come fill the cup, let's drink about, this nicht we'll merry be,
For friendship and for harmony, likewise my comrades three;
Tae meet yince mair some ither nicht my secret joy reveal,
For I now maun stray so far away til fortune turns the wheel.

14: The Lakes of Shillin * Sheila Stewart

A tragic Irish ballad that was a favourite of Sheila's sister Cathy. The song is very likely based on a real incident and is said to be from around 1800 in the Enniskillen area. There are many versions from Ireland, Scotland and North America and the name of the drowned man and the lake vary greatly. The song was printed on broadside with the name of the lake as Colfin and Shelin.

It been a fine summer's morning when Willie Leonard arose,
And straight to his comrade's bed window did go;
Saying, "Arise up Willie and let nobody know,
'Tis a fine summer's morning and a-bathing we'll go".

15: Ellon Feeing Market * Joe Aitken

A comic bothy song where a young man goes to the feeing market to find work.

Come aa ye jolly plooman lads that wark amon the grun,
Come listen tae ma story if ye want tae hae some fun;
I'm nae sae young as I used tae be, some say I've had ma fling,
But I feel jist like a ten year aul when I begin tae sing.

16: Yowie wi the Crookit Horn * Elizabeth Stewart

An old song lamenting the loss of a pet sheep with a crooked horn stolen away by a young rogue. The song is claimed as composed by Rev John Skinner (1721-1807) but he may well have added verses to an older song.

Ma yowie wi the crookit horn,
Ma yowie wi the crookit horn;
A siccan a yowie ne'er wis born,
She's taen fae me and taen awa.

17: The Castlegate * Norman Kennedy

An ever popular song of a young ploughboy who goes to town on a spree and falls into a scrape with a young woman.

As I cam ower the Castlegate,
I met a fair young lass;
And she gaed me a wink wi the tail o her ee,
As I cam walkin past.
Ricky doo dum day, doo dum day,
Ricky dicky doo dum day.

Credits: Thanks are due to Fife Council for their generous support, to Jim & Edna at the Birnie Centre, Collessie for hosting the event and to all the artistes who have freely given their permission for the inclusion of their songs on this CD. Profits from sale of the CD will go towards supporting the aims of the East of Scotland Traditional Song Group. Recorded at the 3rd Fife Traditional Singing Festival in May 2005 by Tom Spiers and Ian Russell. Mastered by Tom Spiers. Design, song transcriptions and notes by Peter Shepheard. Sleeve photo: Sheila Stewart & Elizabeth Stewart by Graham Brotherston.

Copyright in song arrangements reserved to the individual artistes while copyright in the recordings is reserved to the East of Scotland Traditional Song Group and Autumn Harvest Recordings.

c p 2006 Autumn Harvest : www.springthyme.co.uk