Old Songs & Bothy Ballads

'Some Rants o Fun'

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The Songs
1: The Barnyards o Delgaty • Gordon Easton

The farm of Barnyards on the Delgaty castle estate a mile from Turriff gave rise to this - one of the most famous of the old bothy ballads. The song is no doubt a parody of life as it would really have been on this particular farm which was one of the finest in the northeast.

1: As I gaed doun tae Turra market,
Turra market for tae fee,
I fell in wi a fairmer chiel,
Fae the Barnyards o Delgaty.

Liltan adie, touran adie,
Liltan adie, touran ae,
O liltan louran louran louran,
The Barnyards o Delgaty.

2: In Bristol there lived a Fair Damsel • Anita Best

Anita learnt this song from her cousin Lily in her younger days at home in one of the fishing outports of Newfoundland - on Merasheen island in Placentia Bay. It is a rare traditional song (Roud 916) which probably has its origin in England in the early 1800s with versions also known from Nova Scotia, Ontario, Gloucestershire and from Ireland.

In Bristol there lived a fair damsel,
And she being a beauty most bright;
A sailor he loved her fond company,
Far dearer than he loved his own life.

3: The Collier Laddie • Bob Blair

I've traivelled East and I've traivelled West,
And I hae been tae Kirkcaldy;
But the bonniest lass I ever spied,
She wis folaein her collier laddie,
laddie o laddie,
Aye the bonniest lass I ever spied,
She wis follaein her collier laddie.

4: Bonnie Susie Cleland • Maureen Jelks

This is a version of the ballad of Lady Maisry (Child 65) and, in this form, it was originally collected by William Motherwell in the west of Scotland and first published (words and tune) in his Minstrelsy of 1827. It does not seem to have survived in the living tradition but has been recorded by several singers in recent years.

There lived a lady in Scotland,
Hey my love and ho my joy
There lived a lady in Scotland,
Wha dearly loed me;
There lived a lady in Scotland,
And she's faan in love wi an Englishman,
And Bonnie Susie Cleland's tae be burnt in Dundee.

5: Atween Stanehive and Laurenkirk • Geordie Murison

Geordie is from near Stonehaven in Kincardineshire on the coast north of Arbroath. The local pronunciation of Stonehaven is Stanehive, and Larencekirk is a small town in a farming area a little inland - a place locally pronounced as Laurenkirk. Clochenhill, the farmer mentioned in the last verse and named after the farm in traditional fashion, is probably the same as Clochnahill, just off the main Laurencekirk to Stonehaven road, the farm that was farmed by Robert Burns' father before he left left the howe to seek elsewhere for a better livelihood. See: www.mearns.org/skite.htm

Atween Stanehive and Laurenkirk last term I did fee,
Was wi a wealthy fairmer, his foreman for tae be;
Tae caa his twa best horses was what I had tae do,
Was a task that I could manage weel baith in his cairt an ploo.

6: Young Johnstone • Ellen Mitchell

This rare old ballad (Child 88) has survived in the song tradition of the Scottish traveller family of Johnstones. It has been collected from several members of the family since the 1960s - Duncan Johnstone of Birnam in 1967 when in his 80s, his niece Margaret Johnstone recorded in Fife in 1968, another niece Betsy White (nee Johnstone) author of two books about Scottish traveller life The Yellow on the Broom and Red Rowans and Wild Honey and also from Betsy's sister in Australia.

Johnston and the Young Cornel,
Sat drinkin high at wine;
"O I will marry your sister,
If you will marry mine."

7: The Bonnie Banks o Fordie • Anita Best

This ancient ballad continues to turn up in the living tradition both in Scotland and North America - and here is a version from Newfoundlkand. Three sisters out walking meet with a man, a robber, who asks them one at a time to be his wife. The first two refuse and he kills them. The third tells him that she has a brother in the woods and that he will take revenge if she suffers any harm. The man asks what her brothers do and what are their names. He then realises that he is one of her brothers and that he has just killed two of his sisters.

Three young maids went out for a walk
All alee an a liney O
They met a young man on the path
By the bonnie bonnie banks o Fordie O

8: Amang the Neeps and the Barley • Ron Bissett
Here Ron sings Amang the Neeps and the Barley - a song composed in the 1970s by Jean Sutherland of Newburgh in Fife.

Oh I mind o the time I grew tired o the fairm,
I made up ma mind I wad leave at the term;
I wad gang tae the city, a fortune I'd mak,
And I would be happy - I'd never go back.

Amang the neeps and the barley, the corn and the rye,
As sure as ye're livin, I'll tell ye nae lie,
Though I never have riches and the world pass me bye,
I'll be a ploughboy till the day that I die.
Toora lye, toora lee,
Oh hoo wad ye, hoo wad ye like tae be me.

9: A Fair Maid in her Garden Walking • Margaret Spiers
A song known throughout Scotland, England and in north America.

A fair maid in her garden was walking,
A brisk young sailor came riding by,
He stepped up to her intent tae woo her,
And said, "Fair maid wad ye fancy I?"

10: Briggie's Gerse Park • Gordon Easton
Full of Gordon’s rich Buchan dialect, the song tells the tale of Tammy Reid’s attempt to clear Briggie’s grass meadow of molehills. An old poem set to a tune Cock o the North by Gordon.

Noo Briggie’s gerse park wis a mess wi the moles an the nowts meat wis cut doun be half;
Wi the weather bein dry, the gerse etten sae bare, tae keep them in meat wis a chauve;
So they got Tammy Reid a stout halflin chiel tae scatter the heaps wi a spad,
The park it wis big, twenty acre an mair, and the heat nearly drave Tammy mad.

11: John Barleycorn • Duncan Williamson
The character of John Barleycorn in the song represents the spirit of the harvest, and of the alcohol made from it - whisky and beer. In the song, John Barleycorn suffers from the ploughing of the ground, the reaping of the crop, the milling of the grain and the conversion of the grain into alcohol. Finally a glass of the liquor is in raised as a toast to his health. Duncan's version comes from his family tradition. The song was known to Robert Burns and is widespread in English tradition.

There were three kings into the East,
Three kings both great and high,
And they have sworn a solemn oath,
John Barleycorn must die;
So they took a plough, they ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And then they swore a solemn oath,
John Barleycorn was dead.

Oho, ho poor Barley, oh poor Barleycorn,
They would cut the heart from a dying man,
To hear John Barley groan.

12: The Union from St John's • Anita Best
The population of Newfoundland has depended on the sea for a living and many of the songs in the repertoire reflect the hardships of the sea. This song tells of the wreck of a sailing ship, the Union from St John's.

Ye landsmen and ye landsmen bold,
'Tis little do yous know,
What we poor sailors do endure,
When the stormy winds do blow.

13: The Lassie and the Butcher • Hamish Grant
A young lassie takes the road from Crieff to Perth and on the way she meets in with a butcher. In no time at all she falls to the ground and her plaidie is blown away in the wind - a neat piece of sexual symbolism that is developed through the rest of the song. The song was included in Robert Ford's Vagabond Songs in 1899 and it was a favourite in old Jimmy McBeath's repertoire in the 1960s. The song itself may have originated in the 1800s but the plaidie symbolism is much older and is included in the refrain of the ancient ballad The Elfin Knight (Child #2) with a version that was old in 1673.

There once was a lassie and she cam in fae Crieff,
She met a butcher laddie and he was sellin beef;
And he's gien tae her the middle cut and doon she did faa,
And the wind blew the bonnie lassie's plaidie awa.

For the wind blaws east and the wind blaws west,
The wind blew the bonnie lassie's plaidie awa;
The beef was in her basket and she couldna rise ava,
And the wind blew the bonnie lassie's plaidie awa.

14: Traiveller's Joy • Susan McClure
A song of the traveller life composed by Glasgow poet and songwriter Helen Fullerton.

I ken a lass she has nae name,
Nor hame that she wad go to;
She traivels lighter than the swan
That builds it's nest on Lochan Dhu.

It's will ye bundle and will ye go,
Or are ye want tae leave me?
It's will ye bundle and will ye go,
Or at the shearin wi me?

15: The Beggar Man • Gordon Easton
Gordon’s fine version of the The Beggar Man - a song whose authorship is often attributed to King James V - comes from his grandmother’s repertoire.

A beggar man come ower yon lea,
He wis seekin alms for charity;
He wis seekin lodgins for charity,
Wad ye lodge a beggarman.

16: The Brundenlaws • Henry Douglas
It seems likely that the song could be based on an actual youthful prank. Henry got his version of the song from George Jeffrey, a former Provost of Jedburgh, who thought that his father (who had died aged 93 years) had composed the song. A further version, collected from James Cockburn of Mellandean, Kelso, can be found in Tocher # 5 (1972) pp. 150 – 51.

Twas yin fine night in sweet July,
The night was dark and the moon was high:
When three bonnie lads on mischief bent,
Away to the Brundenlaws they went.

Little an a touran an ootan adie.
Little an a touran antan ae.

17: Bonnie Glenshee
This beautiful song came to the fore in the 1960s when it was recorded by the Stewarts of Blair sung to the accompaniment of Alex on the goose (a pipe chanter). Cathie Stewart had the song (the first three verses anyway) from her husband's mother Charlotte Higgins of Blairgowrie.

Dae ye see yon high hills aa covered ower wi snaw,
They hae pairted mony's a true love and they'll soon pairt us twa.

Busk, busk bonnie lassie, aye and come awa wi me,
And I'll tak ye tae Glenisla near bonnie Glenshee.

Recordings by Tom Spiers. Production by Peter Shepheard.
All songs copyright control or arranged Gordon Easton.