Old Songs & Bothy Ballads 5

Grand To Be a Working Man

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1: In The Shade of The Lamp * Alex Clarke

Learned from the singing of Alec's granny. She told him they were old music hall songs from the repertoire of PP Bell, a well known Dundee music hall entertainer of the 1890s. PP Bell was said to be the natural father of Stuartie Foy who recorded his own composition Coming over the Tay Bridge tae Bonnie Dundee in 1986 (on Springthyme SPR 1017 but not yet on CD) when he was in his 90s.

In the shade o the lamp on oor stair,
Ye're share tae find my sister there,
Wi a lad caad Mackay, he's only one eye,
On the tap o his head there's nae hair;
In the shade o that bonnie wee licht,
They're share tae be there every nicht,
For like twa little dears, they've been stannin for years,
In the shade o the lamp on oor stairs.

2: Pretty Saro * Sara Grey

This was sung by Cas Wallin, Madison County, North Carolina. It has been collected in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, the Ozarks, Indiana, and Iowa amongst other states. The Frank C Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore suggests that that the odd line "banks of said brow" might be a corruption of the line of the another version which has "the mountain's sad brow". The use of the word “freeholder” places the song’s origin in England as the term is not used in the United States.

When I first came to this country in eighteen and forty nine,
I thought myself lucky but I never saw mine;
I viewed them all around me, I found I was quite alone,
And me a poor stranger and a long way from home.

It appears that "Pretty Saro" and its doppelgaenger "At the Foot of Yonder Mountain" are mostly derived from "The Streams of Bunclody." The 1749 date looks good too. There is a local tradition that "The Streams of Bunclody" was written from America by an immigrant from County Wicklow and sent back to Ireland. If this immigrant or a son or daughter or someone who had the song from him was among the early European settlers of the Appalachians, the American versions could easily have been adapted from the immigrant's song. 1749 could be the date of the immigrant's arrival in America, although the stanza with the date did not go back to Ireland or was dropped there. Of course, there are a lot of floating lyrics here, and John Moulden points out the dangers of taking such material as a basis for identifying oral texts as versions of the same song. What one must look for is distinctive stanzas: otherwise there would be just one song of which "Pretty Saro," "On Top of Old Smokey," "The Month of January," "The Wagoner's Lad" and countless others would be examples. But these do have distinctive content and it seems that "Streams of Bunclody" begat "Pretty Saro". [Note from Sara Grey].

3: Grand To Be a Working Man * Brian Watson

Written by Terry Conway of Allendale, Northumberland.

Now it's early in the mornin and I'd like tae lie the day,
But that's not the way the work gets done, I've heard the old men say;
So I'll up and get the claes on for it's time to be away,
Oh it's grand to be a working man,
Working man, working man,
Oh it's grand to be a working man.

4: I Once Loved a Boy * Ellen Mitchell

There are several versions of this song in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection (6:1141). Ellen learned this version from the singing of Daisy Chapman whose CD on Musical Traditions (MTCD 308) includes this among some other great songs www.springthyme.co.uk/archive/daisy.htm

I once had a boy and a bonny, bonny boy,
And a boy that I once callèd mine;
But noo he's gaen and left me all for some other one,
And he's left me to sing fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well,
And he's left me to sing fare-thee-well.

5: Often Drunk and Seldom Sober * Jimmy Hutchison

Learned from the singing of Old Davie Stewart (the Galoot) whose rendition of the song was recorded by Hamish Henderson and is on Greentrax CDTRAX9052. Davie became well known in the Scottish folk revival of the 1960s when he was a regular guest at the St Andrews Folk Club where Jimmy was one of the organisers. Davie was one of Scotland's travelling people, who sang and played melodeon as he travelled around the country, a well kent face at Scotland's feeing markets and country fairs and as a busker in the streets of Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow. He probably picked up this song in Ireland - the song certainly seems to contain a mixture of Irish and Scottish elements.

Oh I'm often drunk and I'm seldom sober,
I'm a constant rover from town to town;
And when I'm sick and my days are over,
Oh lay me down my Molly Bawn.

6: Low Down in the Broom * Shona Donaldson

First published in John Pinkerton's Select Scottish Ballads (1783). The song gave rise to an English song under the same title that has survived in current tradition and was often printed on songsheets of the 1800s and has been recorded in recent time by Eliza Carthy and others.

My daddy is a cankered carle,
He'll no twin wi his gear,
My mither she's a scaldin wife,
Hauds aa the hoose a-steer.
But let them say or let them do,
It's aa the ane tae me,
For he's low down in the broom,
He's waiting in the broom for me.

7: Pirn-Taed Jockie • Jock Duncan

From the pen of George Bruce Thomson, one time trainee chemist in New Deer, Aberdeenshire and a prolific composer of songs. He clearly loved to make full use of the local broad Scots vocabulary — the Doric. According to Jock's mother, he sometimes tested out his songs on the customers for approval. Jock is sure most of his songs were lost or given away. Gavin Greig included several of George Thomson's songs in his weekly Buchan Observer articles around 1910. This songs is number 1220 in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection published by Mercat Press (1995). The tune is given by Thomson as "The Girl I Left Behind Me" for the verse and "The White Cockade" for the chorus.

Oh fin I wis a little wee pirn-taed loonie, [pigeon-toed lad
I was aye caad silly little Jockie, [called
Ae nicht I wis sittin on my grannie's window sill
Eatin sweeties oot a broon paper pyockie; [poke/bag
By cam a lassie an she offered me a kiss,
A thing I wid never think o scornin,
But she bolted wi ma sweeties, dang my heid through the windae,
An ma grannie tellt me that neist mornin: [next
Oh never tie a kettle tull a big dog's tail,
Nor tak a drink o water oot a bucket or a pail,
For it's plain tae unnerstan as a bawbee for a bap, [halfpenny; bread roll
That the reidest cheekit aipples aye are gotten at the tap;
A laddie aince pit snuff in his aul grannie's tea,
But he drunk it up himsel 'fore he noticed, so they say,
But I'll wager tuppence happeny, though it's aa I caa ma ain, [call, own
The nickum never tigget wi her sneeshin mill again. [rogue; tampered; snuff mill

8: Redesdale and Wise William • Chris Coe

Text and tune adapted by Chris Coe from the Perthshire repertoire of the Harris sisters written down in the early 1800s and included in FJ Child's The English and Scottish Ballads (Child 246). Amelia Harris learned the ballad in childhood in the late 1700s from her old nurse and no other tune appears to have been found - and the tune and ballad are included in Bertrand Bronson's The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads Volume 4 (1972). The songs and ballads of the Harris sisters are the subject of a recent monograph by Emily Lyle et al: The Song Repertoire of Amelia and Jane Harris, Scottish Text Society (2002).

Redesdale and wise William,
Sat drinking at the wine,
And all the talk between them two,
Was about the ladies fine,
Was about the ladies fine.

Note from Chris: Delighted that you're using Redesdale and Wise William. I worked to make it singable about 20 years ago as I had never heard it sung and found the story very satisfying. The text is from Child and the tune from Bronson but the song has changed during the years of singing and I haven't a set-in-stone way of singing any song. I enjoy playing with rhythm, words etc. The text is mainly Child B (i.e. Harris) with use of the Child A text when it helped Anglicise. I've flattened the tune and that's a shame. I'll work on it for future singings! Apologies re the childhood colloquialism 'sling your hook' - from a sailing father - that I sing sometimes as a joke!

9: John Riley's Always Dry • Alex Clarke

Alex Clarke has two verses slightly changed from the original song as written by Edward Harrigan and published by Wm A Pond & Co of New York (1881). Harrigan and Hart performed this song as part of their variety act, spoofing the "militia" units that New York politicians sponsored in the 1870's. Members gathered to drink free beer, after which they performed drunken drills in the streets. Harrigan and Hart performed the number while stumbling about in ill-fitting uniforms. The song was included in their musical comedy Mulligan's Silver Wedding involving the politically ambitious saloon owner Dan Mulligan. The verses are in 4/4 time while the chorus is in 3/4. Verses 3 and 4 are added from the Harrigan and Hart text.

1: I have a great companion, boys,
John Riley is his name,
In fair or stormy weather, boys,
John Riley's always the same;
His heart is like a mountain,
And his honour ye can't deny,
But with his elbow bending, boys,
John Riley's always dry.

Drinking ale by the pail,
Then he'd order Susanna to go out and buy,
Dublin Stout then he'd shout,
Drink whisky and never say die;
Whisky wine, gin and wine,
Then he'd bend for his bottle and then he would cry,
"Mary Ann, fill your can,
For the honourable John Riley is dry."

10: The Merry Willow Tree • Sara Grey

A version of the Golden Vanity (Child #286) from Ollie Gilbert from Timbo Arkansas. The ballad is still widely found in tradition under a variety of names including Golden Willow Tree, The Sweet Trinity (Randolph, Vol. I, #38), The Lowlands Low (Brown, Vol. II, #47), The Sweet Trinity (Belden, p. 97), The Sweet Kumadee.

O there was a little ship that sailed upon the sea,
And the name of the ship was the Merry Willow Tree;
As she sails upon the low and lonesome low,
Sails upon the lonesome sea.

11: The Bonnie Wee Lassie • Tom Spiers

Words based on Jeannie Robertson’s version. Tune based on Bundle & Go, from Greig~Duncan. Words and tune modified by Tom Spiers.

Oh I've come tae a pass far I met a wee lass,
And said I, "Ma wee lass are ye willing tae go?"
She says, "Sir, I will if ye gie me a gill,
For it's I'm the wee lassie that never said no."

12: The Rue and The Thyme • Ellen Mitchell

There are several versions of this song in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection (6:1139) with quite varied texts and tunes.

There's a rose in yon garden is now in full bloom,
Has been spreading and growing, it will soon be a tree;
I reached right in tae it the red rose tae find,
But a thorn pricked my finger and I left it behind.
Oh rue, oh rue, oh rue is in prime,
Oh ye'll pull the red rose, I will pull the rue in time.

13: The Kielder Hunt • Brian Watson

A Northumbrian song celebrating a day with the Kielder Hunt - a fox hunt followed on foot over the border hills. Written by James Armstrong of Redesdale in the nineteenth century, the song is equally well known north of the border and became particularly well known in the folk clubs of the 1960s and the TMSA festivals of the 1970s and beyond through the singing of border shepherd the late Willie Scott of Hawick.

Hark hark I hear Lang Will's clear voice ring thro the Kielder Glen,
Where the raven flaps her glossy wing and the fell fox has his den,
There the shepherd lads are gathering up wi mony a guid yauld grew,
An wiry terrier game an keen an foxhound fleet and true.
Hark away! Hark away!
Ower the bonnie hills o Kielder, hark away!

14: Gypsy Laddies • Shona Donaldson

One of the most widely known of all the old narrative ballads - number 200 in FJ Childs The English and Scottish Popular Ballads - with 11 versions from Scotland, England and the USA. By the time Bertrand Bronson was compiling his The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads (four volumes published between 1959 and 1972) he was able to include 128 versions of the ballad with tunes and texts collected from tradition throughout the English speaking world. Shona's fine version is very much in the Aberdeenshire tradition. There are 13 versions versions in the Greig-Duncan Folk-Song Collection (2.278), of which 7 are with tunes.

Three gypsies cam tae oor haa door,
And oh they sang sae bonnie O;
They sang sae sweet and too complete,
They stole the hert o a lady O.

15: The Banks of Green Willow • Rod Stradling

This ballad is in FJ Child's collection under the title Bonnie Annie (Child 24) although Banks of Green Willow seems to be the most common traditional form. The earliest version was collected from northeast Scottish tradition and in included by George Kinloch in his Ancient Scottish Ballads of 1827. This version has been put together by Rod from texts in Child and a tune said to be from David Clements of Basingstoke, Hants, as collected by Vaughan Williams in 1909 and as in Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. Further notes beneath the text of the song.

It's of a sea captain,
Come o'er the salt sea billow;
And he has courted a fair maid,
By the banks of green willow;
And he has courted this fair maid,
Till she was with child O .

The tune is said to be from David Clements, of Basingstoke, Hants, as collected by Vaughan Williams in 1909, and as appears in Bronson - but, having listened to Mr Clements sing it (on the CD A Century of Song), I would suggest that Butterworth's orchestral rhapsody is the more likely source.

16: Young Hunting • Sara Grey

Sara sings an archaic version of the ballad from Appalachian tradition. Walter Scott's version of the ballad (Child 68), naturally the best known to the literary world, is described by the editor as made up from the best verses of Herd's copies with some trivial alterations adopted from tradition. This account is far from being exact, for there are many lines in the edition of 1802 which are not found in Herd's copies and, in the edition of 1833, there are four additional stanzas. Further notes beneath the song text.

"Come in, come in my own true love,
And spend this night with me;
For I have a bed, it's a very fine bed,
I'll give it up for thee,
I'll give it up for thee."

A Scandinavian ballad begins somewhat like 'Young Hunting,' but ends like 'Elveskud' or 'Clerk Colvil.' A young man who HAS made up his mind to marry is warned by HIS mother against the wiles of a former mistress. He rides to his old love's house and is welcomed to beer and wine. He tells her that he is on the way to his bride. She wants a word with him, or a kiss, and as he leans over in her on his horse, stabs him to the heart, He rides home bleeding, pretends that he has hurt himself by running against a tree, asks that his bed may be made and a priest sent for, and dies.

The place where the dead body of the knight lies at the bottom of the river is discovered by candles burning bright, Walter Scott supposed these candles to mean "the corpse-lights . . . which are sometimes seen to illuminate the spot where a dead body is concealed." Scott had been informed that the body of a man drowned in the Ettrick had heen discovered by means of these candles. Though the language in the ballad is not quite explicit, owing perhaps to the fact that the method of detection practised was more familiar formerly than now, the meaning is as likely to be that a candle, floated on the water, would burn brighter when it came to the spot where the body lay. A candle (a consecrated one in Catholic countries) stuck in a loaf of bread, or supported by cork, is still believed to be efficient for indicating the place of a drowned body. That the body of a murdered man will emit blood upon being touched, or even approached, by the murderer is a belief of ancient standing and evidence of this character was formerly admitted in judicial investigations.

17: Fair Drumallachie • Jock Duncan

Strolling along the banks of the river Don, a young man overhears a fair maid sighing that her love is far from home. After testing her out for her faithfulness he finally reveals himself as her true love returned from the wars. Of the many Broken Token songs with the seven years parted motif, this is one of the most literary. It seems fairly widespread in Scottish tradition and there are a number of quite varied versions the Greig-Duncan collection (GD 5.1043).

It was a chill November time when autumn leaves were gone,
One evening as I ventured forth along the banks o Don;
There I met a fair young maid and softly thus sighed she,
"My love is far from Sinnahard and fair Drumallachie."

18: The Overgate • Jimmy Hutchison

The old Overgate - a medieval street in the centre of Dundee - was torn down in the 1960s. The song is still very well known in Fife and Dundee to a couple of different tunes and with varied words. Aberdeen also lays claim to the song - but based in the city's Castlegate.

Oh as I gaed up the Overgate,
I met a bonnie wee lass,
And she winked tae me wi the tail o her ee,
As I gaed a-roving past.
Ricky doo dum day, doo dum day,
Ricky dicky doo dum day.

Recorded live at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie May 2008