Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór


Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór (Irish Gaelic for ‘big fairy, little fairy’) was the first song written for the harp by the great Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). It describes the battle between the queens of the Big Fairy Hill (Sí Mhór) and the Little Fairy Hill (Sí Bheag), and apparently refers to a site in Co. Meath where ‘two battling giants were turned by a wizard into two hills’

O’Carolan was the last of the great Gaelic bards, and is rightfully seen as one of Ireland’s great composers. Born to an Iron Founder, O’Carolan became blind from the smallpox at the age of 18. His illness could have ruined him, were it not for the discerning eye of the wife of his Father’s employer, one Mrs. MacDermott-Roe, who supported his being apprenticed for three years to learn the harp, before giving him money, a guide and a horse with which to roam Ireland. She would prove his greatest patron, having begun his harping career, and, in the end, would soften it’s final conclusion; he died in her house in 1738, after a successful career of 47 years. In thanks, he wrote;

 Mary Fitzgerald, dear heart,
Love of my breast and my friend,
Alas that I am parting from you,
O lady who succored me at every stage.’

O’Carolan’s apparently extant harp!

The Irish Harpists were musicians who straddled the divide between Folk music and High art music. They were often highly skilled, and began their training from a young age. Having begun later than the professional harpists of the time, O’Carolan found his strength in composition more than performance. He composed many great songs for a diverse variety of patrons, from professors of Trinity College to fair maidens far above his station. He traveled across the length and breadth of Ireland, and generally upheld the harpists reputation for drinking and overall red-bloddedness. A doctor once advised him to cease drinking, and, after some days of melancholy, a second doctor told him to begin again immediately, leading him to compose this grand little ode to Whiskey;

He’s a fool who gives over the liquor,
It softens the skinflint at once,
It urges the slow coach on quicker,
Gives spirit and brains to the dunce.

The man who is dumb as a rule
Discovers a great deal to say,
While he who is bashful since Yule
Will talk in an amorous way.

It’s drink that uplifts the poltroon
To give battle in France and in Spain,
Now here is an end of my tune-
And fill me that bumper again!

Upon his death, he was said to call for Whiskey and say ‘the drink and I have been friends for so long, it would be a pity for me to leave without one last kiss.’ He is buried in the MacDermot Roe family crypt in Kilronan Burial Ground, County Roscommon, and is remembered with a plaque in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral as ‘the last of the Irish bards’.

The lyrics written to Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór run as thus, in both Irish and English;scds.jpg

Imreas mór tháinig eidir na ríoghna,
Mar fhíoch a d’fhás ón dá chnoc sídhe;
Mar a dúirt an tsídh mhór go mb’fhearr i féin
Faoi dhó, faoi dho nán an tSídh Bheag.

A great contention arose between the queens,
Swelling like a fury from the two fairy hills.
For the big fairy hill said that it was superior,
Twice over, twice over, to the little fairy hill.

“Ní raibh tú ariamh chomh uasal linn,
I gcéim dár ordaíodh i dtuaith nái gcill.
Beir uainn do chaint, níl suairceas ann,
Coinnigh do chos is do lámh uainn!”

“You were never as noble as us,
in degree conferred in tribe or church;
Take your talk away from us, it makes no sense,
Remove your foot and hand from us!”

An tráth chruinnigh na sluaighte bhí an buala teann
Ar feadh na machaireacha anonn ‘s anall;
‘s níl aon ariamh dar ghluais ón mbinn
Nar chaill a chionn san ar sin.

When the hosts gathered there was a terrible battle
To and fro over the plains;
And there was none that descended from the peaks
Who did not lose his head in that slaughter.

“Párlí! párlí! a cháirde ghaoil!
Sin chugaibh ár námhaid ó Charn Chlann Aoidh,
O Bhinn Eachluinn aníos na sluaighte dhíobh,
Is bímíd uile uile páirteach!”

“Truce! truce! dear friends!
Here come our enemies from Carn Clonhugh,
Down from Binn Eachluinn in great force,
And let us all stand together!”


Beinn a’ Cheathaich (The Misty Mountain)

Flora MacNeil

Flora MacNeil

Beinn a’ Cheathaic or The Misty Mountain  or Kismul’s Galley is a Scottish-Gaelic air from the outer Hebrides. This version is sung by Flora MacNeil, who is a native of Barra, wherefrom the songs hails. Flora learnt it from her mother, and said that it was oftimes used as a waulking song, that is, a song used for communal work like ‘fulling the tweed’.

The song describes the return of the MacNeil clan by ship to Barra, and anticipates the arrival of the men at Kishmul, where they will partake ‘of the mirth, where there will be feasts, (and) wine from night till day.’

Peter Kennedy writes that ‘This is an impressionistic view of clan life. The singer praises the clan (MacNeil’s) ship and crew as they sail into Kismul (or Barra), the centre of clan activity, where hospitality, a great heroic virtue, abounded in the form of wine both day and night. The song is remarkable for the enthusiasm it has for a social system in which the singer, apparently, does not take part except as a hardworking onlooker (he or she was busy at the sheep when the ship passed). It must date from a period when the clan system was in full swing and totally accepted as the status quo – probably early seventeenth century at the very latest. The tune has a fine rhythm, and it is interesting to compare this version with the one used for Kismul’s Galley by Kennedy Fraser. Flora MacNeil learned her version from her mother and said that it was often used as a waulking song in Barra.’

Jim Carroll writes that this is an ‘ancient rowing song from Barra in the Hebrides. It comes from the days when the Gaelic pirates of the Islands so controlled the stormy waters of the Minch, that Elizabeth I was forced to make a peace treaty with them. The castle of one of these Gaelic sea-rovers still stands on an island in the middle of the harbour of Barra, unassailable except by water. (Out of its dark archway and) past its grim walls sailed galleys manned by [brawny] Scottish sea fighters, pulling at the oars to the tune of songs like this [one – songs that celebrated the doughty fighters aboard and their leaders.)
This song is cast in leader-chorus form, as are the waulking songs from the west of Scotland, still performed in the Hebrides (with a swing and co-ordination of ensemble foreign to anything else in the British Isles). The question of the origins of this type still remained in doubt until we heard singing in the same responsorial style from the Faeroe Islands. It now seems likely that the song style represented by this song was brought to the west coast of Scotland by conquering raiders from Scandinavia. The performer here is Flora McNeil of the MacNeils of Barra Castle, (now dulcet-voiced telephone operator of the village).’

Flora MacNeil writes that ‘As is to be expected on a small island, so many songs deal with the sea, but, of course, many of them may not originally be Barra songs. Nevertheless the old songs were preserved more in the southermost islands of Barra and South Uist possibly because the reformed church tended to discourage music elsewhere.’

Beinn a’ Cheathaich was loosely translated into English by Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser, wherein it is now known as ‘Kishmul’s Galley’. In this form it has been sung widely, and with some degree of commercial success, having been sung by such artists as the Corries.

The castle referred to in both songs is that of Kisimul (though in some versions it relates to Kishmul the pirate, more of that elsewhere). It is claimed that Kisimul had been the seat of the MacNeil Clan since the 11th century, but that, in 2001, the chief of the MacNeils leased the Castle to Historic Scotland for the space of 1000 years in return for 1 pound and a bottle of whisky. The first mention of Kisimul in history is that of Dean Munro, who, writing in 1549, says that ‘Within the southwest end of this isle, ther enters a salt water loche, verey narrow in the entrey, and round and braide within. Into the middis of the saide loche there is ane ile, upon ane strenthey craige, callit Kiselnin, perteining to M’Kneil of Barray’

Some say that the word Kisimul is rooted from a combination of the Gaelic words (cìs), meaning ‘tax’ and mul meaning mound. As such, it would mean the ‘mound where taxes are paid’. It is, alas, more likely that it stems from the word cìosamul, meaning ‘Island Castle’


Latha dhomh’s mi ‘m Beinn a’ Cheathaich
Air farail ill eo, ro a bji ho
Hoirreann is o ho ro hi o ho
Hi ri ho ro a bha ho hug o ro


Gun deach bata Chlann Nill seachad
Gun cheann cumaidh aig a h-astar
Le dá mhac lain’ ic a’ Phearsain
Murchadh Mor a ceann a ‘clachain
S’Ruaraidh og an t-oighne maiseach
S’teach a duthaich mhic Ill’eathain
S’teach gu Ciosmul an aigheir
Far am faighte chuirm ri gabhail
Fíon a ‘dhoidche gu látha


One day as I was on the misty mountain,
MacNeill’s Galley was passing
At great speed.
On board were two sons of John MacPherson,
Big Murdo from the head of the clachan
And fair young Roderick, the heir,
Coming from the Land of the MacLean
Going to Kishmul of the mirth.
Where there will be feasts
Wine from night till day.

Another version from the ‘Hebridean Folksongs, volume I, (1969), by Dr. John Lorne Campbell (1909-1996) and Francis James Montgomery Collinson (1898-1984) runs thus;

One day on the misty mountain,
Rounding up the sheep to get them,
Not the pair of the two sisters,
Nor the small pair of the road’s end,
‘Twas I myself beheld the vision,
Seeing thy galley going past me,
Setting her head to the wide ocean,
From MacNeil of Barra’s country,
Out from Cíosamul’s joyful Castle,
Where we used to be a-feasting,
Drinking wine from dawn till nightfall,
Shouts of men their ale a-drinking,
With women wearing brown silk dresses;
‘Tis I am who am afflicted
If Clan Neil’s boat has passed me,
She broke the cable and left the anchor,
She broke the best rope that was on her;
I knew the men engaged upon her,
Great Gill’ Eoghanain the hero,
Gloomy Neil, son of noisy Rory,
And the handsome heir, young Rory,
Fair Rory, apt for manly action,
Red Murdo from the end of the clachan,
Little Murdo, wed to Lachlan’s daughter,
And the two sons of John MacPherson,
Gun and shield befit your handgrasps,
And dark blue bonnet on curling back-locks.

Andrew Lammie (Mill o’ Tifty’s Annie)


The ballad of Andrew Lammie and Bonnie Annie, also know as The Mill O’ Tifty’s Annie, describes the love of one Agnes Smith for the Laird Of Fyvie’s trumpeter, Andrew Lammie. At first sight, she is enamored with him, but, as is the way with so many ballads, her love is disapproved of by her Father, and she is finally murdered for it.

The ballad traces back to as far as the death of Agnes Smith, which, if her gravestone in Fyvie churchyard is to be believed, occurred in 1673. Hers is still one of the most popular and varied ballads in Britain, with some versions having in excess of 50 verses.

The scene of the ballad is the surrounds of the Castle Of Fyvie, which looks across the the Mill O’ Tifty whereby Annie lived. Lewis Smith and son writes of the Castle that, ‘At the apex of the Preston tower there is a figure of Andrew Lammie, the trumpeter, in the act of blowing his trumpet towards Tifty.’

‘At the distance of about half a mile northward from the castle, and in view of its turrets, is Mill of Tifty, the home of the damsel who figures as the heroine in the ancient and ever popular ballad Mill of Tifty’s Annie ‘

Peter Buchan referred to Andrew Lammie as “one of the greatest favourites of the people of Aberdeenshire” in his 1828 Gleanings

The lyrics to this version by Jeannie Robertson go as follows;

Annie's gravestone, restored by Colonel Gordon of Fyvie

Annie’s gravestone, restored by Colonel Gordon of Fyvie

At the Mill o Tifty’s lived a man
In the neighbourhood o Fyvie
For he had a lovely daughter fair
An they ca’ed her bonny Annie

Her cheeks was like the bloomin’ Rose
That hails the rosy mornin
And her innocence and graceful mien
Her beauteous face adornin

Lord Fyvie had a trumpeter
Wha’s name was Andra Lammie
And he had the airt for tae gain the hairt
O the Mill of Tifty’s Annie

For proper he, was both yang and gay,
and his like was not in Fyvie,
Nor was there one, that could compare,
with this same Andrew Lammie

Lord Fyvie he rode by the door
Where lived Tifty’s Annie;
His trumpeter rode him before,
Even this same Andrew Lammie.

Her mother called her to the door,
“Come here tae me, my Annie.
Did ever ye see a prettier man
Than the trumpeter o’ Fyvie?”

She sighed sore, but she said no more
Alas for bonny Annie.
For she durst not own that her heart was won
By the trumpeter o’ Fyvie.

But the first time me and my true love layed,
Was in the woods o’ Fyvie.
his lovely form, and his speech so soft,
soon gained the heart o’ Annie

He called me mistress, but I said no,
I was Tifty’s bonnie Annie,
with apples sweet, he did me treat,
and kisses soft and many.

It was up and doon in Tifty’s glen
Where the burn runs clear and bonnie
It was there we went, and knew’t our love
Before he went and leaved me

But now alas, her Father haird
That trumpeter of Fyvie,
had had the art, to gain the art,
O’ Mill O’ Tifty’s Annie,

Her Father soon, a letter wrote,
and sent it on to Fyvie
For tae tell his dochter was bewitched
By his servant Andrew Lammie

It’s up the stairs, to his trumpeter,
he called him soon and shortly,
“Pray tell me soon, what is this you’ve done,
To Tify’s bonnie Annie”

It’s woe be to the Mill O’ Tifty’s pride,
for it has ruined many,
for they have said, she should not wed,
with the trumpeter of Fyvie

“Oh where shall I find, a boy so kind,
that will carry a latel canny,
and who ran on, to Tifty’s Glen,
did that to my love Annie

For Tifty, he has daughters three,
and they all were wondrous bonnie,
but you will ken her, o’er the rest,
gave that to my love Annie,

For you will come, to the bridge of sin,
where I will come and meet you,
and it’s there we will renew our love,
before I gang and leave you.

I’ll buy to you, a brand new bound
My love I’ll buy it bonnie,
but if you come back, I will be layed,
in the green church yard of Fyvie

Her faither struck her wondrous sore
And also did her sisters
Her brother broke her back, O’er the hall door,
for the lovin’ O’ Andrew Lammie

O’, if you strike me, I will cry,
And Gentlemen will hear me,
Lord Fyvie, he’ll cam riding by,
and he’ll cam in and see me.

O’, Annie dear, O’ Annie dear,
I can hear your cooing low,
for I would nae geh my queer lo’,
For all your kind in Fyvie,

Lord Fyvie’s lands, are broad and lang,
and they are wondrous bonnie,
but would nae geh, my ain true love,
for all yer lands in Fyvie.

And another, more popular version;

At the Mill o Tifty’s lived a man
In the neighbourhood o Fyvie
For he had a lovely daughter fair
An they ca’ed her bonny Annie

Her bloom was like the springin flower
That hails the rosy mornin
And her innocence and graceful mien
Her beauteous face adornin

Noo her hair was fair and her eyes were blue
And her cheeks as red as roses
And her countenance was fair tae view
And the ca’ed her bonny Annie

Noo Lord Fyvie had a trumpeter
Wha’s name was Andra Lammie
And he had the airt for tae gain the hairt
O the Mill of Tifty’s Annie

Noo her mother cried her tae the door
Sayin, Come here to me, my Annie
Did e’er ye see a prettier man
Than the trumpeter o Fyvie

Oh but naethin she said, but sighin sair
‘Twas alas for bonny Annie
For she durstnae own that her hairt was won
By the trumpeter o Fyvie

And at nicht when all went tae their bed
A’ slept fu’ soond but Annie
Love so oppressed her tender breast
And love will waste her body

Oh love comes in to my bedside
And love will lie beyond me
Love so oppressed my tender breast
And love will waste my body

My love I go tae Edinburgh toon
An for a while maun leave thee
Oh but I’ll be deid afore ye come back
In the green kirk yaird o Fyvie

So her faither struck her wondrous sore
An also did her mother
And her sisters also took their score
But woe be tae her brother

Her brother struck her wondrous sore
Wi cruel strokes and many
And he broke her back owre the temple-stane
Aye the temple-stane o Fyvie

Oh mother dear please make my bed
And lay my face tae Fyvie
For I will lie and I will die
For my dear Andra Lammie

Noo when Andra hame fae Edinburgh came
Wi muckle grief and sorrow
My love she died for me last night
So I’ll die for her tomorrow

The Barley Mow


The Barley Mow is a jolly drinking song that once frequented the larynx’s of many a drunken reveler. The aim of the song is to remember and sing each of the cumulative verses in order, until you must inevitably stumble for breath, for which you must quaff your pint. It was once a popular form of drinking song, with variants like the Bog Down in the Valley, or Paddy On The Railway being still widely sung. Along with these, it now exists mostly in Ireland, but it has had a good lifespan throughout Britain and it’s empire. Early references include Popular Music of the Olden Time (1855-1859), but variations of the song must extend back far further.

A Barley Mow is a stack of that most hallowed of crop, the harvested Barley, which is used for malting into beer. The ‘Barley Mow’ is often replaced with the name of the pub it is being sung in.

Mike Yates said of it that ‘The Barley Mow is one of the best-known cumulative songs from the English folk repertoire and was usually sung at harvest suppers, often as a test of sobriety. Alfred Williams, who noted a splendid set in the Wiltshire village of Inglesham some time prior to the Great War, wrote that he was “unable to fix its age, or even to suggest it, though doubtless the piece has existed for several centuries.” Robert Bell found the song being sung in Devon and Cornwall during the middle part of the 19th century, especially after “completing the carrying of the barley, when the rick, or mow, of barley is finished.” Bell’s comment that “the effect of The Barley Mow cannot be given in words; it should be heard, to be appreciated properly” is certainly true, and most singers who know the song pride themselves on being able to get through it without making a mistake.’  

and John Howson that ‘It was usual to finish a bar-room singing session with a drinking toast and this must have been the most popular, all over rural England. The text appears in James Henry Dixon’s Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry in England (1846), where it is described as “sung at country meetings in Devon and Cornwall”, while the tune appears in William Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time (1859). In Suffolk it was always the finisher at Blaxhall Ship and Jack French was recorded there in 1953 by Peter Kennedy who published it in his Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland (1975). In his film entitled The Barley Mow (1955) it is sung by Arthur Smith. Harry’s version is very similar to most of the versions which have been collected in other counties. See Sussex’s George Spicer’s version on They Ordered Their Pints of Beer and Bottles of Sherry’
Cyril Tawney describes the song as ‘the finest of all English tavern songs.’, and the Barley Mow is the fourth most popular name for traditional pubs to this day.

Now here’s jolly good luck to the quarter gill
Good luck to the Barley Mow
Jolly good luck to the quartergill
Good luck to the Barley Mow
Oh, the quarter gill
Fetch in a little drop more
Here’s good luck, good luck, good luck to the barley mow

Now here’s jolly good luck to the half gill
Good luck to the Barley Mow
Jolly good luck to the half gill
Good luck to the Barley Mow
Oh, the half gill, quarter gill
Fetch in a little drop more
Here’s good luck, good luck, good luck to the barley mow

Now here’s jolly good luck to the gill pot
Good luck to the Barley Mow
Jolly good luck to the gill pot
Good luck to the Barley Mow
Oh, the gill pot, half gill, quarter gill
Fetch in a little drop more
Here’s good luck, good luck, good luck to the barley mow


Boney (Was A Warrior)


A shanty that traces the life and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte (shortened to Boney, in true English fashion). After the events of the Napoleonic wars, such shanties were spread across Europe, and almost every Englishman would have known the names of Nelson and Wellington. A popular broadside ballad, Boney was mostly sung on sailing ships.

A. L. Lloyd tells us that it is “A short drag shanty. These simple shanties were uses when only a few strong pulls were needed, as in boarding tacks and sheets and bunting up a sail in furling, etc. Boney was popular both in British and American vessels and in one American version Bonaparte is made to cross the Rocky Mountains.” 

So wide is the ballad known, that in the English translation of Asterix, a Corsican character is dubbed Boneywasawarriorwayayix

Boney was a war-rye-or
A war-rye-or, a ter-rye-or
Jonny Franswor!

Boney beat the Prussians26boney
The Osstrye-ans an’ the Rooshye-ans
Jonny Franswor!

Boney went to school in France
He learnt the Rooshians how to dance
Jonny Franswor!

Boney marched to Moscow
Lost his army in the snow
Jonny Franswor!

We licked him in Trafalgar’s Bay
Shot his main topm’st away
Jonny Franswor!

‘Twas on the Plains of Waterloo
He met the boy who put ‘m through
Jonny Franswor!

He met the Duke of Wellington
An’ then his downfall wuz begun
Jonny Franswor!

Boney went a-cru-sye-in
Aboard the Billy Ruf-fye-an
Jonny Franswor!

They sent him into exile
He died on St Helena’s Isle
Jonny Franswor!

Boney was a war-rye-or
A war-rye-or, a ter-rye-or
Jonny Franswor!

The Kielder Hunt


This song is Northumbrian in origin, having been written by James Armstrong of Redesdale in the 19th century. It is sung on both sides of the border. The song recounts the progress of a fox hunt, a traditional British activity that is now controversially outlawed.

Hark hark I hear Lang Will’s clear voice sound 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.

Chorus: Hark away! Hark away!
Ower the bonnie hills o Kielder, hark away!

There’s Moudy frae Emmethaugh an Royal frae Bakethinn,
There’s hounds frae Reed an Kielderhead, an Ruby by the Linn,
There’s hounds of fame frae Irthingside, they’ll try baith moss an crag,
Hark! Hark! that’s Moudy’s loud clear note, she has bold Reynard’s drag.

Then away an away ower hill and dale an up by yonder stell,
The music o the gallant pack resounds ower muir and dell;
See yon herd callant waves his plaid, list yon loud tally-ho,
The fox is up an breaks away ower the edge o Hawkhope Flowe.

Hark forrit! hark! ye gallant hounds, hark onward, hark away,
He kens the hauds on Tosson hills an he kens the holes at Rae;
There’s neer a den roun the Kielder stane but he kens weel I trow,
An all the holes on Lariston hills, he kens them thro and thro.

There’s Wanny’s Crags an Sewingshields, and Christenbury too,
Or if he win to Hareshaw Linn ye may bid him adieu;
At the Key-Heugh an the Cloven-Crags, the Cove, an Darna Ha,
Chatlehope-Spout an the Wily-holes, auld foxy kens them all.

Then away an away ower bank and brae they drive the wily game,
Where Moudy, Ruby, Royal still uphold their glorious fame;
An see the lish yauld shepherd lads, how Monkside heights they climb,
They’re the pride of all the Borders wide for wind and wiry limb.

Thro yon wild glen they view him noo reet for the Yearning Linn,
By cairn an crag, by moss an hagg, sae glorious is the din;
Weel done, hurrah! they’ve run him doun, yon Moudy twirls him noo,
The hunt is done, his brush is won, I hear the death halloo.

So here’s tae Will o Emmethaugh, he is a sportsman true,
An here’s tae Rabbie o Bakethinn, an Rab o Kielder too;
At the Hope, Bewshaugh, the Kersie Cleuch, Skaup, Riggend, an the Law,
In Tyne, an Reed, and Irthinghead, they’re gallant sportsmen all.

The Gaberlunyie Man


James V of Scotland

Traditionally thought to be by the pen of the vagrant ‘King of the Commons’, King James V. of Scotland (1512-1542), The Gaberlunyie Man is said to celebrate his tendency for wandering his realm in disguise and causing mischief with the country girls. It has been recorded by the aforementioned Francis James Child (Child Ballad 279 – ‘The Jolly Beggar’ appendix), as well as Thomas Percy and many others. In the ballad, the story is told of a beggar coming to a lady’s door and begging lodging. During the night, he beguiles the daughter of the lady, and makes off with her. The lady then, years later, refuses and repudiates the beggar, and the beggar reveals her daughter happy and healthy.

Gaberlunyies (or Gaberlunzies) were medieval licensed beggars, and were also known as King’s Bedesmen or blue gouns on account of the blue gowns given them to wear by the monarch as alms.

Thomas Percy writes; ‘There is no authority for attributing the present song to James V., except ancient and universal tradition. The word gaberlunyie is compounded of gaber, a wallet, and lunyie, the loins: hence a travelling tinker or beggar carrying a wallet by his side, was called a “gaberlunyie man.’

This version is sung by Danny Spooner, from the album ‘Danny Spooner and Friends’

Oh the beggar, a beggar, came oer frae lee
Wi’ mony good-eens and good-days to mee,
Saying, Goodwife, for your charity,
Will ye lodge an honest ol’ man?

The night was cauld, and the carle was wat,
And down ayonder English sat;
My dochters shoulders he gan to clap,
And he cadgily ranted and sang.

And atween the twa they made a plot
They’d raise an hour before the cock,
And they’d doon the step, and slip the lock,
And across the brae they gane.

Lassie tae ma too roo re

In the morning time the servent gaed
intae the place where the daughter lay,
but the sheets were cauld, and they were away
She’s gan with the beggar man,

Lassie tae ma too roo ree.

Ah some did rin and some did ride
Tae find the place fa’ they did hide,
But they couldnae find fa they did bide
As in the brae they lay.

Lassie tae ma too roo ree.

Oh, she ma dear I loe ye well,
I’ll follow ye tae the gates o’ hell,
Oh sweet bonnie lassie, I loe ye tell,
But with me ye cannae gang

No wi’ me ye no ye cannae gang
for ye ain’t a got the cant o’ the beggars tongue,
no ye ain’t a got the cant o’ the beggars tongue,
so wi’ me ye canne gan

Lassie tae ma too roo ree.

Oh I’ll bend my back and I crook ma knee
And place the black patch ower ma e’e,
And a beggar’s lassie they’ll tak’ me tae be,
And alang wi ye I’ll gang,

Laddie tae ma too roo ree.

When mony years had cam and gane
The beggar man he cam back again,
Saying “Guid wife for ye’r charity
Will ye lodge an honest ol’ man?”

Lassie tae ma too roo ree.

O no, O no, I’ll not lodge again
For I ance had a dochter ain o ma ain,
But awa’ wi a beggin’ man she’s gane
And I dinna ken whence na whar.

Laddie tae ma too roo ree.

Oh, ‘Yonder she’s comin’ ower yon lea
Wi mony a tale for tae tell tae ye,
She’s a baby donlin’ at her knee
And another yen coming hame.

Lassie tae ma too roo ree.’

‘O yonder she’s comin’ tae your bower,
Wi’ mony a silk, aye, and mony a flower.’
And the guid wife rose and she blessed the hour
She’d follow’d the beggin’ man.

Laddie tae ma too roo ree


One Miner’s Life


A lamentation for the inevitable grinding life of a miner. Ed Pickford writes ”Written in verse that chart a man’s life. Dick Gaughan does an interpretation of it on ‘True & Bold’. Bob Fox – the great North East troubadour has just released this song for Topic on his CD The Blast. Bob is carrying his songs to the world now – I’m biased because he’s from the NE – but -good luck to him I say!’

Now ye are born, another to feed
Small are our wants lad but great is wa need
For work is scarce, yer dad’s on the dole
They want nee mair men, they’ve got too much coal.

We knaes wae yer cryin’ for
We knaes we meadowsea poor
Wee knaes what yer ganna be.
Wee knaes what’s in store for ye.

Now you’re a boy, yer play in the streets
Fish in the burn and performing great feats
While the pit heaps stand, marking the graves
Of fathers and sons and the lives that they gave.

Now you’ve left school, a man at thirteen
Yer mother is grim as she looks at the scene
As she makes up yer bait, yer off down below
And away t’ the pit with yer father ye go.

Now yer a man, ye work in the mine
With fightin’ and strugglin’ yer old for yer time
For the work it’s hard, conditions is bad
And ye promised yer son all the things ye’ve not had.

Now ye are old, yer’ve worked all ye can
But they’re closin’ the pits and yer part of the plan
To cut out waste, and make the mines pay
So t’ hell with ye now lad and be on yer way.

Wae’s Me For Prince Charlie


Written by Will Glen of Glasgow (1789-1826), ‘Wae’s Me For Prince Charlie’ is another scotch lamentation for the ousted Jacobite ‘Pretender’, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart). After failing to restore his family to the throne of Great Britain, his romantic rout through Scotland, the Isle of Skye and eventually back to France, all the while helped by those loyal to his cause, has been the focus of much Scottish ballad writing. Bonnie Prince Charlie remains one of the most romantic figures in Scottish and European history, and many still love after his name.

Ewan MacColl writes of the tune that ‘In spite of the harsh repressive measures which followed the collapse of the Forty-Five rebellion, Scots ballad makers continued to extol the virtues of Prince Charles for almost another hundred years’ 

The song is said to be set to the tune of Bonnie House o’ Airey, Johnnie Faa or Gypsy Davy


A wee bird cam’ tae oor ha’ door, he warbled sweet and early
And aye the o’ercam’ o’ his lilt was, Wae’s me for Prince Chairlie
And when I heard the bonnie, bonnie bird the tears cam’ droppin’ rarely
I took my bonnet aff my heid, for well I loved Prince Chairlie

Said I, My bird, my bonnie bonnie bird, is that some tale ye borrowed
Or is’t some words you’ve learnt by rote, or a lilt o’ dule and sorrow
Oh no no no, the wee bird sang, I’ve flown since morning early
Through sic a day o’ wind and rain, oh wae’s me for Prince Chairlie

On hills that are by right his ain he roams, a lonely stranger
On ilka hand he’s pressed by want, on ilka side by danger
Yestreen I met him in a glen, my heart near bursted fairly
For sadly changed indeed was he, oh wae’s me for Prince Chairlie

Dark night cam on, the tempest howled oot o’ the hills and valleys
And where was’t that your prince lay doon whose hame should be in a palace
He’s ro’ed him in a Heilan’ plaid which covered him but sparely
And slept beneath a bush of broom, oh wae’s me for Prince Chairlie

The Ship in Distress


This lamentation, which recalls the narrowly-averted cannibalism of shipwrecked sailors, is but one of a great naval tradition of shipwreck songs. According to A. L. Lloyd, this version stems from the French ‘La Corte Paille’ (The Short Straw), and is part of a general lineage of songs that goes back to the Portuguese golden age of sailing, and the song La Nau Catarineta’ .

A. L. Lloyd writes; ‘The story of the ship adrift, with its crew reduced to cannibalism but rescued in the nick of time, has a fascination for makers of sea legends. Cecil Sharp, who collected more than a thousand songs from Somerset, considered The Ship in Distress to be the grandest tune he had found in that country.’

The dating of this song is uncertain, but certainly dates from before the 1900s, by which time it was widely published.

You seamen bold who plough the ocean
See dangers landsmen never know.
The sun goes down, with an equal motion;
And no tongue can tell what they undergo.
In the blusterous wind and the great dark water
Our ship went drifting on the sea,
Her headgear gone, and her rudder broken,
Which brought us to extremity.

For fourteen days, heartsore and hungry,
Seeing but wild water and bitter sky,
Poor fellows, they stood in a totter,
A-casting lots as to who should die.
The lot did fell on Robert Jackson,
Whose family was so very great.
‘I’m free to die, but oh, my shipmates,
Let me keep look-out till the break of day.’

A full-dressed ship like the sun a-glittering
Came bearing down to their relief.
As soon as this glad news was shouted,
It banished all their care and grief.
The ship brought to, no longer drifting,
Safe in Saint Vincent, Cape Verde, she gained.
You seamen all, who hear my story,
Pray you’ll never suffer the like again.