Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ballads: Rambling Recollections of My School and School Days – Article X – Part C

Article X written by Alexander Gunn was printed in the Northern Ensign on 17 Feb 1881 – Part C

Still at the Winter Market, Dunbeath between approximately 1825 - 1845

Ballad Singers

"Dealers and merchants from all parts of the country found their way to the market and so did tramps and ballad-singers as well as sellers of Belfast almanacs - a venerable institution then, which was sold for a bawbee, but is now almost extinct." 

"You might see groups of lads and lasses standing in the centre of the crowded market, with a ballad-singer as the centre figure, exercising his vocal powers to the utmost of his ability in singing his favourite ditty, one of which ran thus:-

A flesher in Scotland was a butcher.
Source: www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/street-literature

The Wind Blew the Bonnie Lassie's Plaidie Awa'

"There was a flesher Rab, who lived in Crieff,
And there came a bonnie lassie for to buy some beef;
He took her in his arms, and doon she did fa’ –
The wind blew the bonnie lassie’s plaidie awa’, 

Chorus – The plaidie awa’, the plaidie awa’,
He took her in his arms, and doon she did fa’,
And the wind blew the bonnie lassie’s plaidie awa’"

 "Another of the same is found in a similar position and similarly occupied, the burden of his song being –

 Jim Crow

"Old folks or young folks never will grow fat,
Until they put a copper into Jim Crow’s hat.

Chorus: Wheel about, and reel about, and do just so,
And every time I wheel about, jump Jim Crow.
I went into the fishing, I catched a little trout.
I put it in my basket and made it wheel about,
Wheel about and reel about and do just so.
And every time I wheel about I’ll jump Jim Crow”

"The foregoing is but a sample of the poetry circulated at the Dunbeath market in those days, and the vendors it is needless to say were of the very lowest order of society." 

My Comments:

Considering the conservative and careful Christian upbringing of the Gunn children it seems a bit surprising that Alexander Gunn was allowed to give audience to such a bawdy ballad especially one that mocked the kirk session elders and their usual dim view of the activity described. 

Here is a full version of the ballad as the old print above is a bit hard to read:

The Wind Blew the Bonny Lassie’s Plaidy Awa.

Frae flesher Rab there lived in Creif,
A bonny lassie came to buy some beef,
He took her in his arms and down she di fa’,
And the wind blew the bonny lassie’s plaidy awa.

Her plaidy awa, her plaidy awa,
The wind blew the bonny lassie’s plaidy awa,
He took her in his ars and down she did fa’
And the wind blew the bonny lassie’s plaidy awa.

The plaidy was lost and cou’d na be fund,
The deil’s in the plaid it’s awa wi’ the win’,
But what shall I say to the auld folks ava,
I darena say the wind blew the plaidy awa.

It wasna long after the plaidy was lost
Till the bonnie lassie grew thick in the waist,
And Rabby was blamed for the hale o’ it a’,
And the wind blawing the bonny lassie’s plaidy awa.

Then Rabby was summoned the answer the session
They a’ cry’d out ye main make a confession,
But Rabby ne’er answered them nae word ava,
But the wind blew the bonny lassie’s plaidy awa

The auld wife came in poor Rabby to accuse
The Ministers and Elders began to abuse,
Poor Rabby for trying to make ane into two,
But Rabby said the wind blew the plaidy awa.

The lassie was sent for to come there hersel’,
She looks in his face says ye ken how I fell,
And ye had the cause o’t, ye darena say na,
It was then that the wind blew the plaidy awa.

Rab looks in her face and gied a bit smile,
He says, my bonnie lassie, I winna you beguile,
The Minister is here he’ll mak’ ane o’ us twa
That will pay the plaid that the wind blew awa,

The whisky was sent for to mak’ things right
The Minister and Elders they sat a’ the night,
And sang before the cock begun for to craw,
The wind blew the bonny lassie’s plaidy awa.

Now Rab and his lassie are hand in hand
They live as contented as any in the land
And when he gets fou he minds o’ the fa’,
And sings the wind blew the bonny lassie’s plaidy awa.  

'Porter fishwoman and journeyman flesher'. Illustration from 'Airy nothings'
by M Egerton, London, 1825. Engraving by George Hunt

Jim Crow 

The Jim Crow song has well known associations with American history and was apparently brought to England as follows:
The original ‘Jim Crow’ song was composed about 1830 by Thomas Dartmouth (Daddy) Rice, a travelling actor from New York. Though white, he learned the African-American style, and started to black up, with great success, and by 1830 had made the ‘Jim Crow’ character his signature act. He made a great hit in England when he visited in 1836.
Source: Street Ballads in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and North America ... By David Atkinson, Steve Roud 

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