I Thought It Lang To Lie My Lane

love and sex

The Earl of Roslin's Daughter is often known as Captain Wedderburn's Courtship. Most of its many versions make the woman the daughter of the Earl of Roslin, and the man Captain Wedderburn (a surname common among the lords of Roslin). This, with no names, is from the north-east of Scotland and strips the story down to its core, the ritualistic riddle contest; an even barer version of it common in North America, I Gave my Love a Cherry, leaves the story out entirely. I have given two tunes for it, both from the late 19th century; the first from the Greig-Duncan Folksong Collection, the second from Gavin Greig's Last Leaves.

Several of the romantic ballads in Child's collections, like Hynd Horn and Katherine Jaffray, are more often than not found with Edinburgh settings. But their stories are not traceable to local events, they show no sign of more than slight local adaptation, and they're available from many other collections, so I've left them out here.

Waly, Waly and Lady Anne Bothwell's Balow are related songs with confusing histories. Lady Anne Bothwell's Balow is the older one. Several "Baloo" lullabies are known from England and Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries; the word may be from French "a bas le loup", "down with the wolf", a charm against werewolves. One of the oldest was mentioned in 1567, when a tune Ba lu la low is suggested for a hymn in the Gude and Godlie Ballatis. There are many versions of this song in manuscripts from the first quarter of the 17th century. C.K. Sharpe suggested it was about Anna, daughter of Bishop Bothwell (d.1593) who became pregnant to her cousin (a son of the Earl of Mar), Colonel Alexander Erskine, who was blown up in Dunglass Castle in 1640. The most widely available text of this is Allan Ramsay's, reprinted by Child; I have given the one from Watson's Choice Collection of 1706, with two additional verses that were printed in Broom's comedy The Northern Lass in 1640. Watson's version seems to be a composite of at least two different songs. Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament is a shorter and more coherent version from Bishop Thomas Percy's Reliques of 1765. It omits the unmotivated death-in-battle theme, but most of the Scots dialect in it seems to be an antiquarian reconstruction and it also leaves out some of the most psychologically insightful parts of Watson's chaotic text.

Waly, Waly probably dates from the 1670s; St Anthony's Well, which folk belief held to have curative powers, was moved around then. One possible subject, suggested by Robert Chambers, is Barbara Erskine, whose husband John the 2nd Marquis of Douglas threw her out in a fit of jealous paranoia. Since this ballad is so familiar and so often reprinted (generally in the fine version from Orpheus Caledonius) I have selected a very different version, from an 18th century broadside. Its printer called it Arthur's-Seat shall be my Bed, or Love in Despair, and it doesn't have the familiar opening verse that gives the ballad its usual name:

O waly, waly up yon bank,
and waly, waly down yon brae,
and waly by yon burn side
where my love and I was wont to gae.

The better-known version is part of a large family of songs found across the British Isles, assembled like a kitset from verses, mostly of English origin, which occur in many different combinations. Carrickfergus, from Ireland or the West of Scotland, is a more modern song in the same group. This broadside has none of these floating verses, which suggests it's closer to the original story, whatever that was. This version survived 150 years in folk tradition: with only the "O Faith is gone" verse omitted, it occurs unchanged in the Greig-Duncan collection.

The melody I have given for Waly, Waly is from William McGibbon's A Collection of Scots Tunes (1742) as reprinted by Neil Stewart in 1785. The tune for Lady Anne Bothwell's Balow is a more elaborate version of a similar melody, first printed in Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius in 1733 and here taken from the Scots Musical Museum.

The Collier Lassie is a song of the Lothian mines whose original version, presumably created by the colliers themselves, only survives in fragments. I've given the surviving initial verse. The rest of the song became unrecognizably gentrified in several different ways. The tune lasted better, mainly in instrumental versions. It was first published in England by Henry Playford late in the 17th century; as a dance tune it was known both under the original title and as The Nine Pint Coggie. It was also used by John Gay in his opera Polly, the sequel to The Beggars Opera, for the number When right and wrong's decided. Polly was banned in London; the almost insanely eccentric Kitty, Duchess of Queensberry, decided to organize a premiere in Edinburgh to settle some real or imaginary personal score against her many London enemies, and brought Gay north to produce it. Among the people he met was Allan Ramsay; they drank in a pub in the lower Canongate. Since Ramsay had published a version of the song, perhaps this is how Gay got to know it. I've given both Playford's setting and the oldest one from a Scottish source, Margaret Sinkler's manuscript of 1710. Both of these already elaborate it into a fiddle tune, but the song air comes through clearly enough.

Perhaps the least attractive of the gentrified versions is The Coalier Lassie, from an 18th century broadside. Slaveholders have always claimed the right to rape their women slaves. This smug gentleman rapist's song is a lot more truthful about the power relationships between a coalowner and a female serf than any version of When She Came Ben She Bobbit or The Laird of Cockpen.

But the lairds did not have their way unchallenged: the libertine Colonel Charteris of Stonyhill (near the modern Monktonhall mine) was tried for raping a servant girl in 1730, condemned to death but pardoned by the King. He died in 1732. He was satirized by Hogarth in The Harlot's Progress, and nearer home, his funeral was described in the History of the Regality of Musselburgh:

it is traditionally recorded here, that the populace assembled in the avenue down which the funeral procession of that wretched person had to pass, and bespattered the hearse with filth and garbage.
James Walsh's Old and New Edinburgh quotes an anecdote that the dying Charteris offered a £30,000 reward for evidence that there was no such place as hell.

One of the first tasks of the Reformation was criminalizing deviant sexual behaviour. By 1566, two-thirds of the cases brought before Canongate Kirk Session were sexual offences. Scottish treatment of sex offenders after the Reformation fascinated outsiders, particularly the Stool of Repentance used for fornicators. Cromwell had tried to abolish the practice, regarding it as a remnant of the Catholic rite of penance, and organized bonfires of them while he occupied Scotland, but they were immediately reinstated after he left. The English traveller Edward Burt described it in 1730:

This stool of terror was fashioned like an arm-chair, and was raised on a pedestal nearly two feet higher than the other seats, directly fronting the pulpit. When the kirk bell was rung, the culprit ascended the chair, and the bell-man arrayed him in the black sackcloth gown. Here he stood three Sundays successively, his face uncovered.

The English lawyer Joseph Taylor wrote of it in his A Journey to Edenborough in Scotland (1705) as a tourist attraction:

As the Scotch are nasty so I found them prophane, and vitious, as other people, notwithstanding all the pretended sanctity of their Kirk. There is indeed a high Kirk Treasurer, that punishes offenders, but we were inform'd, that a present of 3 Guineas at first coming to Town, will be a good indemnity against all Complaints of that nature, unless in cases of adultery, which is certain death. But when a man is taken in the fact, as a stranger may easily be, if he has not compounded with the Treasurer, he may soon be run up to 50l. charge; but the punishment of those that are insolvent is the Stoole of repentance, where they are oblig'd to hear a Lecture for a Reprimand. We went on Sunday to the Kirk in hopes to see that Ceremony, but it hapned no body had been caught in their iniquity

The Stool of Repentance is probably the best-known of all Scottish jigs. This song with that title is from Gavin Wilson's Masonic Songs of 1793, but it doesn't fit the familiar tune as well as it does this related single-strain common-time melody, called The Repenting Stool, from the confused and sketchy Gairdyn Manuscript of the early 18th century (a fiddler's aide-memoire, with most of the tunes incomplete). It's an early form of the tune later known as The Mason's Apron. Wilson was a leather worker who had invented realistic and functional leather artificial limbs; he described his next trick thus:

In these dead times, being almost idle,
He try'd, and made a Leather Fiddle,
Of workmanship extremely neat,
Of tone quite true, both soft and sweet.
And finding leather not a mute,
He made a Leather German Flute;
Which play'd as well, and was as good,
As any ever made of wood.

He was a member of the Cape Club, as "Sir Maccaroni", at the same time as Robert Fergusson. He was a friend of Lord George Gordon's before Gordon converted to Judaism, but wrote a violent polemic against him afterwards.

The plot of The Stool of Repentance has the feel of an urban legend, and perhaps it was. If the tune is decades older too, it's likely that Wilson simply adapted a pre-existing folksong in the same manner as Burns. Taylor's description of the stool of repentance as a punishment that only the poor couldn't buy off is echoed in As I cam in by Fisherrow, collected by Herd in the 18th century. Some form of it was much older; an English song sheet of 1686, giving an example of the uncouth stuff the Scots sang, gave the verse:

This Janet is a bonnie lass
This Janet is my dearie,
What then need I lig by mysel,
And Janet's bed sae near me?

A more elaborate version of the tune is the well-known reel Jenny Dang the Weaver, with words written or adapted by Sir Alexander Boswell. The tune was known by the time of the Reformation, with a boy-courts-reluctant-girl text, Haud awa frae me, Donald; the Bereans, a fundamentalist sect founded in the eighteenth century, turned it into Haud Awa Frae Me, Deilie. One version of this song from the 1790s, in Ritson's Scottish Songs and Ballads, turned this into a Highland man courting a Lowland girl. His accent is sent up ruthlessly but his sexual abilities are stereotyped in much the same way post-slavery America did with black males. The oldest form of the tune in print was from England, in Playford's Dancing Master, as Welcome Home Old Rowley (this edition is sometimes dated 1657, but the tune must be for the Restoration of Charles II in 1660; "Old Rowley" was a nickname for the King, derived from the name of his pet billygoat which had the same sexual appetites). A much more recent Irish version is the reel The Pigeon on the Gate.

There's Mony a Man is from a manuscript of James Boswell, partly Scots songs and partly his own adaptations for the Justiciary Opera, with an obvious piece of self-censorship. It must be intended for the same tune.

The Three Nuns in the Cowgate is printed without a tune in a collection of the late 18th century. The subject matter is close to The Old Maid in the Garret, and the tune for that fits the verse with only a few changes, but not the chorus. Another song with a similar theme is Tibby Fowler, which fits better.

In other versions of The Spanish Lady, the lady turns up in Dublin and London as well as Edinburgh, and to several different tunes. The song is probably English originally; one version set in London was printed in The Merry Muses of Caledonia, with the lady being a prostitute - most of the song was about the haggling between her and the client. The words and tune I have given here are from the Greig-Duncan collection. The oldest known tune of this title is Scottish, from the Skene Manuscript, and sounds like a folk tune, but it has too many long notes to fit these words without a note-splitting, particularly for the last line. I've included it anyway.

The characters and the basic situation of When she cam ben she bobbit are those of The Collier's Daughter and The Coal-bearer's Lamentation. It was collected by David Herd in the middle of the 18th century. The events described in the song seem to be based on a true story. The laird was Mark Carse, a relative of the wealthy Kerrs of Newbattle who lived in the middle of the seventeenth century. Carse is said to have had his Cockpen estate confiscated by Cromwell, and restored to him after he got Charles II's attention by bribing the royal organist to play the king's favourite Scots tune, Brose and Butter.

The song was rewritten in a more literary form by Lady Caroline Nairne (née Oliphant) in The Laird of Cockpen, published in 1821. Nairne censored the woman's sexuality and class origins, making her a penniless aristocrat, and added the twist that the woman turns down the laird. Her song in turn had a sentimentalized happy ending tacked onto it by the novelist Susan Ferrier, where the woman changes her mind again (but the reference to "chickens" shows that Ferrier was aware of the uncensored original). The subsequent transformation adopted by the Corries sank to even deeper levels of bathos.

The tune underwent a more attractive evolution. It's a specifically Scottish minor-key variant of the very widespread air known as Vilikins and his Dinah, Sweet Betsy from Pike, or The Old Orange Flute, found all over Britain and Ireland. Its harmonic structure made it a natural for classically-trained musicians to arrange; elaborated versions of it turn up in many books and manuscripts. I've given four variants of it: the early and distinctively different one from Margaret Sinkler's 1709 manuscript, the setting from the Scots Musical Museum, a set of variations by William McGibbon, and a version from the manuscripts of Lady John Scott in the late 1840s. The version I've given for The Laird of Cockpen is from G.F. Graham's The Popular Songs and Melodies of Scotland. The Lard of Cockpen's Scotch-measure is a musically unrelated tune which might refer to the same laird. It was published by Henry Playford in 1700. It somewhat resembles the much later Sailor's Hornpipe.

Melville Castle, at the northern edge of Dalkeith, was the home of Henry Dundas in the closing years of the 18th century. Willie's gane to Melville Castle long predates him. For no reason I can figure out, its subject has been alleged to be William MacDowall of Castle-Semple and Garthland, an industrialist from the south-west of Scotland. The tune is distinctively pentatonic; I've taken it from Greig'sMinstrelsie of Scotland.

The Young Laird and Edinburgh Katy and Katy's Answer is a pair of songs, to texts by Allan Ramsay. They are set on the Castle-hill, now the Castle Esplanade; before the military took this over as a car park and for the Tattoo, it was a popular place for Edinburgh people to go for an evening stroll. It could never have been as idyllic as the young laird's description, but Ramsay had bought up a lot of property adjacent to it (the location of the present Ramsay Garden) and the estate-agent hyperbole can't have hurt his investment. He based the first song on an older one. The first verse was unchanged; the rest of the original is lost, but it probably got to the point quicker and more explicitly. The words come from Orpheus Caledonius. I have given the tunes as they appear in the Scots Musical Museum. The first seems to be related to the well-known The Haughs of Cromdale. I've given what might be an alternative tune, Wat ye what I got late yestreen from George Skene's manuscript of 1715 for the Lowland pipes, with a set of variations. It predates the publication of Ramsay's song. It's for an unusual chanter with a C natural, perhaps waxed down just for this tune; there are too many C major arpeggios for Skene to have got the key signature wrong. The second, usually known as My Mither's Ay Glowrin O'er Me, is yet another member of the huge and complicated Up in the Morning Early tune family. Ramsay launched his own songs from a traditional beginning on other occasions. Perhaps his most powerful is Fy gar rub her o'er wi strae, which glues an audacious Scots translation of Horace onto a fragment of an old bawdy song with one of the finest tunes in the whole Scots repertoire.

I Look to the North is by Burns, first published in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum. He took the tune from Mr Charles Graham's Welcome Home, published in the Gows' Second Collection. The original text for that tune is the darkest and most pagan of all Scottish ballads, Charles Grahame, in which the dead man is conjured from the grave by the harp playing of his lover, who then has to trick his malevolent ghost into returning to the underworld. It has no specific local connection but it's so rare it seems worth including it. I've taken it from a manuscript of C.K. Sharpe. Burns often bowdlerized the bawdy content in the songs he adapted for publication. This blandly melancholy song is the only example I know of where he had to find an alternative to the bleakness and horror of traditional supernatural imagery. I've given two versions of the tune: Burns's own, from the Scots Musical Museum and a bagpipe setting from David Glen's collection.

There was a lady lived in Leith has some fairly repulsive racial stereotyping, but it bounces along with tremendous energy. It comes from an unidentified printed clipping of March 1822, preserved in a scrapbook in Edinburgh Public Library. The tune is Highland Harry.

Tooraladdy is another song from R.W. Hume's The Lyre. The tune is the best-known of the many tunes called Highland Laddie; the original contains precise musical notation for hamming up the shivering and sobbing effects, which seems a bit superfluous to me. It's almost the same as the slip-song Bunhill-Row Courtship, printed by W. Collard in London; I don't know which came first.

Highland Laddie had been adapted by Edinburgh children long before, as Burns found it:

Where have you been a' the day,
Bonnie laddie, highland laddie,
Down the back o' Bell's Brae,
Courtin' Maggie, courtin' Maggie.

Miss Burns arrived from Durham in 1790 and set up house in Rose Street. According to her outraged neighbours, she then engaged in a line of business that the street subsequently became famed for, the last such establishment only disappearing in the 1980s. With the help of Burns' publisher Bailie Creech, they took legal action to get her evicted and banished. Robert Burns commented in a letter of February 1790:

how is the fate of my poor Namesake, Mademoiselle Burns, decided? Which of their grave Lordships can lay his hand on his heart and say that he has not taken the advantage of such frailty; nay, if we may judge by near six thousand years experience, can the Wold do without such frailty? O Man! but for thee & thy selfish appetites & dishonest artifices, that beauteous form, & that once innocent & still ingenuous mind might have shone conspicuous & lovely in the faithful wife and the affectionate mother; and shall the unfortunate sacrifice to thy pleasures have no claim on thy humanity! As for those flinty-bosomed, puritanic Prosecutors of Female Frailty & Persecutors of Female Charms - I am quite sober - I am dispassionate - to shew you that I am so I shall mend my Pen ere I proceed - it is written, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain", so I shall neither say, G - curse them! nor G - blast them! nor G - damn them! but may Woman curse them! May Woman blast them! May Woman damn them! May her lovely hand inexorably shut the Portal of Rapture to their most earnest Prayers & fondest essays for entrance! And when many years, and much port and great business have delivered them over to Vulture Gouts and Aspen Palsies, then may the dear, bewitching Charmer in derision throw open the blissful Gate to tantalize their impotent desires which like ghosts haunt their bosoms when all their powers to give or receive enjoyment, are for ever asleep in the sepulchre of their fathers!!!

According to the Scots Magazine in 1783, the number of brothels in Edinburgh had grown 20-fold in the previous 20 years, so I have to wonder why they thought one more would make any difference. The action failed, to Creech's humiliation. Miss Burns moved to Roslin and died late in 1791, aged only 22, her passing marked (in The Bee, a short-lived but innovative journal) by a sententious epitaph of a type more common in the next century:

Like to a fading flow'r in May
Which gard'ner cannot save,
So beauty must some time decay,
And drop into the grave.

Fair Burns, for long the talk and toast
Of many a gaudy beau,
That beauty has for ever lost
Which made each bosom glow.

Think fellow sisters on her fate,
Think think how short her days,
O! think and e'er it be too late,
Turn from your evil ways.

Robert Burns has been accused of writing that. I don't believe it. Miss Burns's Reel is from a 1794 collection by William Campbell. Several later brothels rivalled Miss Burns's in notoriety: that of the murderer Mary McKinnon in the 1830s, the Kosmo Klub's network of houses in the 1920s, and the upmarket Danube Street establishment of the often-prosecuted Dora Noyce, finally closed down in the 1980s. (She disliked having it called a brothel, preferring to see it as "more of a YMCA with extras"). With the quasi-legalization of the Edinburgh sex trade in the 1990s, some of them now even have their own websites.

The Edinburgh Ramble (1) and (2) come from Adam Murray's manuscript songbook in the National Library of Scotland, dated 1796 but compiled decades before. There is an Irish tune called Bobbing in Bed (also known as Planxty Connor) whose title matches the tagline but is a very bad fit for the words in every other way, so I suggest another Irish tune, The Humours of Glen, which I've taken from the Gows' Second Repository - it's used for another cautionary tale about prostitutes in this collection with an identical verse form. Neither has any trace of Scottish idiom, and I suspect that both are Anglo-Irish. Murray wrote two versions of the song next to each other without a break; I've given both.

Confession comes from a hymnbook of 1802 written for the use of the Edinburgh Magdalen Asylum, an institution intended to reform prostitutes and send them out into domestic service. (Mainly young women; two-thirds of those admitted to the Magdalen Asylum were between 15 and 20). The story of these asylums in Scotland is to be found in Linda Mahood's subtle and fascinating book The Magdalenes; they survived in Ireland until very recent years. The hymns in the book follow a sequence intended to mark the progress of a "magdalen" from admission to release. The writer must have been a man, and there are confusions of person and gender, like the "thy" in the last line of this piece, when he couldn't decide whether to write as if the hymns would be sung to or by the women. The first book of religious music for reforming fallen women had been in England in the 1760s, collections of psalms, hymns and tunes by M. Madan, founder and chaplain of the Lock Hospital in London; it was influential on later hymnbooks and some of it made its way into Hymns Ancient and Modern.

The leading campaigner against prostitution in 19th-century Edinburgh was William Tait, whose book Magdalenism of 1840 was the result of a house-to-house and almost whore-to-whore survey of the city's brothels, so detailed that he then had to rearrange the data to prevent his book being used as a directory. He estimated that £200,000 a year was spent on prostitution and that there were 800 full-timers. He classified the places they worked in like this:

Genteel houses of assignation                  3
Second-rate houses of assignation             15
Licensed taverns                              10
Ginger-beer shops                             25
Genteel public brothels                       10
Second-rate brothels                          18
Third-rate brothels                           25
Very low brothels, eating and lodging-houses  97
Total                                        203

Prostitutes always followed the rich to their pastimes. In the 18th century this meant provincial race meetings, but the highest-profile one in Tait's time was the Earl of Eglinton's massive mediaeval re-enactment event in Ayrshire:

The greatest change which perhaps ever took place at any period, was observed in 1839, at the time of the Eglinton Tournament, when about one-half of the prostitutes in Edinburgh left for Glasgow and the provincial towns and villages in the west of Scotland... very few returned for some months after the Tournament, which put the Dames de Maison to so much inconvenience, that they were on several occasions obliged to offer very high premiums to sewing girls and others to frequent and sleep in their houses.

No specific tune was given for Confession; any with the right metre would have been acceptable. One tune in that metre (L.M.) is Waly, Waly, which I've taken in the version from the Church of Scotland's Church Hymnary (3rd edition). It's the same as the way it's usually done today by folk singers.

The Sandy Bell's Man was written by Stuart MacGregor in 1958. Sandy Bell's is handily sited to be a medical students' pub, but hasn't been one for many years. Since the song was written it has been better known as the haunt of many characters from the Edinburgh folk music scene, Hamish Henderson and me included. MacGregor died in a plane crash in 1973, aged 37. The tune is based on the Irish song The Black Velvet Band.

There is little lasting trace of homosexuality in Scotland, either in the legal record or the wider culture, until very recent times. It may have been part of the charges against the Templars at their trial in Holyrood in 1309, but the legal historian David Hume could only find two recorded cases of sodomy that came to court between the Reformation and the early 19th century (against five cases of bestiality) and the sexual orientation of even the most prominent gay man in Scottish history, King James VI, has never been much discussed in public. Don't Go Out With Jane Any More is a children's rhyme from the 1960s, by which time it had begun to be an issue for the first time in centuries. The tune, Pop Goes the Weasel, is of course not Scottish; it was published by Henry Oakey in 1853.

Once I Loved is from the 1840s; it was first noted down by a member of the Rymour Club in 1906, sung by an old man who had heard it from a young Edinburgh engraver.

And from that it is a small step to solitary love songs. There is a small poem in heroic couplets in a manuscript left by an Edinburgh lawyer of the early 18th century (Advocates Library MS Adv.19.3.16 in the National Library of Scotland). As usual I've left the spelling and punctuation (or lack of it) as in the original. It must have been hard to work a quill pen one handedd jsut lkie it iswiht akyebroad.

Upon Frigging

Men when Robust and Strong are apt to Love
They mary straight that they may Easie prove
And all the Good that they gain by a wife
Is to be forc'd to fuck them or have Strife
To Duty oft they Go without Desire
When wifes Cryes out, o Husband you want fire,
Some men there are to Purchase Sweet Repose,
Go's out a Bitching, and so lose their Nose.
Nor pity them they're mock'd by all that's wise
And others Frigs, when Swelling Prick doth Rise
Of these three ways I think th last the Best
To give a man all Quiet Ease and Rest
The Stand doth take what man can freely spare
And yet abstaining gives the stand no Care
If what's most worthy we should still Desire
Then Men we should not Woemen ere admire
Since Men doe fuck, the Ladys they love most
I'll fuck my Self, free of all Count or Cost.

That could not have been meant for any tune. But there's a far better women's song on the same subject, the anonymous Impromptu Celibacy Celebration Song from the roneo-duplicated Edinburgh lesbian feminist newsletter Nessie in 1979. The tune is Me and My Shadow from 1927, written by Billy Rose for Al Jolson. I've cut the chorus to fit the words.

Back to Contents List

Embro, Embro
Copyright © 2001, Jack Campin