Sangstories
Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional
and newer songs 
sung by Sangschule 
of Linlithgow

Aince Crowdie

mainly traditional, last verse by Robert Burns  
First printed 1803 in The Scots Musical Museum under title “O that I had Ne’er Been Married”


O that I had ne’er been married
I would never had nae care
Now I’ve gotten wife and bairns
An they cry crowdie ever mair

Aince crowdie, twice crowdie
Three times crowdie in a day
Gin ye crowdie ony mair
Ye’ll crowdie a’ my meal away

Waefu want and Hunger fley me
Glowrin by the hallan en
Sair I fecht them at the door
But ay I’m eerie they come ben


Words:
Aince:once
Aye: always
Ben: in or towards the inner part of a house
Crowdie: oatmeal and water, mixed and eaten raw. (Now a soft cheese)
Eerie: dreading, fearful
Fecht: fight
Fley: frighten
Glowrin: scowling
Hallan: partition in a cottage between the fire and the door, usually mud and stones
Hallan end: the space between the partition and the outer door
Waefu: woeful

Scott and Anne Murray of Sangsters brought this song to Sangschule.

Johnson prints it in The Scots Musical Museum in 1803 as ‘Corrected by R. Burns’ with the last verse marked “Added by Burns.”

Burns’s editors in The Canongate Burns say: “Only the final verse, by far the most distinctive part of the song, is by Burns: the main text is traditional.”

Burns knew all about the struggle to keep hunger and poverty away from the family. And come ben they did. The introduction to The Canongate Burns says that the “physical agony of his death bed….was horrendously intensified by his sense that all he would leave his wife and children were the terrible consequences of his debts” and “that the spectre of famine, as a consequence of the war with France, was loose in the Dumfries streets.” Burns is quoted as saying:

“Many days my family, and hundreds of other families, are absolutely without one grain of meal; as money cannot purchase it.”

In this context, “crowdie” – oatmeal mixed with water, eaten raw – meant the most basic means of survival. 

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