Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

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

The Blacksmith Noo

by John Anderson, Upper Boyndlie
Last verse made by Glenn Muir of Sangschule                                
 
The blacksmith noo we maun a’loo
Can mak or mend an iron ploo
But wha could steer her straight and true
Gin it wisna for the plooman

The miller he may haud his jaw
And gang an sup at his mill wa
But nae stoor frae his mill wid blaw
Gin it wisna for the plooman

The mason he can build a hoose
An pit it tae its proper use
But a’body be man or moose
Depends upon the plooman.

Wi honest toil and sweated broo
We'll mak the furrow straight and true
Auld horse ye'll get the corn ye're due
And there's cauld kale for the plooman

Words:
A’loo: allow, admit
Gin: if
Haud his jaw: keep quiet
Kale : soup of coarse cabbage; midday or evening meal
Ploo; plough
Stoor: dust
Sup: eat, have supper

This song was brought to Sangschule by Gordeanna McCulloch, and sung together with another song : “The Plooman’s Life”.They come from the family of songs where the gallant plooman is the hero of the day, this time because he provides the basis of food and life, leaving aside his romantic prowess.

The second verse refers to the lucky miller who could get enough to eat from the very meal dust that clings to the mill walls. But he would have no such dust if it were not for the plooman.

A fuller version, “In Praise of Ploughmen” appears in Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads and also in The Greig-Duncan Collection Vol.3, no. 447, where the writer is noted as John Anderson, a farmer of Upper Boyndlie, writing “about the middle of last century, (19th C) or perhaps somewhat earlier.”

There each verse has eight lines, with the miller, mason, blacksmith, souter (shoemaker) gardener and tailor all making claims for their trade in the first four lines, and the plooman returning his answer in the last four. Our version has left off the claims of the other tradesmen and put together the lines praising the plooman.  The last verse below makes clear why the miller in our verse 2 is being told to “haud his jaw.”  

Here are three of the verses as sung by John Mowat and recorded in  The Greig-Duncan Collection:
“The blacksmith he says I hear news / Do I not make your iron ploughs / And fit the coulter for its use / Or there would be nae ploomen?
Oh blacksmith we maun all allow / That you can mak an iron plough / But you would never get that to do / If it were not for the plooman
.”

The mason he cries Ho, ho fie / Do I not build your castles high / The wind and rain for to defy  / Far better than the plooman?
Oh mason ye may build a house / And fit it for its proper use / But from the king unto the mouse / Depends upon the plooman”

The miller he speaks out wi glee / Do I not sit at the mill e’e / And grind the corn food for thee / Far better than the plooman?
Oh miller ye may haud your jaw / And sit and look at your mill wa’ / And see if dust frae it wid fa’ / If it were not for the plooman
.”

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