Sangstories
Stories of Scottish Songs

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

The Calton Weaver

I am a weaver, a Calton weaver
I am a rash an a rovin blade
I’ve got siller in my pooches
I’ll gang follow the rovin trade
Whisky, whisky, Nancy Whisky
Whisky, whisky, Nancy O

As I cam in by Glesca city
Nancy Whisky I chanced to smell
I gaed in, sat doon beside her
Seven lang years I loed her well

The mair I kissed her, the mair I loed her,
The mair I kissed her, the mair she smiled
I soon forgot my mither’s teachin
Nancy soon had me beguiled

I woke early the next morning
Tae slake my drouth it was my need
I tried tae rise but I wisna able
Nancy had me by the heid

“Come awa landlady, what’s the lawin?
Tell me whit I hae tae pay”
“Fifteen shillins is the reckonin,
Pay me quickly and go away”

As I gaed oot by Glesca city
Nancy Whisky I chanced tae smell
I gaed in, paid four and sixpence,
A’t was left was a crooked scale

I’ll gang back tae the Calton weavin
I’ll surely mak the shuttles fly
I’ll mak mair at the calton weavin
Than ever I did in a rovin way

Come a’ ye weavers, Calton weavers
Come a’ ye weavers, where e’er ye be
Beware o whisky, Nancy Whisky
She’ll ruin you as she ruined me


Words:
A’t: all that
Drouth: thirst
Glesca: Glasgow
Lawin: bill in an inn
Pooches: pockets
Scale: sixpence (according to Ord in Bothy Songs and Ballads)
Siller: silver, money


Brought to Sangschule by Gordeanna McCulloch.

A similar text is in Ord’s 1930 Bothy Songs and Ballads and according to his note: “The old burgh of Calton, now part of the city of Glasgow, was famous for its weavers. Indeed, weaving seems to have been the chief industry there during the first quarter of the last century. (19th century)

However, there are several versions in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection vol.3 , no. 603, under the heading “Nancy Whisky”, the earliest being from 1905, and all of them referring to the “Dublin weaver” with no mention of “Calton”.  But in the relevant lines where our verse has “I’ll mak mair at the Calton weaving / Than ever I did in a rovin way”, four versions have “cotton weaving”. Might there have been a transition from “cotton” to “Calton”?

Greig was encouraged by the apparent farewell to drink in the text to say “that on the subject of drink the popular conscience has been, and is, wonderfully sound.”
A verse, absent from our version, but present in several, seems to lean in the other direction:
I do not value this crooked sixpence / Nor will I lay it up in store

But I’ll go in have another gill  /And then I’ll go and work for more”

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