Chorus and verse 1 are in The Merry Muses of Caledonia, and thought to be by Burns or collected by him, with another two verses not in our version – see note below.
Tune: “The Reel of Stumpie” (“My Daddie was a Fiddler Fine.”)
Hap an rowe, hap an rowe
Hap an rowe the feetie o't
I thocht I was a maiden fair
Till I heard the greetie o't
My faither was a fiddler fine
My minnie she made mantie-o
An I mysel, a thumpin quean
Wha danced the reel o Stumpie-o
The gossip cup, the gossip cup
The kimmers' clash and caudle-o
The glowin moon, the wanton loon
The cutty stool an cradle-o
Douce dames maun hae their bairn-time borne
Sae dinna glower sae glumphie-o
Birds love the morn and craws love corn
And maids the reel o Stumpie-o
Caudle: caddel or cathel, hot drink like egg-nog with ale, sugar and eggs
Clash: gossip, chatter
Cutty stool: stool of repentance in church, for unwed mothers
Danced the reel o Stumpie : had sexual intercourse
Douce: respectable, sedate
Glumphie: glumpy, gloomy, sulky
Gossip: female friend, godmother (from OE godsib)
Kimmer: female friend, midwife, godmother
(Mankie: manco or calamanco, a kind of woollen cloth. Alternative to ‘mantie’ and not in Merry Muses or Scots Musical Museum version)
Mantie: woman’s loose gown; material with which it’s made, usually silk
Mantie-maker: a dress-maker
Quean: quine, girl
Reel: lively dance
Rowe: wrap up
Thumpin quean: strapping lassie
This song was brought to Sangschule by Christine Kydd, who included it on her CD with Janet Russell, Dancin’, Chantin’. It was sung along with “Tail Toddle” and the notes say that they “are both traditional songs of sexual enjoyment sung from a woman’s point of view.” The song gives snap-shot views of the encounter by moonlight and the consequences, a noisy sounding “bairntime” with women as midwives blethering and having a drink, the dreaded church attendance to repent on the cutty stool, and a cheery commentary that even the disapproving respectable have done the deed themselves and should know it is natural for maids to love “the reel o Stumpie – o”.
It seems clear that Burns had something to do with the chorus and first verse, but scholars disagree on whether he wrote or collected them. And he is not named in connection with the “gossip cup” and “douce dames” verses.
The chorus and verse 1 were first in print in Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum, Volume 5, No. 457, of 1796. The only difference from Christine’s version of those verses is that the original printing there of “Wap and rowe” had become “Hap and rowe” in our version with the same meaning.
Although it was unsigned by Burns in the Musical Museum, The Canongate Burns (2003) lists “The Reel o’ Stumpie” amongst Burns’ “Posthumous works” and says it was “based upon the bawdy lyric preserved in The Merry Muses of Caledonia.”
The 1965 edition of Merry Muses published by Panther quotes the same chorus and first verse and gives 2 other verses:
“Lang kail, pease and leeks, / They were at the kirst’ning o’t,
Lang lads wanton [wanting] breeks,/ They were at the getting o’t.
The Bailie he gaed furthest ben,/ Mess [minister] John was ripe and ready o’t
But the Sherra had a wanton fling, / The Sherra was the daddie o’t.”
The editor of another edition of Merry Muses published by Luxor Press (1966), E.L.Randall, believes that Burns collected the beginning chorus and verse and wrote the two verses above. He adds: “ The version called ‘Wap and Row’ finished the first verse with the words ‘And tried the rantie-tantie O’. ‘Stumpie’ means much the same as in modern English – short and thick. ‘The reel of stumpie’ is a facetious reference to the male organ.”
The song as we have it is close to the version printed in Ewan MacColl’s Scotland Sings of 1953, p.61. The tune, according to MacColl, “first appeared in John Walsh’s Caledonian Country Dances book 1 circa 1734”. In Scotland Sings “mantie”has become “mankie” - short for calamanco, a kind of woollen material.) MacColl notes that he got his version from Allan Cunningham’s Songs of Scotland (1825). He prints a flowery extra verse which has been dropped from Christine’s version:
Dance and sing, dance and sing, / Hey the merry dancing-O
And a’ their love-locks waving round /And a’ their bright eyes glancing- O
The pipes come wi their gladsome note,/ And then wi dool and dumpie-O
But the lightest tune to a maiden’s foot / Is the gallant reel of Stumpie-O
MacColl in his notes on love songs in Scotland Sings says “The heroine of Scots popular music is no Dresden shepherdess ….but a thumping quean called Maggie or Jessie who knows the facts of life…..She can dance the Reel o’ Stumpie and face the consequences with fortitude and even humour."