Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

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

The Lichtbob's Lassie

First when I cam tae the toon, they ca'd me young and bonny
Noo they've changed my name, ca'd me the Licht Bob's honey.

Hum dum dum derry day, hum dum dum derry daddy, 
Hum dum dum derry day, oh he's a bonny laddie .

Next when I cam tae this place, they ca'd me young and saucy
Noo they've changed my name, ca'd me the Licht Bob's lassie.

I'll dye my petticoats red, and face them wi the yellow
I'll tell the dyster lad, that the Licht Bobs I'm to follow.

It's over hills and dales, and over dykes and ditches
And sae weel's I like the lad that wears the moleskin britches.

The black horse draws the cairt, and the blue ane follows sae bonny
And sae weel's I like the lad that drives them on sae canny.

Feather beds are soft, painted rooms are bonny
But I would leave them aa, and steal awa wi Johnny.

Oh, my back's been sair, shearin Craigie's corn
I winna see him the nicht, but I'll see him the morn.

Oh for Saturday nicht, sure I'll see my dearie,
He'll come whistlin in, when I am tired and weary.

Words:
Canny: carefully, skilfully
Dyster: dyer
Lichtbob: soldier
Moleskin: thick, strong cotton with a shaved pile and a soft feel, for working trousers

Christine Kydd brought this song to Sangschule. It appears with 6 verses in 101 Scottish Songs edited by Norman Buchan. It is sung to the same tune as “I know where I’m going.”

Norman Buchan’s note says that “Hamish Henderson has found references to the lichtbobs as being soldiers, and indeed the references to the red petticoats faced with yellow, as he says, “clinches the fact that the lassie is ‘going for a sodger’”.

A note in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection says that “Light Bobs were light infantrymen formerly part of the fighting establishment of all foot regiments but in the mid-nineteenth century re-grouped to form light infantry regiments.”

Norman Buchan gives a credit for the formation of the song as it appears in his book: “Words W. Mathieson, collated with version in Folk-Song of the North East”. All the verses are found in one or other of the different versions of the song in the  Greig-Duncan Collection. Christine’s version draws on these also for her 4th and 5th verses and for two she gave us but did not sing herself:

Some ca my true love black, and some say he’s nae bonny /
But to me he’s the flower o them a’, though his father had never sae mony.

I’ll sen a letter tae my love and kindly I’ll inveet him
 And in by Union St, at the Windmill Braes I’ll meet him

Most of the versions in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection are titled “The Leaboy’s Lassie” though two of these mention the “licht Bob’s lassie” or the “licht Rob’s lassie” inside the verses – and one is “The Licht Bobs Honey”.
The first “Leaboy” version recorded in Greig-Duncan is subtitled “The Ploughman’s Lassie”. Norman Buchan in 101 Scottish Songs suggests that “Lea boy” would mean “Herd Boy”.  

What we are to make of the “Lingboo’s Lammie”, also in Greig-Duncan, is uncertain, but the basic story is the same and the sweetness of the tune draws together the soldier, the lad in moleskin trousers driving the horses, the lassie getting her clothes dyed in regimental colours and the shearer in Craigie’s corn thinking about her sweetheart.