Sangstories
Stories of Scottish Songs

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

The Maid Gaed Tae The Mill

18th century

The maid gaed tae the mill by nicht,
Hech hey sae wanton
The maid gaed tae the mill by nicht,
Hech hey sae wanton she,
She swore by moon and stars sae bricht that she would get her corn grund
She would get her corn grund, meal and multure free

Oot then cam the miller's man,
Hech hey sae wanton
Oot then cam the miller's man,
Hech hey sae wanton he
He swore he'd do the best he can for tae get her corn grund,
For tae get her corn grund, meal and multure free

He's pit his airm aboot her neck,
Hech hey sae wanton
He's pit his airm aboot her neck,
Hech hey sae wanton he
He's dang her doon upon a sack, and there she's got her corn grund
There she's got her corn grund, meal and multure free

When ither maids gaed oot tae play,
Hech hey sae wanton
When ither maids gaed oot tae play,
Hech hey sae wanton she
She sobbed she sighed, she widna stay, because she'd got her corn grund,
Because she'd got her corn grund, meal and multure free

When forty weeks had passed and gaen,
Hech hey sae wanton
When forty weeks had passed and gaen,
Hech hey sae wanton she
This lassie had a braw lad bairn, because  she'd got her corn grund,
Because she'd got her corn grund, meal and multure free

Her mither bad her cast it oot,
Hech hey sae wanton
Her mither bad her cast it oot,
Hech hey sae wanton she,
It was the miller's dusty cloot, for getting o her corn grund,
For getting o her corn grund meal and multure free

Her faither bad her keep it in,
Hech hey sae wanton
Her faither bad her keep it in,
Hech hey sae wanton he
It was the chief o a' her kin, for getting o her corn grund,
For getting o her corn grund meal and multure free

 

Words:
Dang her doon: pushed her down with force
Grund: ground
Hech: expression of disgust
Hech hey: expression of weariness, regret
Multure: measure of meal paid to the miller as part of his fee
Wanton: sexually immodest

Aileen Carr brought this song to Sangschule.
 
The miller’s privileged place in society figures in many songs. Farm tenants were obliged to have their meal ground at the laird’s mill and sometimes had to give up their own querns to ensure that they could not grind their own. He was in a position of power in his community, and power as an aphrodisiac plus the suggestive sounds of the regular thumping of the mill may contribute to the list of songs where girls turn up to get their meal or malt ground, “multure free”  - without paying the miller’s fee of part of the meal.

Our text is the same as that in David Herd’s Ancient And Modern Scottish Songs of 1776 and almost identical to the version printed in The Scots Musical Museum, Vol.5 no. 481, of 1796 where the tune is “I Am A Miller To my Trade”.  Greig comments in vol.7, no.1489: “The air is evidently the source of ‘When Johnnie Comes Marching Home Again’” and that it is a form of “John Anderson”.

The Greig-Duncan Collection Vol.7, no.1436, records one complete version, similar to ours, called “The Miller” about which Greig said: ”: “I heard an old man sing this song, which has a pretty tune, giving during its whole progress an imitation of the mill hopper with his hands and elbow on the table”.   This was a frequent accompaniment also to “I Am A Miller To My Trade.”

Two in Greig-Duncan have first verses only - The Miller and the Maid” and “Hech, Hey, So Wanton”. Duncan said that the latter, contributed by Archibald Knowles in 1906, was the “not very delicate”  David Herd version, that it was sung in bothies everywhere and that he learned it in Skene.

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