Sangstories
Stories of Scottish Songs

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

Mary And Bothwell

by Bill Jackson and others, 1950s

Mary and Bothwell were lovers,
Oh Lordy, how they could love!
They swore to be true to each other,
Just as true as the stars above
He was her man, but he was doing her wrong

Mary went over to Paris,
Married the Dauphin, I hear.
The Dauphin is cold in his coffin,
It didn't even last a year

Mary came back home to Holyrood,
Under the Edinburgh rocks,
But all of her jigging and dancing
Didn't go down with John Knox

Mary was sitting in her boudoir
Drinking a bottle of beer
When in came her husband, Lord Darnley,
"Is David Rizzio here?"

They dragged Davie into the corridor,
There they did kill him, I fear,
You can still see the blood on the carpet,
They paint it up new each year!

Darnley fell ill of a fever,
Mary, she sat by his bed,
Mary stepped out for a minute,
Boom! And Darnley was dead!

This story has no moral,
Of morals she had no need,
There was only one thing wrong with Mary,
She couldnae keep the heid

Words:
Dauphin: heir to the throne of France
Keep the heid: keep calm, keep your temper

Brought to Sangschule by Anne Neilson, who emerged as a singer from the Ballads Club started at Rutherglen Academy by teacher and folk music enthusiast Norman Buchan in the 50s. Anne currently sings with Glasgow based group Stramash and runs ballad workshops with Gordeanna Mcculloch.

 Former members of Sangschule who now form the group Tryst have recorded this song on their CD Companions and note that Anne “said it was written for a Rutherglen Academy school show around 1958 by Bill Jackson and others.”

The song rattles through well-known episodes in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. She was the daughter of James V who died soon after her birth in 1542. Scotland had just been defeated by England in the battle of Solway Moss and hearing of her birth, James was reputed to have said about the Stewart succession “It cam wi a lass, and it will gang wi a lass.”

To avoid English plans to annexe the country by marrying Mary off to the English heir – the “rough wooing” -she was sent to France and married at sixteen to the ailing heir to the French throne. After his death and that of her mother, the Regent, Mary returned to Scotland as its 19 year old Queen.

Her Roman Catholic upbringing caused problems with the State and with the Protestant church, whose figurehead, based in Edinburgh, was John Knox. During her marriage to Scottish noble Lord Darnley, there were rumours about her relationship with her secretary and favourite, David Rizzio, and he was assassinated. Next year the Edinburgh house where Darnley lay ill was blown up and he was found dead in the grounds. It was noted with suspicion that Mary had left the house at the time.

 Her stormy affair with the Earl of Bothwell began with his abducting her. They married, but a Scottish uprising against Mary’s rule ended with their separation. Bothwell fled to Denmark and Mary looked for protection to her English cousin Elizabeth.  She was seen as a threat to Elizabeth’s rule and eventually beheaded – in the end she “couldnae keep the heid.”

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