Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

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

Plooman Laddies

from the singing of Lucy Stewart of Fetterangus

Doon yonder den there's a plooman lad
Some simmer's day he'll be aa my ain
And sing laddie aye, and sing laddie o
The plooman laddies are aa the go

I love his teeth, an I love his skin
I love the verra cairt he hurls in

In yonder toon ah could hae gotten a merchant
But aa his gear wisna worth a groat

Doon yonder den ah could hae gotten a miller
But aa his dust wad hae deen me ill

It's ilka time I gyang tae the stack
I hear his wheep gie the ither crack

I see him comin frae the toon
Wi aa his ribbons hingin roon and roon

Words:
Aa the go: in fashion, all the rage
Deen me ill: made me sick
Den: narrow wooded valley
Groat: archaic Scottish coin of low value
Gyang: go
Hurls: rides (in a wheeled vehicle)
Ilka: every
Stack: peat stack
Verra: very

This song was brought to Sangschule by Christine Kydd, who gave us another verse :
“And noo she’s gotten her plooboy lad / As bare as ever’s he cam frae the ploo”

Another song in praise of the glamorous ploughboy and the girl in love with him. Here the affair is still joyful without the disappointment of his moving on without her – and perhaps this time he won’t.

Our version appears in The Scottish Folksinger, except that Sangschule have reversed words in the chorus, where it is credited to the singing of Lucy Stewart, of the famous Traveller family. Lucy had: “And sing laddie oh, and sing laddie aye / The plooboy laddies are aa the go”.

 Lucy’s niece is Elizabeth Stewart, now well-known as a pianist, singer and tradition bearer, who talks about her in Sheila Douglas’s book The Sang’s The Thing. Sheila says that Lucy Stewart was not so well-known, perhaps, because of her shy and retiring nature, the family stay-at-home who brought the children up and sang about the house.

Elizabeth didn’t realise she was learning from her aunt: “ I heard these songs from my early childhood; I was brocht up wi them. Fitever else I did in my life music-wise – an the piano was my instrument – these songs was aye in my mind. Efter aa this years, I can still remember them and now other people are enjoyin them as much as I’m enjoyin them an that’s the most important thing. To me, it matters more than money. To me it gives a lot o’ satisfaction to tell people aboot her songs, and a lot o’ people know her name, Lucy, especially as that’s who I got them fae.”

Lucy Stewart’s version does not appear in the Greig-Duncan Collection but  several similar lyrics are recorded, to different tunes, in vol.3, no.445 for example, The Plooman Laddie:
The Plooman he comes doon the toon / Wi a his rings a ringlin roon / The plooman he’s a merry loon / He whistles aye when he sees me

 I would hae got the merchant into yonder shop / But a’ his goods they’re nae worth a groat, / The chiel himsel he’s but a sot / And I’m for my plooman laddie

 I would hae gotten the miller into yonder mill, / The smell o the dust would hae done me ill / I love the plooman and aye will dee, / I’m for a plooman laddie

 I would hae got the smith into yonder smiddy / But the smiddy coom (soot) would hae ruined me / I love the plooman and aye will dee / And I’m for my plooman laddie

 It’s I’ll tak aff my goon o’ green / And I’ll put on my goon o’ broon,
  On a bed o’ strae we’ll baith lie doon / And I’ll clap my plooman laddie

“The Plooman Laddie”in Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads is sung to a different tune “The Rigs O Rye”. He records 11 verses with a different chorus from ours, but with similar verses - including mention of the miller and the merchant – for example:
When I gang oot and gang to the stack / I hear his whip gie the ither crack / My very heart is like to brack / For the love o my plooman laddie

Chorus:  Then it’s oh, oh, oh, it’s bonnie oh,
  To hear him cry hup, hi, and wo,
  And mak his horses straight to go;
  What’s better than a plooman?

.In the Greig-Duncan Collection,vol.3, no.447, a song with that chorus is put under a different heading, “The Praise of Ploughmen”, while love songs about Plooman Laddies are  found at no. 445.

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