Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

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

Rhynie

(Linten Lowrin) 19th Century 
as sung by Gordeanna McCulloch

I shear’d my first hairst at Bogend,
Doun by the fit o Bennachie
And sair I wrought and sair I fought
But I wan oot my penny fee

Linten lowrin, linten lowrin
Linten lowrin, linten lee

O Rhynie’s wark is ill tae wark
And Rhynie’s wages are but sma
And Rhynie’s laws are double straight
And that does grieve me maist o’ a’

O Rhynie is a Hielan place
It’s faur frae like my faither’s toun
And Rhynie is a cauld clay hole
It doesna suit a lowland loon

Words:
Bairnie: child, chap
Fee: payment for a 6 month contract of employment. Feeing times were May andNovember, when dissatisfied workers or farmers could have a change.
Gait: way
Hairst: harvest
Hungry place: place where they let you go hungry
Ill tae sit: hard to put up with
Laith: loath, unwilling
Straight: strict (English ‘strait’ means both narrow and strict)
Toon: fairm toon – buildings that made up a good-sized farm.
Wan oot ma penny fee: managed to stay the 6 months in order to get full wages
Worst ava: worst of all
Wrocht: worked, struggled

“Rhynie” was brought to Sangschule by Glasgow singer Gordeanna McCulloch.

Bothy ballads are usually thought to have appeared between 1840 and 1870, when bothies (living quarters)and chaumers (sleeping quarters) came into existence. Family farms gave way to bigger units and the male workforce was separated from the family life of the farmer. After the long day’s work, songs they sang and made often took a humorous turn, making fun of the farmer and his family and telling home truths about the harsh conditions, the weather and the food. Often the same verses were used in different songs, or lines were changed about in the process.

This version was sung by John Strachan of Fyvie and published and popularised in the “wee red book” of the 60s folk song Revival, “101 Scottish Songs” :

At Rhynie I sheared my first hairst/ Near tae the fit o Bennachie. /
My maister wis richt ill tae sit / But laith was I tae lose my fee.

Chorus:
Linten addie, toorin addie / Linten addie toorin ee

Rhynie’s wark is ill tae wark / An Rhynie’s wages are but sma/
And Rhynie’s laws are double strict/ And that does grieve me warst ava

Rhynie, it’s a cauld clay hole, / It’s far frae like my faither’s toon/
An Rhynie it’s a hungry place / It doesna suit a lowland loon

But sair I’ve wrocht an sair I’ve focht / An I hae won my penny fee
An I’ll gang back the gait I cam / An a better bairnie I will be

“Jock o Rhynie” appears in different versions in Volume 3, number 348 in the Greig-Duncan Folksong Collection. Local informants identified the farmer “well-known, or rather notorious” for working his men hard, and known as Jock o Rhynie. Though other names were suggested, most mention John Gordon who farmed at Mains of Rhynie from the 1830s to his death in 1859. One story told of a boy on the farm explaining he couldn’t keep up with the rest loading carts because he only had a small spade. Jock replied “Weel, laddie, ye’ll need to fill it the fuller.”

But was the Jock of the songs a farmer or a farm-hand? Research by Adam McNaughtan shows that it would be unwise to assume that bothy ballads all sprang from the oral tradition. He has identified another Jock, John Riddell, and a written ancestor for “Jock o Rhynie” and “The Barnyards o Delgaty”. The two ballads share so many verses and connections that collector Gavin Greig said in the Buchan Observer, 1908 that it was unlikely “that we shall ever be able to ‘redd it up’”  - to tidy or organise it.
 
McNaughtan quotes a chapbook version – “The Roving Boy” or “New Deer Prodigal”- of 25 verses and chorus “Lelta loura loura laddie lee”. Published between 1816 and 1827, it predates the usual period for bothy ballads, and is in the broadside tradition, but has many shared verses and lines with the two ballads above-mentioned.

 In the song, the writer tells us "J- R- is my name" . McNaughtan quotes a Mrs Corbett who wrote to Greig's column in the Buchan Observer : "My grandmother often spoke of him, as she knew him well, and she always called him Jock Riddell. She said he was born on the farm of Craigmill, which is halfway between New Deer and Maud."

Adam McNaughtan has no doubt that John Riddell wrote "The Roving Boy" - historical episodes in his life are mentioned in the song. For example, Riddell appears in the minutes of Methlick Kirk Session in 1806 where he admitted to fathering an unborn child, and had a hefty fine to pay. McNaughtan is sure that, like the hero of “The Roving Boy”, Jock Riddell soon after joined the army and was off with “Geordy’s boys.”

He believes that “Jock o Rhynie” was “the title given to the orally transmitted version of John Riddell’s “The Roving Boy” and was first sung in the early 19th century when Riddell was in the parish of Methlick and known in the nearby farms, though from the song, it was the farm name “Rhynie” and the complaints about ‘the highland place” that stuck. The tune and some verses were taken up at Barnyards and others added about working conditions.

Adam McNaughtan’s essay, on "Redding up the Barnyards: a note on the origin of the Bothy Ballad” is found in Emily Lyle: The Persistent Scholar, (B.A.S.I.S Vol.5 – Ballads and Songs – International Studies.