Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

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

The Rovin Ploughboy

Come saddle tae me, my auld gray mare
Come saddle tae me, my pony o
I'm on the road and I'm goin far awa
Awa wi the rovin ploughboy o

Ploughboy-o ploughboy-o
Follow my rovin ploughboy-o

Last night I lay in a fine feather bed
Sheets and blankets sae cosy o
The night I maun lie in a cauld barn shed
Rowed in the airms o my ploughboy o

Champion ploughboy, my Geordie lad
Cups and medals and prizes o
In bonnie Deveronside there's nane can compare
Wi my jolly rovin ploughboy o

Fare ye weel tae auld Huntly toon
And fareweel tae Drumdelgie o
I'm on the road and I'm goin far awa
Awa wi the rovin ploughboy o

Words:
Row’d: wrapped

Christine Kydd brought this song to Sangschule. It appears in 101 Scottish Songs, the “wee red songbook” of the 60s. Editor Norman Buchan notes that it was from the singing of John McDonald of Pitgaveny, Elgin. Christine told us he was ‘The Morayshire Molecatcher.’

Sheila Douglas includes it in Come Gie’s A Sang (1995) and quotes another verse:
What care I for the auld laird himsel, / What care I for his siller O?
Gae saddle tae me my auld grey mare, / I’m awa wi the rovin ploughboy O

Sheila notes: “The first verse of this song was learned by John MacDonald’s father from a farm servant on the farm where he worked. John added the rest and it is reminiscent of ‘The Gypsy Laddies’ in the second verse. The theme of leaving everything to follow a lover is perfectly adapted to the rural scene, in which farm workers moved from farm to farm and the girl who fell in love with the ploughman could be faced with the choice of following him or losing him. In this case, she is willing to reject the advances of ‘the auld laird himsel’ to throw in her lot with the ploughman.”

“He has to be imagined, not as some rustic clodhopper, but as one of the ‘made horsemen’ of the Horseman’s Word, the secret society of ploughmen, who had power over horses and women in an age when, in the words of another song, ‘The ploomen laddies are aa the go.”