Sangstories
Stories of Scottish Songs

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

The Twa Yorlins

by Glenn F. Muir   2002
to the tune  ‘Halloween’ by Jim Reid

Twa yorlins, did, upon a day
Big their nest in the month o May
Far frae the birks and leafy glen
Far and frae the haunts o men
Up on the muir, I maun avow

The yorlin-hen laid in her bower
Eggs, ane, twa, thrie and fower
Skinklin there, like onie gaw
The yella flooers in ablaw
In shaidie o yon broomie knowe

The laverock hingin on the blaw
Telt the warld o whit he saw
Tae the north, south, east and west
He sang a song o the yorlin's nest
Och curse ye and yer speirin tongue

A corbie flew o'er that hill sae high
He swore he'd dine on eggs or die
Cam a whittret tae; wha'd aiblins bite
They tasty eggs o the yorlin-yite
Happit wi down, ablaw the thorn

A corbie's bad and a whittret worse
But sweir tae face the yorlin's curse
He sat on a thorn wi his heid ajee
"Deil, deil, deil tak ye
Far awa frae me and mine"

The corbie flew off at an awfae pace
The whittret quick as a' his race
Lowpin the stanes o a crumblin wa
He soon was off and far awa
As the gloaming hour cam swiftly on

In auld Alba, whaur the yorlin flees,
Ye'll hear nae plea for breid nor cheese
Sae we'll be like yon bonnie bird
Staun for oor rights, not mince a word
Freedom is taen, it's never gien.

Words:
Ablaw
: underneath
Aiblins: perhaps
Ajee: to one side
Alba: Scotland
Avow: swear as true
Awfae: awful
Big: build
Birks: small woods; birch trees
Blaw: wind
Corbie: crow
Deil: devil
Flees: flies
Gaw: geegaw, cheap jewellery or toy
Gie’n:given
Gloaming: evening dusk
Happit: wrapped warmly
Hingin: hanging
Knowe: hillock
Laverock: lark
Lowpin: jumping
Maun: must
Muir: moor
Onie: any
Skinklin: sparkling, glittering
Speirin: prying
Staun: stand
Sweir: reluctant
Ta’en: taken
They (thae): those
Whittret: weasel
Yorlin: yellowhammer
Yorlin-yite: yellowhammer, also known as the yella-yite

The yellowhammer’s call is often expressed as a repeated plea for “a little bit of bread and no cheese” but Glenn gives us a more assertive Scottish version: “Deil, deil, deil tak ye”.
.
Glenn says about this song:
“The yorlins’ nest symbolises Scotland, the eggs are the future and wealth of Scotland. The corbie and the whittret symbolise the dangers to Scotland’s future and prosperity. “The Twa Yorlins” of the title are guardians of Scotland and the birthright of its people.”

Glenn is well-known in West Lothian as a singer-songwriter and has been a member of the West Lothian Songwriters Group for many years. He is also a long-term member of the West Lothian community singing group Sangschule.  Although Glenn initially joined in hopes of finding interested people to write tunes for his lyrics, he has stayed for the pleasure of singing in good company.

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