Woo’d an married an a’
Kissed an carried awa
And is no the bride weel aff
Bride that’s woo’d an married?
This verse was brought to us at least 15 years ago by Christine Kydd as one of a set of songs including “Hap and Rowe” and the “Reel O Stumpie”. The tune we use is not traditional. More recently, visiting tutor Amy Lord used it as part of a round of songs. Though short, it provides a great example of the making and remaking that goes on in the folk process.
“Woo’d an married an a’” has been in print as a chorus for more than two hundred years, in Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs of 1776, p115. There are six verses to “The Bride Came Out of the Byre” eg chorus, verse 1 and verse 6:
Chorus: Woo’d an married and a’/ Woo’d an married and a’/ Was she nae very weel aff, Was woo’d and married and a’
(1) The Bride came out of the byre,/ And O as she dighted her cheeks, / Sirs, I’m to be married the night, / And has neither blankets nor sheets,/ Has neither blankets nor sheets, / Nor scarce a coverlet too; / The bride that has a’ to borrow,/ Has e’en right muckle ado
(6) Out spake the bride’s sister, / As she came in frae the byre; / O gin I were but married, / It’s a’ that I can desire: / But we poor fo’k maun live single, / And do the best we can; / I dinna care what I should want, / If I cou’d get but a man.
An apparent relative, “No To Be Married Ava”, appears in Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads, echoing in the title and chorus the sentiments of the sister in Verse 6 above. Ford’s informant says it was written by “a young probationer of the Church of Scotland” about 1826/ 27. “It was at first dressed out in semi-antique language, but was latterly altered and improved and set out in every-day Scotch, by Dr A Crawford, of Lochwinnoch. The air is ‘Woo’d and Married and A’.”
No to be married ava,/ No to be married ava,/ Oh! Is it no awfu’ to think/ I may na be married ava?
"Jokes" that crop up in song relatives found in 20th century repertoires can be recognized in the three last verses of "No To Be Married Ava":
Oh! Gin I could get a bit husband, / E’en though he were never sae sma’/ If he’s only a man, I would tak him, /Though scarce like a creature ava! / Come souter, come tailor, come tinkler, / Oh! Come but and tak me awa / and gie me a bode ne’er sae little, / I’ll tak it and never say na!
Come deaf, or come dumb, or come cripple, / Wi ae leg, or nae leg ava, / Or come ye wi ae ee, or nae ee,/ I’ll tak ye as ready’s wi twa / Come young or come auld, or come doited, / Oh1 come ony ane o ye a’ / Far better be married to something / Than no to be married ava!
Now, lads, if there’s ony amang ye / Wad like just upon me to ca’ /Ye’ll find me no ill to be courted, / For shyness I hae flung awa / And if you should want a bit wifie, / Ye ken in what quarter to draw, / And e’en should we no mak a bargain, / We’ll yet get a kissie or twa!
Part of this is remembered and remade in four lines of a song called I’d Raither be Married to Something in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection Vol.7, no.1379 recorded in 1906, and said to have been sung in Alford:
Wooed and married and a’, kissed an’ carried awa,/ I’d rather be married to something than nae be married ava / Come blin’, or come deaf or come cripple, wi ae leg or nae leg ava / I’d rather be married to something than nae be married ava
At another stage of the folk process, we have the “Auld Maid in a Garret” with some familiar lines:
Oh, come tinker, come tailor, come soldier or come sailor./ come ony man at a’ that would tak me fae my faither. /Come rich man, come poor man, come wise man or come witty / Come ony man at a’ that would mairry me for pity
But here too we are reminded of old roots - it appears in Buchan’s 101 Scottish Songs where the note says “it goes back to the seventeenth century, to a broadsheet ballad called The Wooing Maid” from London whose chorus was: Come gentle, come simple, come foolish, come witty, / Oh if ye lack a maid, take me for pity.
Another in the family is “Betsy Bell”, popularised by Belle Stewart, who said she got the words from a broadsheet in the Poet’s Box in Dundee and put it to the tune of Harry Lauder’s “We parted on the shore” - from www.mustrad.org.uk.
Belle’s second verse, quoted in MacColl and Seeger's Till Doomsday in the Afternoon, has the list of characteristics as before:
For I’m looking for a lad and he may be guid or bad /For I’m gaun to tak the first yin that I see,/ He may be young or auld, or grey-heided, friends, or bald - / It’s onything that wears the breeks for me.
The woman in the last verse quoted above of “Nae To Be Married Ava” has flung away shyness and appeals to any lads listening to call on her if they want a wife, and Belle’s refrain says For I’m neither prood nor shy,/ That the men should pass me by while the last verse as sung by West Lothian group The Linties starts If there’s anybody here, who would like a little dear…
A wee song but with long textual roots.