Stories of Scottish Songs

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

If You Will Marry Me

Oh I'll gie you a dress o red,
Aa stitched roon wi a silver thread,
If you will marry, arry arry arry
If you will marry me

Oh I'll no tak your dress o red.
Aa stitched roon wi a silver thread,
An I'll no marry, arry arry arry
I'll no marry you

Well, I'll gie you a silver spoon,
Tae feed the wean in the efternoon
If you will marry ….

Oh I'll no tak your silver spoon
Tae feed the wean in the efternoon
An I'll no marry…    

Well I'll gie you the keys o my chest
An aa the money that I possess
If you will marry ….

Oh yes I'll tak the keys o your chest
An aa the money that you possess
An I will marry ….

Oh ma Goad, ye're helluva funny,
Ye dinna love me but ye love my money,
An I'll no marry, arry, arry, arry,
I'll no marry you!

Gordeanna  MacCulloch brought this song to Sangschule, and gave us the last verse with particular Glasgow relish. She had an even more final verse where the rejected female says she’ll sit in the shade, and “no marry at aa”. Printed as a Glasgow street song in Norman Buchan’s “Wee Red Book” – 101 Scottish Songs – it has a wider currency, for adults as well as children and in different parts of the country.

In his reference book of Scots children’s songs and rhymes, Doh Ray Me, When Ah Wis Wee, p.195 –197, Ewan McVicar records some variations of our song: the silver spoon could be “to beat the wean” in the afternoon, “or less alarmingly and more poetically ‘to beat the waves in the afternoon’.”

Our song seems to be a children’s version, sometimes used for games, of a song often beginning “I’ll gie you a pennyworth o preens” or “ a paper of pins.” Ewan quotes the Opies in The Singing Game who explain: “ A paper of pins was at one time a recognized lover’s gift” and they quote a song from 1611 as illustration. (The term “pin money” is an echo of this, originally a wife’s allowance for personal expenses.)

Even Auld Nick himself obeyed this convention according to Robert Chambers in Popular Rhymes of Scotland 1942 and quoted by Ewan. The Devil’s attempt at courtship starts: I’ll gie you a pennyworth o preens / That’s aye the way that love begins. The Devil ups his offer with a pair o shoon, “the tane made in Sodom, the tother in Rome”. Finally his lady accepts “the hale o Bristol town, / With coaches rolling up and down”. Presumably the offer of keys to his heart would not apply in this case.

Ewan quotes other versions intended for adult singers. One recorded in Cromarty was said to be a favourite marriage song, sung by the best man or best maid and contributed to Vol.3 of The Rymour Club collection in 1928 – in the distinctive dialect of the Cromarty fisher folk:

Hi’ll gie to thee ha penny’s worth ho preens / To tack up thy flounces hor hony hother things/ Hif thoo’ll walk, hif thoo’ll walk, hif thoo’ll walk with me honywhere

He also quotes the duet Alan Lomax recorded in the North East in 1951 from Mr and Mrs John Mearns:
I’ll gie tae you a pennyworth o preens / Tae fasten up yer flounces and ither bonny things
If you’ll walk, if you’ll talk, / If you’ll walk wi me

I’ll no hae your penny worth o preens etc
And I’ll no, and I’ll no / And I’ll no walk wi you

I’ll gie tae you a yalla hairy muff / Tae keep your handies warm when the wither’s cauld and rough etc.

I’ll gie tae you a cosy armchair / Tae rest yoursel in when your beens  (bones) are auld and sair etc

I’ll gie tae you the keys o my hert / And frae you I’ll never never part etc.

O but I’ll tak the keys o yer hert / And frae you I’ll never never part
And I’ll walk, and I’ll talk / And I’ll walk wi you

The Opies have recorded this kind of duet as a singing game for children. However, versions recorded in the North East in The Greig-Duncan Collection Vol. 4. no.825  are presumably for adults only, when acceptable offers there include “a weel made bed / And me a young man to lie by your side” .

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