Stories of Scottish Songs

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

Kissin's Nae Sin

traditional, at least 18th century

Some say that kissin’s a sin
But I say it’s nane ava
For kissin’ has been in this warld
Since ever there was twa

O if it wisnae lawfu – lawyers widnae allow it
If it wisnae holy – meenisters widnae dae it
If it wisnae modest – maidens widnae tak it
If it wisnae plenty – pair folk widnae get it

Ava: at all
Pair: poor

This song was brought to Sangschule by Anne Neilson. Anne emerged as an excellent singer from the Ballads Club started at Rutherglen Academy by teacher and folk music enthusiast Norman Buchan in the 50s. Anne was a member of Glasgow based group Stramash, now disbanded, and runs ballad workshops with Gordeanna McCulloch.

Ewan MacColl included “Kissin’s Nae Sin” in his collection Scotland Sings (1953) and also in The Singing Island (1960) compiled by MacColl and Peggy Seeger.  His notes say: “The heroine of Scots popular music is…a thumping quean called Maggie or Jessie who knows the facts of life. ..She can dance the Reel o Stumpie and face the consequences with fortitude and even humour.” 

“As in Italy, love is the great theme of Scots folksong, but, unlike Italy, it is the act of love rather than the emotion that is celebrated. John Knox might rave against the sins of the flesh, and numerous ‘Holy Willies’ might rant against ‘evildoers’ but the Commons of Scotland had a healthy realistic attitude to love which no amount of Calvinistic preaching could pervert. True, there were prying elders and the cutty-stool to be faced after the act, but the joys of love…outweighed all such considerations.”

Ewan MacColl can be heard singing Kissin’s Nae Sin on

A version of the song appears in Herd’s 18th C collection Ancient and Modern Scottish SongsAuld Sir Simon the King

Some say that kissing’s a sin, But I say that winna stand:/It is a most innocent thing,/And allowed by the laws of the land.

If it were a transgression,/The ministers it would reprove;/but they, their elders and session,/Can do it as weel as the lave (rest)

Its lang since it came in fashion,/ I’m sure it will never be done,/ As lang as there’s in the nation,/ A lad, lass, wife, or a lown (loon, boy)

What can I say more to commend it,/ Tho’ I should speak all my life?/ Yet this will I say in the end o’t,/ Let ev’ry man kiss his ain wife.

Let him kiss her, clap her, and dawt (pet) her,/And gie her benevolence due,/ And that will a thrifty wife mak her,/ And sae I’ll bid farewell to you.

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