Stories of Scottish Songs

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

Sailor Laddie

I've been east and I've been west, an I've been in Dundee
But the bonniest lad that e'er I saw, he ploughs the raging sea

Awa wi ma sailor laddie, awa wi him I'll go
Awa wi ma sailor laddie, awa wi him I'll go

I've been east, and I've been west, an I've been in Montrose
But the bonniest lad that e'er I saw he wears the tarry clothes

He skips upon the plainsteens an he sails upon the sea
An he's a bonnie sailor lad, the lad that I gang wi

His jaiket's o the bonnie blue, an his troosers o the white
He's a curly kep wi a tinsel band, that sailor's ma delight

I saw ma laddie gang aboot, I saw ma lad set sail,
I saw him turn his ship aboot, awa tae catch the whale

He bad me aye keep up ma hert, he bad me nae be dull.
He bad me aye keep up ma hert, till he tak me tae hissel

: cap
Plainsteens: flat stones used for paving; paved area surrounding the mercat cross.
Tarry clothes: waterproofed. ‘Tarpaulin’ was originally made of tarred canvas. ‘Tarpaulin’ was a 17th century nickname for a sailor, and ‘tar’ meaning ‘sailor’ may be short for that. A ‘tar’ was also a sailor’s tarred or oilskin hat.
Tinsel: interwoven with metallic thread

Brought to Sangschule by Christine Kydd..In her notes for her CD Heading Home Christine says “Singer and flute player Niall Kenny introduced me to this song, two versions made into one, from Songs and Ballads of Dundee”

Nigel Gatherer, editor of Songs and Ballads of Dundee, says that the first of these, consisting of two verses with a refrain, was collected by Aberdeenshire folksong collector Gavin Greig (1856 –1914) from the Rev. John Calder and that it is “related to a family of folksongs which include ‘The Ploughboy Laddie’, ‘The Collier Laddie’ and ‘the Gypsy Laddies’. The tune is somewhat reminiscent of ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’.”

He notes that the second song (our last four verses) was collected by Maurice Fleming and that the singer claimed that it originated in Dundee. Maurice Fleming, a journalist in Dundee, “ did voluntary fieldwork for the School of Scottish Studies in its early years. His first notable coup was his recordings of the Stewarts of Blair in 1953.”

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