KATHERINE CAMPBELL

Scots Songs and Ballads from Perthshire Tradition



sprcd 1041
£11.99

Booklet (12 pages) included with the CD

Buy CD:
Your Cart:


Katherine Campbell sings ballads and songs from the unique family repertoire of sisters Amelia and Jane Harris who inherited a wealth of ballads and songs from a Perthshire family tradition dating back to the mid 1700s. The collection includes well known ballads such as Mary Hamilton (Child 173), Captain Wedderburn (Child 46) and the Cruel Brother (Child 11) but many of the Harris ballads are rare and, in the case of several, this may well be their first recording.

Click to view

Booklet PDF

Johnnie Armstrong


Broun Edom

Johnnie Armstrong
or Broun Edom
on springthyme/ soundcloud


Artistes: Katherine Campbell: vocals; Mairi Campbell: fiddle;
Tony McManus:
guitar; Peter Shepheard: melodeons; Gary West: small pipes.
Track List:
For full song texts, click on a song title
1: Fair Margaret 8.20 Kath with Gary West (small pipes)
2: Johnnie Armstrong 5.10 Kath with Tony McManus (guitar)
3: Young Logie 4.41 Kath with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
4: Archerdale 4.47 Kath with Pete Shepheard (melodeon)
5: Tod Lowrie 1.06 Kath Campbell (vocal)
6: Sweet William 4.45 Kath with Tony McManus (guitar)
7: Mary Hamilton 4.21 Kath with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
8: Broun Edom 3.03 Kath with Gary West (small pipes)
9: My Luve She Lives 3.41 Kath with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
10: Johnnie Brod 4.24 Kath Campbell Gary West (small pipes)
11: Rose o Malindie 4.19 Kath Tony McManus (guitar)
12: East Muir King 1.16 Kath with Pete Shepheard (melodeon)
13: Cruel Brother 5.36 Kath Campbell (vocal)
14: Earl of Aboyne 2.41 Kath with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
15: Captain Wedderburn 3.59 Kath with Tony McManus (guitar)
16: Burd Helen 5.37 Kath with Gary West (small pipes)
17: Molly Hustan 2.54 Kath with Tony McManus (guitar)

A CHANCE DISCOVERY in an Edinburgh bookshop warehouse in 1955 brought to light an important early collection of Scottish ballads. This was a lost manuscript of a unique traditional ballad repertoire of two sisters, Amelia and Jane Harris who, in the mid 1800s, had written down a family repertoire of songs and ballads they had learnt from their mother Grace Harris at their home in the village of Fearn in the hills of Angus.

Amelia (1815-1891), the elder daughter, was only 12 years old when she first wrote down some of her mother’s ballads for the Aberdeen collector Peter Buchan who included them in his Ancient Ballads and Songs of Scotland (1828). The Edinburgh manuscript was compiled by Amelia a few years later in 1859 and sent by her from her then home in Newburgh, Fife to the ballad scholar Professor William Aytoun who had recently published his Ballads of Scotland in 1858. When the great American ballad scholar Francis James Child heard of the manuscript, enquiries were made on his behalf but the manuscript was never found. However, Amelia Harris had by 1872 compiled a second manuscript of the family ballads with words and tunes and this was passed to Child who included many of them in his famous work The English and Scottish Popular Ballads published between 1882 and 1898.

What makes the Harris ballad collection particularly important is that many of the ballads that Grace Harris taught to her daughters had been part of a family tradition dating back two further generations (to the mid 1700s) to the manse of Grace’s maternal grandfather the Rev Patrick Duncan of Tibbermore in Perthshire. Grace had been orphaned at the age of seven and was put in the care of an old family nurse Jannie Scott who had been in family service since the birth of Grace’s mother in 1745 at Tibbermore. It was from Jannie that Grace picked up many of her ballads and, in her older years, she often remarked of Jannie’s rich repertoire that ‘she had only a tithe of old Jannie Scott’s ballads’.
Peter Shepheard © 2004

A companion book The Song Repertoire of Amelia and Jane Harris edited by Emily Lyle, School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh University with Kaye McAlpine and Anne Dhu McLucas is published by the Scottish Text Society at 27 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD.

To find the meaning of any Scots word - enter in the box above and press return.

1: Fair Margaret 8.20

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Gary West (small pipes)
Fair Margaret is bearing a child by her lover Lord John. As he prepares to leave to return to the highlands she asks to go with him but is warned that ‘if ye waur in the wide Hielands ye wald be owre far frae hame.’ She insists on going with him and ‘she kilted up her green cleiden’ to appear as a pageboy and they journey north together. They ride to the river Clyde across which they swim. They come to the wide Hielands where ‘every ane spak Erse (i.e. gaelic) tae anither, but Margaret she spak nane.’ When they come to Lord John’s castle they are welcomed in for food, drink and a rest. Lord John asks his mother to make a bed for him with his ‘futeboy’ at his feet. During the night Margaret rises and goes into labour and asks for a bed for ‘your young son and me.’ Lord John replies:
‘But cheer up your heart noo, Fair Margaret,
For be it as it may;
Your kirken and your fair weddin,
Sall baith be on one day.’

This beautiful and moving ballad was considered by Child as one of the finest ballads in the language. He gave it the title Child Waters (Child 63) after the earliest publication of the ballad in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765). The ballad was widely known in Scotland well into the nineteenth century with versions in Jamieson as Burd Ellen, in Kinloch as Lady Margaret and Buchan as Burd Helen. There are closely related ballads in Scandinavian tradition. Versions collected in northeast Scotland are in The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection and in Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs as Fair Ellen.

2: Johnnie Armstrong 5.10

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Tony McManus (guitar)
The Armstrongs were a notable family in Liddesdale in the Scottish borders from the 14th century onwards. By the early 1500s they had become a powerful independent force. In the summer of 1530 King James the Fifth mounted an expedition to pacify his border country. It is probable that John Armstrong and his men were tricked into meeting the king with a promise of pardon, but instead, John and his band (who included other famous border names such as Scott and Elliot as well as Armstrong) were taken and hung, probably at Carlenrig north of Canonbie.

The ballad (Child 169) tells how the king writes a letter to John inviting him to pay him a visit in Edinburgh. Johnnie and his eight score of men dress in their finest and ride north to Edinburgh.

He dressed his merry men all in green,
And he himself in the scarlet red;
And every man had a milkwhite steed,
And hats and feathers all alike.

When John comes before the king he asks for pardon but is told that ‘tomorrow before I taste meat or drink, high hanged shall your eight score o men and you be.’ They fight courageously ‘till they left not a man in the king’s lifeguard, never a man but barely three.’ Then ‘a cowardly man cam John behind, and run him through his fair body,’ whereupon Johnnie calls on his men to ‘fight on, fight on my merry men, I am a little hurt but I am not slain, so here I’ll lie and bleed a while, and rise and fight with you again.’ However, Johnnie and his men are defeated, a gallows is set up on the plain ‘and there they hanged Johnnie Armstrong and fifty of his warlike men.’ Back home, Johnnie’s lady is looking over her castle wall and sees ‘a bonnie little boy, coming riding speedily’ and the boy gives the news that ‘Johnnie Armstrong you’ll never see.’ The last verse seems muddled, as it should not be the pretty little boy and his son who would ‘be the heir to a’ my lands’ but Johnnie’s own son, who lived to be known as Johnnie’s Christy. Child B finishes with:

O then bespoke his little son,
As he was set on his nurses knee:
‘If ever I live to be a man,
My fathers blood revenged shall be.’

The rather excellent Harris version of the ballad is now published for the first time in Emily Lyle’s Harris Repertoire. Although Child had access to the Harris text he seems to have mislaid the source of his copy and assumes (wrongly) that ‘it is probably a transcript from recent print’ (Child III, p 363). He adds that ‘both forms of the ballad (his A, B as opposed to C) had been too long printed to allow validity to any known recited copy.’ He then prints two verses from this copy and notes that ‘it diverges from the ordinary text more than any I have seen.’ Bronson includes the Harris tune (169.7) with just a single stanza.

3: Young Logie 4.41

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
The ballad is based on an incident at the court of James VI that took place in 1592. John Wemyss, the young Laird of Logie in North Fife, was a gentleman servant of the king’s chamber and was apparently a great favourite of both King James and his queen and was involved in a relationship with Margaret, the queen’s marie. The queen’s marie (i.e. lady in waiting) was, in this case, Margaret Twynlace who attended Queen Anne when she came to Scotland from Denmark in May 1590. In the Harris version of the ballad (The Laird o Logie: Child 182) the young Laird of Logie is imprisoned by the king for the apparently minor indiscretion of ‘stealing a kiss from the queen’s marie’ as in the first stanzas:

Pretty is the prisoner oor King’s tane,
The rantin young Laird o Logie. [i.e. carefree
Has he brunt or has he slain? [i.e. burnt
Or has he done any injurie?
Oh no, no, he’s done nothing at all,
But stown a kiss frae the Queen’s Marie.

The offence for which Logie was locked up in August of 1592 was, in fact, more serious than stealing a kiss. He was said to have had an involvement with Francis Stewart, the Earl of Bothwell and cousin to the king who had ‘conspired the apprehension of the king’s person’ while James had been residing at Falkland palace in June of the same year.

In the ballad, when Lady Margaret hears that her young Logie has been detained, she comes down the stair crying to the queen, ‘Oh that ever I to Scotland came, aa to see Young Logie dee.’ The queen replies:

‘Haud your tongue, noo Lady Margaret,
An aa your weeping, let abee,
For I’ll gae to the King masel,
An plead for life to (of) Young Logie.’

The queen goes to the king, but he refuses her pleas for clemency. Lady Margaret again pleads with the queen who ‘counterfeits the king’s hand’ in a message which she sends with the king’s glove to ‘Pitcairn’s wa’s’ as authority for the freeing of Logie. The king, looking over his castle wall, sees Young Logie, the queen admits her part in the venture and Young Logie is pardoned:

‘Since it is my gracious Queen,
A hearty pardon we will gie,
An for her sake, we’ll free the loon,
The rantin young Laird o Logie.’

There is no historical evidence the queen was involved in the deception. Lady Margaret is reported to have herself gone to the guard during the night with a request that she was to take Logie to the king. Instead she enabled him to escape from a window. She and John Wemyss, younger of Logie, were later married.

4: The Knicht o Archerdale 4.47

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Pete Shepheard (melodeon)
A knight on horseback is riding along when he spies a lady ‘luikin owre her castle wa.’ She insults him by saying that he does not seem a ‘gentle knight’ but that he seems to be ‘some souter’s son’ (a shoemaker’s son) for his ‘boots they are sae wide.’ He replies that ‘ye dinna seem a lady gay’ but that she is ‘bound wi pride’ else she would not have taunted and insulted him as he rode past her father’s gate. At that, he ‘turned aboot his high horse heid’ and pretends he is about to ride away. But she asks him to stay:

He turned aboot his high horse heid,
And awa he was bound to ride;
As neatly wi her mouth she spak,
'Oh bide fine squire, Oh bide.'

‘Bide, o bide ye hinny (gentle) squire,
Tell me mair o your tale –
Tell me some o that wondrous leid
[leid = language, lore
Ye’ve learned in Archerdale.’

She then puts to him a series of riddles: ‘What gaes in a speal?’ – ale (in a spoon or ladle); ‘What gaes in a horn green?’ – wine; ‘What gaes on a lady’s head when it is washen clean?’ – silk. Again he turns to ride away when she again asks him to stay. She observes that he looks ‘as like my ae brither, as ever I did see’ but that he is ‘buried in yon kirkyaird, mair than years is three.’ The knight agrees, saying, in effect, that he is the ghost of her brother and that because of her pride and vanity he cannot get peace in his grave. He tells her to leave behind her pride and vanity saying, ‘if you come the roads that I hae come, sair warned you will be’ (i.e. if she had seen what he had seen she would repent her proud ways). He prepares to leave saying that before she comes (in death) to the churchyard she will leave behind the gold pins in her sleeve and gold plaits in her hair.’ The ballad ends with the lady Janet repenting her ways:

He got her in her mither’s bour,
Puttin goud plaits in her hair;
He left her in her faither’s gairden
Mournin her sins sae sair.’

Child has five, quite diverse versions of this rare ballad, first published as Proud Lady Margaret in Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (Child 47; GD 336; Last Leaves 20). Bronson has three tunes, the Harris version taking pride of place.

5: Tod Lowrie 1.06

Kath Campbell (vocal)
A Scottish version of a song better known in its English form as A fox jumped up one winter’s night (Opie 171).

Mother tod (fox) is lying sick with seven young ones at her feet. She longs for some tasty meat:

The tod’s wife is lyin sick, [tod, tod-lowrie = a fox
Wi seven young tods at her feet,
She longed for a bit o the pykan meat,
[pykan = piquant
A’ for her lyin in O,

6: Sweet William 4.45

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Tony McManus (guitar)
The ballad of Sweet William or the Famous Flower of Serving Men (Child 106) survives in Scottish tradition particularly among the Scottish traveller community. A version quite similar to the Harris version in both text and tune is in Greig-Duncan (GD 163, Last Leaves 42). Bronson has the Harris tune as the first of six and traces evidence of the ballad as far back as a lute book of around 1630. The Harris text is slightly faulty and the lines about the silly old man have been added from a current traditional version to fill a hiatus in the story line.

A band of thieves come to a ladies bower, they kill her knight and break down the bower and, in some versions, they also kill the babe that is in her arms. Her servants flee and the lady dresses as a servant boy and rides away.

With a double ruff and a beaver hat,
And a golden band about ma kneck;
A silver rapier by ma side,
So like a gallant I did ride.

Then on a day it chancit so,
That I to the King's court did go;
O that I of his house did claim,
That I a servants place might have.

When she (now called William) comes to the king’s hall looking for employment she is asked whether she will be one of his guards, or a taster of his wine or:

‘Will you be master of my hall,
To wait upon my nobles all?
Or will you be my chamberlain,
To make my bed both soft and fine?’

She declines all except the last and agrees to be the king’s chamberlain. One day the king goes hunting and leaves behind none but a ‘silly old man’ who hears ‘William’ singing:

‘My husband built for me a bower,
And decked it ower wi many a flower.
A band of thieves came in by day,
They spied my bower and they went away;
And these same thieves came back by night,
They spied my bower and they slew my knight’

The silly old man realises that William is a woman and when the king returns he tells the king:

‘What news, what news,’ the king did say,
‘None, but William is a lady gay.’
Was ever the like heard or seen,
For a gentleman to become a queen.

7: Mary Hamilton 4.21

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
This lovely ballad, often known by the title The Four Maries, has been widely popular in Scotland during the last couple of centuries. The twenty eight versions in Child make it the most popular in his collection (Child 173; GD 195) and Bronson included the Harris tune among twelve. Whether the ballad reflects a historical event associated with Mary Queen of Scots is by no means certain. When Mary Stuart was sent to France in 1548 at the age of five or six she had four companions of her own age all by the name of Mary and when she returned in 1561 the four Maries returned with her. They were named Fleming, Seaton, Livingstone and Beaton and some of these names are retained in the still popularly known verse:

‘Yestreen the queen had four Maries,
The nicht she’ll hae but three;
There was Mary Bethune and Mary Seaton,
An Mary Carmichael and me.’

The story takes place in the court of Mary Stuart where the unfortunate heroine is one of the queen’s four maries (i.e. her ladies in waiting, coincidentally all named Mary). The young Mary (Hamilton) has fallen pregnant as she says:

‘Queen Mary’s bread it was sae sweet,
An her wine it was sae fine;
That I hae lien in a young man’s arms,
And I rued it aye sin syne.’

In many versions the father is given as ‘the highest Stewart of all’, that is Henry Darnley, but this is unlikely. Mary gives birth to the babe who the queen ‘hears greetin sae sair,’ but Mary says it is herself in pain from colic. However, they search high and low and ‘there they got the wee, wee babe, but its life was far awa.’ Mary is summoned to Edinburgh where she is tried and the ballad ends as ‘the bonniest Mary amang them a’ was hanged upon a tree.’ Historical evidence suggests that the actual event referred to was the murder of a child born to a French maidservant of Mary Queen of Scots, for which she and her lover, an apothecary to the queen, were executed in 1563 and not to any of her maids-of-honour (the ‘Queen’s Maries’).

8: Broun Edom 3.03

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Gary West (small pipes)
The Harris family had only a fragment of this very rare ballad which Child included in his collection as Brown Adam (Child 98B) along with two other longer texts neither of which tell a particularly coherent story. The ballad relates how Broun Edom the smith goes to the good green wood to visit his true love:

It fell out aince upon a time,
Broun Edom he thoucht lang,
That he wad gae to see his luve,
By the lee licht o the mune.

A rather picturesque stanza paints a picture of his studie or anvil of gold (steel in other versions), his hammer with a soft core of reed, and his bellows:

His studie was o the beaten gowd,
His hammer o the pith;
His cords waur o the gude green silk,
That blew his bellows with.

In the fuller texts of the ballad, when he comes to his lady’s bower he finds her being tempted with gifts by a false knight, whereupon he fights with the knight and sends him packing.

The tune as notated by Amelia Harris fits the bagpipe scale (i.e. myxolydian mode with flattened 7th) and is accompanied here on the Scottish small pipes by Gary West. For some reason, Bronson in his Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads has assumed the 7th should be sharp as in the major scale.

9: My Luve She Lives 3.41

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
Willie loves Alison who lives in Lincolnshire; she has hair of gold, well combed down. Alison invites Willie to be ‘good company’ at her wedding. He replies that he will not come unless she be the bride and he the bridegroom.

'I winna to your wedding come,
Nor will I bear you good company;
Unless you be the bride yoursel,
And me the bonnie bridegroom to be.'

'For me to be the bride masel,
And you the bonnie bridegroom tae be,
Cheer up your heart, Sweet Willie,' she said,
‘For that's a day you will never see.'

And Alison replies:

‘Gin you were on your saiddle set,
An gaily ridin on the way,
You’ll hae nae mair mind o Alison
Than she were dead an laid in clay.’

Willie rides slowly away and he sees in a vision that he will never gain his love:

He saw a hart draw near a hare,
An aye that hare drew near a toun,
An that same hart did get a hare,
But the gentle knicht got ne’er a toun.

His heart breaks and he dies, his body left to the birds. Alison receives news of Willie’s death, the wedding is abandoned and she dies:
She was buried an bemoaned,
But the birds were Willie’s companie.

As with Burd Helen, the Harris family appear to have been the only source for this ballad (Alison and Willie: Child 256), also first written out by Amelia when only a child from her mother’s recitation and sent to Peter Buchan. Child printed the Harris version in full from the manuscript sent to him by Amelia Harris in 1873 and referred to the Buchan manuscript copy for variations.

10: Johnnie Brod 4.24

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Gary West (small pipes)
This superb ballad (Johnie Cock: Child 114, GD 250) has remained strong in the living tradition in Scotland down to the present day. Under various titles and with various place names it is claimed both by the borders and the northeast. It was first published in Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). The Harris version was learned around 1790 and provides the earliest copy of a tune.

The hero of the ballad is a young man, a poacher, who rises up on a May morning, calls for water to wash his hands, looks to his ‘twa blude hounds that are bound in iron bands’, takes up ‘his gude bent bow and his arrows kene’ and prepares to go out hunting. His mother tries to persuade him not to go.

'Baken bread ye shall nae want,
And wine ye shall lack nane;
Oh Johnnie, for ma benison, [blessing
I beg ye bide at hame, hame,
I beg ye bide at hame.'

However, Johnnie makes an oath that during the coming day ‘atween the sun and the mune, that he wald gae to the gude green wood, the dun deer to ding doon.’ He sets out, discovers a deer ‘aneth a bush o brume’ and, with a couple of arrows, he shoots it dead. He and his dogs then feast on the venison and fall fast asleep:

He’s eaten o the venison,
An drunken o the blude,
Until he fell as sound asleep,
As though he had been dead, dead,
As though he had been dead.

While he is sleeping, ‘bye there cam a silly auld man’ who runs quickly to tell the seven foresters that he has seen ‘the bonniest boy that e’er I saw, lay sleepin atween his dogs.’ The ballad then ends (in the Harris version) with Johnnie shooting dead all but one of the foresters, and the last ‘he flang him owre a milk-white steed, bade him bear tidings hame.’

11: Rose o Malindie 4.19

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Tony McManus (guitar)
Known by the title The Cruel Mother (Child 20), this ballad has remained one of the most popular of all the traditional ballads with numerous versions still to be found today in the living tradition in Scotland, England, Ireland and north America. Bronson has nearly 50 tunes with three from Greig-Duncan (GD 193; Last Leaves 11) and he comments on the number of beautiful melodic variations.

A young woman gives birth to two babes who she then kills:

She leant her back against a thorn,
Hey for the rose o Malindie O
And there she had twa bonnie babes born.
Adoon by the green wood sidie O

She’s taen the ribbons frae her head,
An’ hankit their necks till they waur dead.
[i.e. she strangled them

Later, looking over her castle wall, she sees two boys playing at the ball. She exclaims that if they were hers she would feed them well and clothe them in silk. They reply that when they were hers she did not feed them well or clothe them in silk:

Oh bonnie boys waur ye but mine,
I wad feed ye wi flour bread and wine.

Oh fause mither whan we were thine,
Ye didna feed us wi flour bread and wine.

The boys (in their spirit form) then accuse her that, on the contrary, ‘when we waur thine, ye took the ribbon aff your head and hankit our necks till we waur dead.’ They then issue various seven year penances:

Ye sall be seven years bird on the tree,
Ye sall be seven years fish in the sea.

Ye sall be seven years eel in the pule,
Ye sall be seven years doon into Hell.

She replies that she welcomes the years as bird on tree, fish in the sea and eel in the pule but asks that God save her from Hell:

‘But oh for gudesake keep me frae Hell
Adoon by the green wood sidie O.

12: East Muir King 1.16

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Pete Shepheard (melodeon)
The four stanza fragment of this very rare ballad preserved in the Harris family repertoire is one of those learned by Mrs Harris in her childhood prior to 1790 from her mother’s old family nurse, Jannie Scott, who had been in family service since 1745. Child included this in his collection (Fause Foodrage: Child 89C) along with two other longer texts.

Three kings court a lady and cast lots between them who should win her love:
East Muir king and West Muir king,
And king o Luve, a’ thrie,
It’s they coost kevils them amang,
Aboot a gay ladie.

East Muir king and West Muir king win only the gold and the fee, the third king wins her love:
East Muir king he wan the gowd,
West Muir king the fee,
But king o Luve, wi his lands sae broad,
He’s won the fair ladie.

East Muir king and West Muir king then make an oath to slay the king of Love on his wedding day. East Muir king reneges on his oath but West Muir king carries out the plan:
West Muir king he made it oot,
An an ill deid may he dee.

This is as far as the Harris version takes the story but, in one of the other versions (Child 89B), the bride gives birth to a bonnie boy who, when he grows to be sixteen years of age, searches for his father’s murderer whom he slays. There is mention of kings of Eastmure Land and Westmure Land in The Complaint of Scotland written in 1548 and there is a closely related ballad in Scandinavian tradition.

13: The Cruel Brother 5.36

Kath Campbell (vocal)
Until the mid 1800s this was one of the most popular and widely known of the traditional ballads. Child has eleven versions (Child 11) of which more than half are from Scotland and Bronson has tunes from Scotland, England and the Appalachians.

Three ladies (sisters) are courted by a knight. The knight asks each sister in turn and is told by each that he may seek approval from her father, mother and sister but not to ask her brother.

'Ye may seek me frae ma sister Anne
Hech, hey an the lillie gey
But no, no, no frae ma brother John
An the rose is aye the redder aye.

The neist ane she was clad in yellow
Hech, hey an the lillie gey
'Will ye fancy me an be my marrow?'
An the rose is aye the redder aye.

When he comes to the third sister (most likely the youngest) she tells him he must also ask her brother:

‘Ye may seek me frae ma father dear,
And frae the mither wha did me bear.
Ye may seek me frae my sister Anne,
An dinna forget my brither John.’

The knight then proceeds to seek approval to marry the third sister, first from her father the king, then from her mother the queen, then from her sister Anne – but he fails to ask brother John. Her mother then helps her dress for her wedding and her sister pins the ribbons in her hair. Her father leads her down the close and her brother John sets her on her horse. At this point in the story an important verse is missing from the Harris text as the brother takes out a knife and kills his sister, presumably through jealousy:

It’s then he drew a little penknife,
And he reft the fair maid of her life.

The bride grows pale and wan and, as she is dying, she is asked what she will leave to her father (her milk white steed), her mother (her silken screen or headscarf), her sister (her silken snood or headband)
and to her brother:

‘What will you leave to your brother John?’
The gallows tree to hang him on.’

14: Earl of Aboyne 2.41

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Mairi Campbell (fiddle)
The Earl of Aboyne travels to London leaving behind ‘his pretty Peggy Ewan.’ While in London he becomes betrothed to another. He then returns to Aboyne where he is welcomed home. He admits that ‘tomorrow suld hae been my bonnie waddin day, if I had staid in London.’ On hearing this, Peggy in anger says, ‘Gin tomorrow suld hae been your bonnie waddin day, gae back to your miss in London.’

The Earl returns to London, Peggy’s heart is broken and she dies. When word of this gets to the Earl he is full of remorse and declares ‘I’d rather hae lost a’ the lands o Aboyne, than lost my pretty Peggy Ewan.’ The ballad remained popular in the northeast well into the 20th century with eight versions in Greig-Duncan (Child 235; GD 1159; Last Leaves 78).

15: Captain Wedderburn 3.59

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Tony McManus (guitar)
A young lady, the Earl of Rosslyn’s daughter, is riding out one day when she meets a gallant gentleman, Captain Wedderburn, who asks her to go with him. The ballad then consists of a verbal battle, or ‘flyting’ as the lady replies that she will only go with him if he can answer a series of six riddling questions. The ballad is still to be found in the living tradition today, although often pared down to the riddling questions without mention of the named participants (Child 46; GD 842; Last Leaves 19).

'I maun hae to my supper,
A bird without a bone;
And I maun hae to my supper,
A cherry without a stone.'

'An I maun hae a gentle bird,
That flies withoot a gall,
Before that I gae with you,
I tell you aye or na.'

To reduce the clear sexual implications of the ballad, the last line of each stanza was almost certainly changed by the Harris sisters when committing the ballad to paper. So, in the first stanza, the line: ‘Sae I will tak you wi me, I tell you aye or na’ would probably have read (as in other versions) ‘Sae I will tak ye to my bed and lay ye neist the wa.’ In the final stanza, after Wedderburn has correctly answered all the riddles, he brings the flyting to an end with, ‘Sae we’ll baith lie in ae bed, and ye’ll lie neist the wa.’

16: Burd Helen 5.37

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Gary West (small pipes)
The Harris family appear to have been the sole source for this ballad (Broughty Wa’s: Child 258). As shown by Emily Lyle et. al. in The Song Repertoire of Amelia and Jane Harris, this ballad is one of several written out by Amelia when only a child from her mother’s recitation and sent to Peter Buchan prior the publication of his Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland in 1828 (that is, when Amelia was no more than 12 years old). The ballad was not included in Buchan but was included by Child from Peter Buchan’s manuscript collection together with reference to the almost identical text as later supplied by Amelia written out from her own memory and sent to Professor Child in Harvard in 1873.

The ballad relates how a young woman, Burd Helen, whose father was the ‘laird o Broughty Walls and provost o Dundee’ is betrothed to Glenhazlen, a young man from Dundee:

Burd Helen was her mother’s dear,
Her father’s heir to be;
He was the Laird o Broughty Walls,
An Provost o Dundee.

Glenhazlen was a comely youth,
An virtuous his friens;
He left the schules o bonnie Dundee,
An on to Aberdeen. [i.e. to university

One Christmas day, Burd Helen is left alone in her father’s castle at Broughty.

It fell oot once upon a time,
Burd Helen was left alone;
All for to keep her father's towers,
They stand two miles from toun.

Glenhazlen he came riding by,
A-thinkin to win in;
But the wind it blew and the rain dang on,
And weet him tae the skin.

As Glenhazlen is being entertaining her lover, they are surprised by a band of armed Highlanders who force them to go with them:

They hiesed her along wi them, [i.e. took her
Owre mony a rock an glen,
But a’ that they could say or do;
To weep she would not refrain.

The couple go out to take the air, she throws herself into a stream, her lover leaps in after and is drowned. She sings in praise of bonnie Dundee, kilts up her clothing and makes her way home:

The highland hills are high, high hills,
The highland hills are hie,
They’re no like the pleasant banks o Tay,
Nor the bonnie toun o Dundee.

She kilted up her green cleiden,
A little below her knee,
And never rest, nor was undrest,
Till she reached again Dundee.

17: Molly Hustan 2.54

Kath Campbell (vocal) with Tony McManus (guitar)
A young man sings in praise of the beauty of a young woman, Molly Hustan, whose advances she refuses:

Late at night, there I spied,
A barefoot maid trip o’er the street,
Oh, the ground shone around,
With her tender ivory feet.

Mrs Harris knew something of the origins of this song, a modern one from her point of view (mid 1800s), from a relative who lived in St Andrews. Molly was the beautiful daughter of a poor but respectable local family. The young man, a student at the university, was from England. The last two verses of the song spell out the young woman’s name.

Peter Shepheard © 2004



goose logo

SPRINGTHYME or TOP OF PAGE
© Springthyme Records 2004



























Automatic currency conversion