When I Wis New But Sweet Sixteen

Stanley Robertson: On Autumn Harvest ah003.
Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: For Friendship and for Harmony
Live from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2005.

Widely known in Scottish tradition today and a favourite song in Stanley's family. Stanley's aunt Jeannie Robertson's shorter version was published in Buchan and Hall: The Scottish Folksinger (1973) and a bothy version sung by Charlie Murray is on SPR 1003 recorded at the Kinross Festival in 1974 (Roud 5138).

1: When I wis new but sweet saxteen,
In beauty all in bloomimg O,
Oh little, little did I think,
At nineteen I'd be greetin O.

2: For the plooman lads they're gey wee lads,
They're fause an deceivin O,
For they'll pack their kist and they'll sign an list,
And they'll leave the lassies greetin O.

3: For they've pitten me fae lowpin dykes,
Fae balls and fae singin O,
And they gaed me the ballans tae ma stays,
And they said 'twas in the fashion O.

4: But if I had hae kent what I noo ken,
An I'd taen ma mither's biddin O,
For I widnae be sittin here at your fireside,
For an hishie ba ma bairnie O.

5: For hishie ba, for I'm your ma,
An the Lord knows fa's yer daddy O,
But I'll aye beware an I'll I aye tak care,
O the young men in the gloamin O.

ballans - the whalebone (baleen) used as corset stays.

A whale's baleen plates in the mouth are used by the baleen whales for filter-feeding the shrimps and other pelagic organisms from the sea water. These strips of baleen or whalebone were a popular item in the 16th to 19th centuries as collar stiffeners, parasol ribs and corset stays and were still in use till the late 1950s. The baleen whales include the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus).

c p 2006 Autumn Harvest