The Twa Brothers

Sheila Stewart from Blairgowrie: On Autumn Harvest ah010: Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: Hurrah Boys Hurrah! Live from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2010.

This beautiful ballad has remained remarkably persistent in the living tradition - in Scotland among the traveller community - and throughout the English speaking world, with numerous versions collected in North America where it has often been found, as Francis James Child says, 'in the mouths of children in American cities, in the mouths of the poorest, whose heritage these old things are'. Sheila's version comes from her mother Belle who learned it from her brother, Donald MacGregor, and it has always been one of the most admired ballads of the Stewart family tradition. Sheila entered and won the very first traditional singing competition with this ballad in 1967 at the Blairgowrie Festival - the first festival organised by the newly founded TMSA. Child has seven texts of which six are from Scottish sources and Bronson has forty-one versions all from North America. For some reason Bronson never had access to the Scottish traveller versions known at the time of his publication of the Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads between 1959 and 1972 (Child 49, Roud 38).

1: Two pretty boys were going tae the school,
And one evening comin home;
Said William tae John, "Can you throw a stone,
Or can you play at a ball,
Or can you play at a ball?"

2: Said William tae John, "I cannot throw a stone,
Or little can I play at a ball;
But if you come tae yon merry green woods
I'll try you a wrestlin fall,
I'll try you a wrestlin fall."

3: So they come doun tae yon merry green woods,
Beneath the spreading moon;
And the little penknife slipped out of William's pocket,
And gave John his deadly wound,
And gave John his deadly wound.

4: "Oh you take off your white holland shirt,
And tear it from gore to gore;
And you will bind my deadly wounds,
And they will blood no more,
And they will blood no more."

5: So he took off his white holland shirt,
An he tore it from gore to gore;
And he did bind his deadly wounds,
But they bled ten times more and more,
Oh, they bled ten times more.
6: "Oh what will I tell tae your sister dear,
This night when I go home?"
"You can tell her I'm away tae a London school,
And the good scholar I'll come home,
And the good scholar I'll come home."

7: "And what will I tell tae your sweetheart dear,
This night when I go home?"
"You can tell her I am dead and in grave laid,
And the grass is growing green,
And the grass is growing green."

8: "And what will I tell tae your father dear,
This night when I go home?"
"You can tell him I am dead and in grave laid,
And the grass is growing green,
And the grass is growing green."

9: "And what will I tell tae your stepmother dear,
This night when I go home?"
"You can tell him I am dead and in grave laid,
For she prayed I might never come home,
For she prayed I might never come home."

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