The Auld Beggarman

On Springthyme SPRCD 1043
Shepheard, Spiers & Watson: Over the High Hills

The earliest dated version of the ballad was published in Allan Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany of 1724 under the title The Gaberlunzie Man (volume 1, page 80). In all the published versions the story ends without any return (as here in verses 15 to 19). However this conclusion to the ballad appears commonly in versions collected from the oral tradition. That this fuller version of the ballad precedes Allan Ramsay is now clear as an earlier broadside has recently been identified by Emily Lyle in the National Library of Scotland that includes the later part of the ballad - and so confirms both the veracity and age of the oral tradition.

The beggar in the ballad - who later turns out to be a wealthy gentleman - is often identified by traditional singers as being King James V. (Child 279, Roud 118, Greig Duncan 2:275)

Arthur (lead vocal) with Pete (melodeon and vocal) and Tom (fiddle and vocal)

1: An auld beggarman cam ower the lea,
Wi many's a fine tale tae tell tae me;
"O guidwife for your charity,
Wad ye lodge a beggarman?"
Liddle el ti tow row ray.

2: An the nicht wis cauld, the carle wis wet,
Intae the ingle neuk he sat;
He's taen his meal pyoks aff his back,
An aye he rantit an he sang.

3: An fen the auldwife she wis fast asleep,
Intae the dother's bed he did creep;
Intae the dother's bed he did creep,
He wis a gey auld beggarman.

4: "An noo if I wis black as I am white,
Like the snaw that lies ahin yon dyke;
I'd dress masel fu beggar-like,
An awa wi you I'd gang."

5: "Aye, but lassie, lassie ye are far ower young,
An ye hanna got the cant nor the beggin tongue;
Ye hanna got the cant or the beggin tongue,
An wi me ye canna gyang.

6: "Aye, but I'll bend my back and I'll boo ma knee,
I'll pit a black patch ower ae ee;
An for a beggar they'll tak me,
An awa wi you I'll gyang."

7: Noo these twa thegither they hae laid up a plot,
Tae rise twa oors afore the fowk;
Sae cannily he's slippit the lock,
An it's oot ower the fields they ran.

8: An it's early that mornin the auldwife arose,
An cannily pit on her claes;
An stracht tae the servant's bed she gaes,
Tae speir for the peer auld man.

9: An the servant gaed far the auld man lay,
The sheets wis cauld, he wis away;
She's lifted up her hands, crying, "Weel-a-day!
Has ony o oor gweed gear gane?"

10: An some ran tae the coffer an some ran tae the kist,
But nothin wis awa that could be missed;
She's lifted up her hands, crying, "Praise be tae the Blessed!
That we hae lodged an honest auld man."

11: "Noo that nothin is awa that we can learn,
There's kye tae milk, there's milk tae kirn;
Gae but tae the room, lass, an wauken up the bairn,
An aye, an bid her come speedily ben."

12: So the servant gaed far the dother lay,
The sheets wis cauld, she wis away;
The sheets wis cauld an she wis away,
She wis awa wi the beggar man.

13: An it's some rade on horseback, some ran on fit,
It's aa bit the auldwife, she wisna fit;
She's hirpled up an doun fae hip tae hip,
An aye she has cursed an banned.

14: Far awa oot ower the lea,
Fu snug in a glen far nane could see;
These twa mi muckle sport an glee,
Fae a new cheese cut a whang.

15: Noo a few years later, mebbe twa, mebbe three,
That same auld beggar man cam ower the lea;
"O guidwife for your cherity,
Wad ye lodge a beggar man?"

16: "O noo a beggarman, a beggarman I'd never lodge again,
I haed a dother, een o ma ain;
I haed a dother, Jeannie wis her name,
An she's awa wi a beggar man."

17: "Aye, bit aulwifie, aulwifie fit wad ye dee,
A sicht o yer ain daughter Jean tae see;
A sicht o yer ain daughter Jeannie for tae see,
Her that's awa wi the beggar man?"

18: "For yonder she's comin oot ower the lea,
Wi many's a fine tale tae tell tae ye;
She's a bairn on her back, she's anither at her knee,
She's anither on the road comin hame.

19: "An it's yonder she's comin intae the bower,
Wi silks an satins an mony's a flooer;
She's lifted up her airms an she's praised the oor,
She's awa wi the beggar man.
Liddle el ti tow row ray.

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