Tweedside — For Ireland I’d Not Tell Her Name
The Melody and Lyrics of a Traditional Song

by Cynthia Cathcart

Tweedside is one of the most well-traveled and popular songs in the Scottish and Irish tradition. It appears in numerous collections, in some of the earliest written manuscripts to survive in the tradition.[1] The tune has endured for centuries, traveling across a continent and an ocean, gathering diverse lyrics in different languages along its journey, adapted for everything from private music lessons to the stage. An examination of its history is as involved as any human family tree, and equally revealing of the history of its time and place.

Part One

Neidpath Castle on the banks of the River Tweed

Neidpath Castle on the banks of the River Tweed where one popular set of lyrics were composed for the familiar melody.

Seventeenth Century — Scotland — The Tune

The earliest recorded appearance of the Tweedside melody is 1692, in a collection commonly referred to as the Blaikie Manuscript, where it was entitled Doun Tweedside. A curious history emerges for this manuscript as we begin the story of the tune.

The tale of the manuscript naturally begins with its inception, which likely occurred at the hand of Andrew Adam, a musician and music teacher in Glasgow.[2] It was set for the lyra viol (Viol da Gamba). Two manuscripts by Adam, this one from 1692 and another which he wrote in 1683, survived to become part of the music collection of Paisley engraver Andrew Blaikie at some time in the 1820’s, a century and a quarter after their origin. The two books had similar repertoire, presented in nearly the same order,[3] and so it may be assumed they were used as teaching resources for Adam’s music students.[4]

Andrew Blaikie was an acquaintance of William Dauney, who in 1838 published a dissertation entitled Ancient Scotish Melodies.[5] Dauney relates Blaikie’s passion for collecting and preserving our genuine Scotish melodies, and describes the manuscript bearing the date 1692 which was still in Blaikie’s possession in 1838. He writes that the earlier 1683 manuscript had been lost some years previously.[6]

Dauney wrote that Blaikie himself reduced to modern notation most if not all of the tunes from that 1692 manuscript. Dauney published a list of 55 titles that he identified from the manuscript of which Scotland may claim the parentage. The second tune in Dauney’s list is our tune with the title presented as Down Tweedside.

Herein lies an important clue in the story: Blaikie made a copy in modern notation. The surviving copy of the so–called Blaikie Manuscript preserved in the Dundee Central Library is in the lyra viol tablature of Adam Andrew’s original manuscript. This raises an interesting question: What happened to Blaikie’s modern notation copy?

The Dundee Central Library affirms that the Blaikie Manuscript entered the possession of James Davie of Aberdeen, a flautist, composer, and teacher who died in 1857. It is just possible that Davie obtained the original 1692 lyra viol manuscript: we have Dauney’s word that the original was both extant and in Blaikie’s possession in 1838, which leaves nearly twenty years for it to make its way to James Davie before Davie’s death.

The document which is currently held in the Dundee Central Library and there referenced as the Blaikie Manuscript was copied in lyra viol tablature from the book in Davie’s possession by yet another dramatis personae, Andrew John Wighton, who was born in 1804 and died in 1866.[7] This is the man who made the copy which survives in the Dundee Central Library which we now casually refer to as the Blaikie manuscript. Wighton records on the first and third page of his copy that:

the following Tunes are copied out of a Copy of the Blackie [sic] Manuscript Dated 1692 in the possession of Mr. James Davie...[8]

Wighton’s copy is in lyra viol tablature so it is likely he did not copy from Blaikie’s copy which was reduced to modern notation per Dauney’s 1838 dissertation. Wighton would have copied from either the original or some previous copy made in tablature. Wighton wrote out only forty tunes, bearing numbers ranging from 2 to 106, out of what were 112 total tunes.[9] It should thus be emphasized that the book we call The Blaikie Manuscript is at best a copy of Adam’s original manuscript, but more likely a copy of a copy (according to Wighton’s report), containing only about one–third the contents of the original, and fewer than the 55 tunes listed in Dauney’s dissertation in 1838.

Sadly for our study here, Tweedside is one of the tunes missing from Wighton’s copy. We know the tune was there because Dauney included it in his list of Scottish tunes from the Andrew Adam’s original manuscript, but it was not among the tunes Wighton chose to record.[10]

Let us return to the question of Blaikie’s modern notation copy. What happened to it? Did Blaikie include Tweedside? An argument has been made that Blaikie’s modern notation copy of the 1692 manuscript was part of a larger collection that he gave to Sir Walter Scott in 1824. Blaikie notes, at the foot of page 11 of that collection, that 28 tunes came from two M.S. Books bearing the date 1683 and 1692. This collection survives; it does not include Tweedside.[11]

Does this mean that the only shadow of Down Tweedside from the 1692 manuscript of Andrew Adam is its name appearing in a list published by William Dauney in 1838?

It is now time for us to meet John Muir Wood,[12] a Scottish musician and music publisher, who in 1877 began copying music from various sources into commonplace books which luckily survive. On page 30 of one of these private books,[13] using standard notation, Wood wrote a melody under the heading Doun Tweedside__1692. This is startling enough, but he follows it with this comment:

from a MS signed A. Blaikie, Paisley__believed to have been translated from Tablature __ of 1692__
Page 30 of Volume II John Muir Wood's commonplace book

Page 30 of Volume II John Muir Wood's commonplace book. Click to go to the source:
National Library of Scotland

So how did John Muir Wood manage to copy Doun Tweedside out of a collection that had been previously gifted to Sir Walter Scot that did not even include the tune? The answer, of course, is that he did not: John Wood could not have been working from the collection Blaikie presented to Sir Walter Scot in 1824 because the tune Doun Tweedside is not there. Wood was clearly working from a different manuscript, one written by Blaikie and in standard notation, that included the tune Doun Tweedside. Might this have been the collection William Dauney referenced in his thesis? It seems to be a better match for Dauney’s description: most, if not all, of which [Blaikie] has himself reduced to modern notation from the manuscript of 1692.

Therefore, let us take a look at John Muir Wood’s representation of Doun Tweedside as the nearest echo of the tune as it may have appeared in the earliest known, but now lost, manuscript of Andrew Adam, 1692.

Doun Tweedside as represented by John Muir Wood from the Blaikie MS

Doun Tweedside as copied from the original of the Blaikie Manuscript by John Muir Wood into his commonplace book dated circa 1877. To download a printable version of this music, click on the image above.

Link to a concise Blaikie Timeline

Analysis of the Tune

In his commonplace book transcription of the melody, Muir Wood sets the tune in simple triple meter. It is presented in C Major and employs all 7 notes. However, the 4th and 7th degrees of the scale, while present, are what may be termed weak or fragile. The first appearance of the 4th degree of the scale (F) does not appear until nearly half–way through the tune, and there are only two appearances of the 7th (B), both at the very end of the tune. In one specific case the 7th is skipped in contradiction to a recurring melodic motif.

The basic structure of the tune is two halves of eight bars each. The first half of the tune can be divided into four phrases, each beginning with a pick–up of two eighth notes or quavers. The first phrase presents as a question, with the second phrase as an answer using identical rhythm and notes save for the last note, which descends a more decisive interval of a third, arriving at the tonal center of the melody where the first phrase descended only a second. The third phrase asks the question again, identical in all respects to the first phrase, and is answered by a more complex fourth phrase: The two–note pick–up is ascending where previously it descended. The pick–up leads to a motif of a long note (quarter or crotchet) followed by a step–wise descending series of four shorter notes (eighth–notes or quavers). This is followed in sequence one step lower but such that one of the steps is a skip over a note that would be typically absent if the tune was set in a hexatonic (six–note) scale where the 7th is gapped. This leads the melody to conclude the phrase by ascending an interval of a third to arrive at the tonal center.

The second half of the tune is more varied than the first. There are four phrases, each begins with a two note pick–up which always ascends. The first two phrases begin with the same first bar, but then immediately diverge. The first phrase quotes the motif of the fourth phrase as described above. The second phrase answers this musical question by jumping a fifth (the largest leap so far in the melody) into the familiar motif but with a skip and reverse of direction in the second part. It is also in this phrase that we find the highest note of the piece, and a surprising one at that: using common era theory, we have a tune set in C Major where the highest tone is the tonic of the relative minor. This high A is repeated once more, in the pick–up to the next phrase, as if to emphasize and remind the listener that this height was reached by the melody (and is never attained again).

The final two phrases of the second half return to the familiar motif of a quarter–note followed by a descending pattern of four eight notes descending step–wise.

John Leyden’s Lyra Viol Manuscript (1695)

Another early appearance of the tune is under the title Twide syde in the Leyden manuscript, dated 1695. In 1844, portions of the manuscript were copied by George Farquhar Graham while it was on loan to him by its private owner. Graham’s opinion was that the tunes in staff notation were not important, so he copied only pieces written in lyra viol tablature. Graham returned the original to its owner, at which time it disappeared from view; for many years all that was known was the copy Graham donated to the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh. The original surfaced in 1970 and is now housed in Newcastle University Robinson Library.[14]

The original manuscript reveals that the great majority of the lyra viol music was written by Andrew Adam, he of the Blaikie manuscript.[15] Judging by the inclusion of The watter of the Boyne, the manuscript must have been started after 1690.

Following is a transcription of the melody from the Leyden Manuscript:[16]

Doun Tweedside as represented by A. Fleischmann from the Leyden MS

Doun Tweedside as represented by A. Fleischmann from the Leyden MS. To download a printable version of this music, click on the image above.

Comparison of Leyden with Wood’s copy from Blaikie

Note: To facilitate direct comparison between the Leyden and Blaikie/Wood versions of the melody, the Blaikie/Wood has been transposed to end on the same tone as the Leyden (essentially transposed from C Major to G Major). Black ink represents pitches and rhythms which are identical between the two versions; Red ink represents pitches and rhythms which are specific to the Leyden; Green ink represents pitches and rhythms specific to the Blaikie/Wood.

Comparison of the Blaikie and Leyden versions of the melody

Comparison of the Blaikie and Leyden versions of the Tweedside melody. To download a printable version of this music, click on the image above.

These two versions of the melody appear to have many differences between them if we judge only by the presence of the colored notes in the comparison graphic above. But a closer look (and listen) reveals that they are very similar.

Both versions have the same basic structure: two sections of four phrases each, each phrase beginning with a pick–up or anacrusis, though in the case of the Leyden the pick–up is more often a single quarter note (or crotchet) than the consistent two note pick–up of the Blaikie/Wood version. The question and answer function of the phrases is the same, as is the appearance of the single quarter–note to four descending eighth–notes motif.

That particular motif deserves a closer look: in the Leyden the descending pattern skips a note (there is a gap present) four out of seven times. In the Blaikie/Wood this motif appears with a gap only once, in the penultimate bar of the first section — a bar which is identical to the Leyden.

It is fairly common in music of this genre to have gapped notes at the fourth or seventh degrees of the scale (or both). The Blaikie/Wood melody avoids the fourth degree of the scale until late in the first section (the green C in bar 10). The Leyden avoids the C at that place and later treats it as a weak or fragile note, not strictly gapped or missing but rare: there are only three C’s in the entire Leyden melody to the Blaikie/Wood’s seven.

The seventh degree of the scale is present only twice in the Blaikie/Wood and is entirely gapped in the Leyden. The gaps of C and F explain the gaps present in the four descending eighth–note motifs in the Leyden: One could argue that these are not skips at all, but rather steps in a hexatonic or pentatonic scale.

Based on the observance of the gaps, one might conclude that the Leyden version is the more authentic melody. However, the evidence suggests that these two versions of Tweedside were recorded by the same man, Andrew Adam. A simple explanation would be that John Muir Wood’s 1877 copy is not as accurate as we might wish and so accounts for the differences. Alternatively, Andrew Adam might have played the tune differently at separate times, an effect of the unfixed nature of oral tradition. We also know the 1692 manuscript was written for a student; the 1695 may have been written for another student who had different needs regarding instruction or practice.

A significant difference between these two versions is in the second section where the highest note in the Leyden is the tonic of the tune, an the octave above the final note, while Blaikie/Wood never reaches that height. The two melodies also have a metrical similarity: they both present in simple triple time, and also have many rhythmic similarities. Thus a lyric that is singable to one of these tunes might also be singable to the other.

William Graham’s Manuscript of 1694

Page 17 of Volume I John Muir Wood's commonplace book

Page 17 of Volume I John Muir Wood’s commonplace book.
Click to go to the source: National Library of Scotland.

The manuscript of William Graham is another one that has gone missing but left behind a few scattered relics thanks to the copying of later collectors. In addition to the copy described above, John Muir Wood made a comparison of three versions of Tweedside on page 17 of Volume I of his commonplace books, which according to the title page he began in 1876.[17] Wood’s method is to precisely stack different versions of any tune one atop the other, transposed as necessary to facilitate comparison. He does not identify the source of his reference version, leaving one to wonder if he simply wrote the tune as he himself knew it. The middle version is labeled W. Graham’s M.S. 1694 _ no name and the third version is labeled Petrie_1857_An; Mus; of Ireland (p99)_. To further identify the version from W. Graham, Wood makes the following note in the margin:

Graham’s MS is a flute book which once belonged to David Laing, and is now in the possession of Mr. Wm. Chappell__

The significant similarities between this version of the melody and the one that Muir Wood copied from the Andrew Adam’s (original of the Blaikie) manuscript begs representation. Wood also noted that the original setting of William Graham was orig in C though he set it in A Major for purposes of comparing it to the other two settings. For purposes of the present comparison, the William Graham version has been transposed back to orig in C and the copy from Blaikie is also presented in C Major. The sea of black ink in the following comparison demonstrates the many identical passages between the two versions.

Comparison of the Blaikie and William Graham versions of the melody

Comparison of the Tweedside melody of Blaikie and William Graham. To download a printable version of this music, click on the image above.

Wood almost certainly saw the Blaikie version of Andrew Adam’s Doun Tweedside at a later time. In a footnote written across the bottom of this page he writes, for Corri’s set see page 66. See also page 30. As the reader may recall, it is on page 30 that he copied Doun Tweedside from Blaikie.

It is important to establish that John Muir Wood was a reliable and careful copiest of music, since we have no way to directly check his work against either the original of Blaikie or W. Graham manuscripts, both of which are lost.[18] This may be accomplished by comparing Wood’s copies of other extant works to those works. A comparison can be made with Petrie’s 1857 version of the Tweedside melody[19] that Wood copied on page 8 of his commonplace book. This comparison reveals that every note, rest, flag and dot are precisely copied, down to the fermata over the final note. The only differences between Petrie’s original and Wood’s copy are stem directions and the absence, in Wood, of all articulation markings (slurs, phrase marks, and staccato indications). Taking one other example, Wood copied Robert Bremner’s version of Woe’s My Heart that we Should Sunder on page 10 of his book. There are two very minor discrepancies in Wood’s copying, both changes to rhythm: in the second bar a dot–to–flag rhythm (dotted eighth–note to sixteenth–note) is smoothed out to be two eighth–notes (quavers) and later he makes the reverse change, turning what is two quavers from Bremner to a dot–to–flag rhythm. Thus, though in minor aspects changes or omissions are made, a high level of confidence can be placed in Wood’s work.

The Lyrics — words for the tune in 1697

A curiosity in common among the early appearances of the tune is the title presented with the preposition Down or Doun as in Doun Tweedside. The more common tune name is simply Tweedside (in various spellings, with or without a hyphen or space). Rarely do we see it given as Down Tweedside, and the cases where it is date to the early 1700s.[20] As we have already seen, William Dauney wrote Down Tweedside in his 1838 list of tunes in his friend Andrew Blaikie’s MS, and John Muir Wood wrote the title as "Doun Tweedside" in his copy. A commonplace book bearing the name of John Dow presents the tune as Down Tweedside. Curiously, none of the well–known lyrics associated with the Tweedside tune contain the phrase Down Tweedside. This raises a natural question of why, to which we will return in due course.

The earliest generally recognized lyrics for this tune were written by John Lord Yester, Marquis of Tweeddale. They will be herein referred to as Yester’s poem. Lord Yester died in 1713, though we know these words were written by him before 1697.[21] They were later published in David Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. published in Edinburgh in 1776: Herd uses the title Original of Tweedside suggesting that these were the first lyrics. They were certainly among the early lyrics for the tune.

This lyric presages the general tone of many of the lyrics that will eventually attach to the melody over the next three centuries.

When Meggy and me were acquaint

by Lord Yester

When Meggy and me were acquaint,
I carried my noddle fu hie, noddle: head
Nae lintwhite in all the gay plain, lintwhite: linnet, a small bird
Nae gowdspink sae bonnie as she. gowdspink: goldfinch
I whistled, I pip’d, and I sang;
I woo’d, but I came nae great speed;
Therefore I maun wander abroad, maun: must
And lay my banes over the Tweed.
To Meggy my love I did tell;
Saut tears did my passion express; Saut: salt
Alas! For I loo’d her o’er well, loo’d: loved
And the women loo’ sic a man less. loo’ sic: love such
Her heart it was frozen and cauld, cauld: cold
Her pride had my ruin decreed;
Therefore I will wander abroad,
And lay my banes far frae the Tweed. banes far frae: bones far from

There are two other significant relatively early sources for this lyric. William Stenhouse Illustrations of the Lyric Poetry and Music of Scotland (Edinburgh and London, 1853) presents the poem as being written by Lord Yester prior to 1684. Stenhouse’s lyrics are virtually identical to those above, with only minor differences: the beloved’s name is spelled Maggie some of the words are represented differently (lintwhite is hyphenated lint–white), and some words are substituted but with little if any change in meaning other than a difference in connotation (Lasses for Women).

Alexander Whitelaw published Yester’s poem in 1843 in The Book of Scottish Song: Collected and Illustrated with Historical and Critical Notice. Whitelaw concludes that the song was indeed written before 1697, when the author ceased to be Lord Yester and became Marguesse upon his father’s death. Whitelaw writes:

Neidpath Castle, near Peebles, which overhangs the Tweed, must be the locality of the song — that being then the property, and one of the residences, of the Tweeddale family. The song first appeared in Mr. Herd’s Collection, 1776.

Whitelaw’s published lyrics are nearly identical to those given above. The lady’s name is now spelled Maggy, there are again some minor differences in some of the words, and our poet is laying his bones far from the Tweed.

Analysis of the Poetic Meter

The recurring rhythmic pattern of this poem is anapestic: a metrical foot that contains three syllables; of those three syllables the first two are short and unstressed and the third is long and stressed. This might be recognized as a familiar pattern of the limerick verse, (stressed syllables are in bold type):

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were im–prison–ed, so what could they do?
Said the fly, let us flee!
Let us fly! said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
— Ogden Nash

This pattern is evident in the rhythmic structure of the Tweedside melody, and thus the same pattern is also necessarily evident in the lyrics we find associated with it, as they must have this meter in common for them to fit with each other. For the Yester lyrics, we have the following (first verse only, Whitelaw’s version):

When Mag–gy and I were ac–quaint,
I car–ried my nod–dle fu’ hie,
Nae lint–white in a’ the gay plain,
Nae gowd–spink sae bon–nie as she!

The only complication in this analysis (or shall we say fly in the ointment?) is that the initial foot of each lyrical line is a metrical pattern of only two syllables, a single unstressed followed by the stressed syllable, in contrast to Nash’s limerick in which only one foot had this distinction. Here may be the explanation for the presence of a single pick–up note versus a two–note pick–up as observed previously in the Leyden discussion. That said, it is possible to analyze the two elements, music and lyric together, where the tune itself provides the two non–stressed syllables of the pattern as the singer spreads one syllable of text over two pick-up notes (in other words, singing a melisma at the beginning of those musical phrases/poetical feet).

Balcarres Lute Book (1695–1701)

Two instrumental versions of Tweedside appear in the Balcarres Lute Book where the titles are given as Tweedsyde the old way and Tweedsyde the new way. Both are attributed to Mr. Beck. This would be Mr. John Beck, a master of musick, quite possibly a lute teacher as well as player, who practiced his craft in Edinburgh. He contributed his own lute arrangements of existing tunes, some of which represent his version or way of playing the melodies while others are arrangements of the versions of others, which are identified as the common way of a tune.[22]

One may view the two versions by downloading a pdf here: Mr. Beck’s Old Way and Mr. Beck’s New Way

A significant similarity between Mr. Beck’s two versions and the one in the Leyden manuscript is the missing seventh degree of the scale: setting the tune with the tonic on G, the F is missing, though as it is missing one might just as reasonably suggest that the missing note is an F–sharp. It is hard to be certain if this tune is in what common–era music theory would term Major (an F–sharp missing with a keynote of G) or Mixolydian (an F natural missing). However, given that the fourth above the tonic is weak (used rarely in the tune), most likely a major scale tonality is intended.[23] In support of this conclusion, Beck builds a chord on the fifth of the scale, observable in his arrangement, and this would lead us to assuming a major tonality as well.

Comparison of the Tweedside meldoy of Mr. Beck (the old way) and the Leyden

Comparison of the Tweedside melody of Mr. Beck (the old way) and the Leyden. To download a printable version of this music, click on the image above.

Mr. Beck’s old way follows much the same pattern as both the Leyden and Wood’s version of the Blaikie: a repetition of the beginning of the first two phrases, the second one answering the first, as well as the motif of single quarter–note to four descending eighth–notes. Compared with the Leyden, there are entire passages of the melody that are identical, seen clearly in the example above where the notes depicted in red are unique to the Leyden, the blue are unique to Beck’s old way and black notes are where the two are in agreement.

Mr. Beck has carefully walked an important line between preserving tradition and being creative with tradition by presenting the tune in these different settings. The old way may be taken as the most authentic version he knew. The new way is his creative variation on the original. He cannot be faulted for changing the original version (or as close to original as he had knowledge of) because he provides that original. His creative contributions are clear to see by comparison to the old way. This contrasts with later song collections, both of lyric and melody, where changes, corrections, additions or deletions are made without any reference to what was there before.

Allan Ramsay (1686–1758) and The Tea Table Miscellany

Allan Ramsay was often described as the restorer of Scottish Poetry for his publication in 1724 of The Tea–Table Miscellany.[24] This description is misleading, however. Rather than identifying and publishing old Scottish poems as such a description implies, Mr. Ramsay instead commissioned new poems to be sung to existing tunes. Some observers feel that this weakened the earlier poetic tradition. Music historian David Johnson writes [25] in his Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century:

...the Tea–Table Miscellany was nothing less than an attempt to set up, single–handed, a complete new Scottish song repertory. As a piece of brazen effrontery it is unequalled in the cultural history of Scotland, and it is even more remarkable in that it succeeded. Scholars ever since have had great difficulty in forming a picture of Scots folk–song prior to 1723, largely because Ramsay’s work obliterated the traces of it.

Johnson also cites John Leyden who, in dating the Leyden lyra–viol manuscript to c.1715, remarks that it may at least enable us to advance a step beyond Ramsay [26] in ascertaining what came before.

Ramsay’s 1724 miscellany collection of Scottish and English song lyrics was such a success that he followed on with a second volume in 1727. The lyrics he presented for Tweed–side were written by Robert Crawford, who worked closely with Ramsay on the project, and it is in The Miscellany that this lyric makes its first published appearance.

The Tea–Table Miscellany is a collection of song lyrics only; the melodies are not included. Many of the songs reference a particular tune to which they are meant to be sung, but Crawford’s lyric for Tweedside is one which does not cite a specific tune (unless we count the title as the reference). Within a year of its publication Alexander Stuart published Musick for Allan Ramsay’s Collection of Scots Songs, commissioned by Ramsay himself, which employed the Tweedside melody for this poem. Ramsay also printed and sold the Musick [27] so we may reasonably conclude that this was the melody Ramsay had in his ear when he commissioned Crawford to write the new lyrics. Following is Robert Crawford’s lyric as it was first published in 1724:


by Robert Crawford

What Beauties does Flora disclose!
How sweet are her smiles upon Tweed?
Yet Mary’s still sweeter than those;
Both nature and fancy exceed.
Nor daisy, nor sweet–blushing rose,
Not all the gay flow’rs of the field,
Not Tweed gliding gently through those,
Such beauty and pleasure does yield.
The warblers are heard in the grove,
The linnet, the lark, and the thrush,
The blackbird, and sweet–cooing dove,
With music enchant ev’ry bush.
Come, let us go forth to the mead,
Let us see how the primroses spring,
We’ll lodge in some village on Tweed,
And love while the feather’d folk sing.
How does my love pass the long day?
Does Mary not tend a few sheep?
Do they never carelessly stray,
While happily she lies asleep?
Tweed’s Murmurs should lull her to rest;
Kind nature indulging my bliss,
To relieve the soft pains of my breast,
I’d steal an ambrosial kiss.
’Tis she does the virgins excel,
No beauty with her may compare;
Love’s graces around her do dwell,
She’s fairest where thousands are fair.
Say, charmer, where do thy flocks stray?
Oh! tell me at noon where they feed;
Shall I seek them on sweet winding Tay,
I’d steal an ambrosial kiss.

Crawford’s Flora lyric became very popular, nearly obliterating Lord Yester’s Maggy lyric. This is observable by the preponderance of publications which subsequently present the Flora lyric, a list of which forms a broad bibliography of Scots song collections: William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius, John Sadler’s Apollo’s Cabinet or The Muses Delight, Robert Bremner’s Thirty Scots Songs, Johnson and Burns’s The Scots Musical Museum, John Elouis’s Selection of Scots Songs for Harp or Piano Forte (vol 1), John Ross’s Celebrated Songs of Scotland, Alex Whitelaw’s The Book of Scottish Song (though in fairness he also prints the Maggy lyric), and across an ocean and less well known Samuel Campbell’s The American Songster in 1788.[28]

Did Allan Ramsay’s project supplant tradition? His commissioning of a pretty new lyric may not be a bad thing, but it is certainly a shame that he did not present the old way along with the new way as Mr. Beck did for the melody. How might the new, peaceful, pastoral love–song of a lyric have affected interpretations of the melody? Did Crawford use Maggy as a guide for the subject of his lyric? For that matter, Lord Yester’s similarly love–themed lyric is just 60 years older than Flora — might there have been an even earlier lyric?

Before we begin digging for any remnants from the tradition pre–dating Ramsay, let us first establish that the melody used in Stuart’s Music for the Miscellany is indeed the same melody that was preserved by John Muir Wood in his commonplace book, as demonstrated in the comparison graphic below:

Comparison between Tweedside melody from Stuart’s Music for the Tea Table Miscellany and the Blaikie per John Muir Wood’s commplace book

Tweedside compared between Stuart’s Musick for Allan Ramsay’s Collection of Scots Songs and John Muir Wood’s Blaikie melody from his commonplace book. (Illustrated for brief comparison only, no printable version available.)

David Herd and The Cat

David Herd was one of the great collectors of Scots songs. His work has been described as one of the two most important collections of Scots songs, with the other being Ramsay’s Miscellany.[29] Alexander Whitelaw provides this oft–quoted biography of Mr. Herd:[30]

David Herd was a native of St. Cyrus in Kincardinshire, but spent most of his life as clerk in an accountant’s office in Edinburgh. He died in 1810, at the age of seventy–eight. He was known, says Sir Walter Scott, and generally esteemed for his shrewd, manly common sense and antiquarian science, mixed with much good nature and great modesty. His hardy and antique mould of countenance, and his venerable grizzled locks, procured him, amongst his acquaintance, the name of Greysteil.

Herd’s collection is an important primary published source for many songs. It was used by James Johnson and Robert Burns as they prepared the Scots Musical Museum. Likewise, Francis James Child consulted Herd’s manuscripts in his research for The English and Scottish Popular Ballads.[31]

David Herd’s collected songs, both published and not, are of great value because he did not edit what he found. If words were lacking, they stayed missing. If words were indelicate they were copied and printed just the same. Thus wrote Scottish poet and sometimes accused obliterator of previous tradition Allan Cunningham:[32]

The rough, the polished, the rude, the courtly, the pure, the gross, the imperfect, and the complete, were all welcome to honest and indiscriminating David — he loved them all, and he published them all. He seemed to have an art of his own in finding curious old songs: he was not a poet, and could not create them; he was no wizard, and could not evoke them from the dust; yet he had the good fortune to find them, and the courage to publish them without mitigation or abatement. Whatever contained a vivid picture of old manners, whatever presented a lively image of other days, and whatever atoned for its freedom by its humour, or for its indelicacy by its well–flavoured wit, was dear to the good old Scotchman.

Historian William Stenhouse in his Illustrations of the Lyric Poetry and Music of Scotland confirms that Herd’s collection was the place where many of our very best old Scottish songs first appeared in print and frequently credits Herd with rescuing and preserving old songs, many of them notable because they were humorous, a contrast to popular forms such as the pastoral love song.[33]

David Herd published his first collection as a single volume in 1769. It was organized into two parts: The First Part was chiefly of songs from all the various miscellanies hitherto printed [34] wherein the songs were presented in alphabetical order. Robert Crawford’s Flora lyric appears in this section on page 183 with the title Tweed–Side (though it is listed in the index as What beauties does Flora disclose). The Second Part of the collection principally contains such as have not been before published [35] and was organized by separate classes.

A passage from Herd’s preface to his 1769 publication serves to demonstrate his passion for his collecting work:[36]

It is much to be regretted that the original words to many favourite tunes, once everywhere known, are now irrecoverably lost, excepting what are to be found in the memories of country people, there preserved by a fond attachment to these natural paintings. Many have wished, that some person would attempt to recover these pieces, and publish a Collection of Originals, purely Scottish. The Editor, therefore, at last determined upon the trial himself, and his researches have proved more successful than could have been at first expected: he has recovered many of the original poems that gave rise to well–known tunes, and many fragments that appear of some antiquity; and, upon the whole, has been enabled to bring into one volume (what was never before attempted) all the Scottish songs of any repute; presenting the reader, at the same time, with upwards of ONE HUNDRED more than are to be found in any collection extant, the greatest part of which have never before appeared in print.

On the final two pages of his preface, Herd posts an advertisement. He announces his intention to publish a second volume to the present one, in which he hopes to print such other old songs as can by any means be obtained as well as, hopefully, more complete versions of some songs (lyrics) of which he has only fragments. All the lovers of this subject...if possessed of any Scots songs of merit, not here found are therefore earnestly entreated to favour the publishers by transmitting a copy and he supplies an address for any such submissions.

In 1776 Herd published a second edition of his previous work, expanded into a completely new two–volume set, diverging from his original intention of merely publishing a second volume to supplement the work he had published in 1769. He keeps Crawford’s Flora, now displaced by new content to a position on page 293, nearly 100 pages later. Lord Yester’s Maggy lyric is now present, on page 311 under the title Original of Tweedside. Another song, sans title but with the instruction To the tune of Tweedside is on page 303, a lyric from a ballad opera which will be examined in detail in a later section of this paper. Volume II of this second edition continues with a classification system that now includes sections for Comic and Humorous Songs and Fragments of Comic and Humorous Songs.

Herd thus confirms what we already know: there are two sets of well–known words for the melody Tweedside. His collection also hints at where the melody moves in the future by the inclusion of a ballad opera lyric. But what is more, a review of the collection turns up a humourous song about a cat, a song that twice includes the prepositional phrase Down Tweed–Side. [37] As the careful reader will recall, the earliest appearance of the melody names the tune Doun Tweedside. Furthermore, this new lyric twice appends the suffix –side to Tweed, a reflection of the name of the tune that is absent from both Crawford’s and Yester’s lyrics.

Might this poem be an earlier set of words for the tune? The title of the song is Wallifou fa the Cat. It appears in both the 1769 volume (on page 290) and in 1776 (Volume II page 139).

Wallifou fa’ the Cat

from David Herd

There was a bonnie wi’ laddie,
Was keeping a bonny whine sheep; whine: a few
There was a bonnie wee lassie,
Was wading the water sae deep, sae deep: so deep
Was wading the water sae deep,
And a little above her knee;
The laddie cries unto the lassie,
Come down Tweedside to me.
And when I gade down Tweed–side,
I heard, I dinna ken what, I dinna ken: I did not know
I heard ae wife say t’ anither, anither: another
Wallifou fa’ the cat;
Wallifou fa’ the cat,
She’s bred the house an wan ease, thrown the house into trouble
She’s open’d the am’ry door, am’ry door: cupboard door
And eaten up a’ the cheese.
She’s eaten up a’ the cheese,
O’ the kebbuk she’s no left a bit; kebbuk: a particularly strong cheese
She’s dung down the bit skate on the brace, knocked the fish soup off the fireplace shelf
And ’tis fa’en in the sowen kit; sowen kit: barrel for fermenting oats.
’Tis out o’ the sowen kit,
And ’tis into the maister–can; maister–can: a receptacle for storing stale urine
It will be sae fiery sa’t, sae fiery sa’t: so [adjective?] salty
’Twill poison our goodman. goodman: the man of the house; husband

This poem might possibly be very old. The first clue to its age comes from a typical reaction many people have to it, a complaint that the poem lacks structure or seems to be comprised of verses from two different songs. While that may be[38] it is also possible that the poem’s lack of apparent structure to us today may in fact be an intentional feature typical of medieval poetry.[39]

Wisdom literature, offering observations and instructions, is a common phenomenon in many cultures and languages writes David Ashurst of Durham University.[40] A characteristic of medieval wisdom literature is a preamble that serves to establish the authority in the poem as well as to set the place of the action. In this case, it would appear our authority may be the lassie who has been invited to go down Tweedside and who then unexpectedly overhears a conversation between two women. Following the wisdom poetic structure, one of the women catalogs a list of all the mishaps suffered by her cat, from opening the cupboard door, to eating the stinkiest of cheese, knocking the fish soup into the bowl dedicated to fermenting oats into which it appears the cat has also fallen, and from there out into a can devoted to the collection of urine.[41] At the end of this catalog of feline disasters is the line of wisdom, the lesson to be drawn from the poem: the food has been so spoiled by the antics of the cat, that the man of the house could well be poisoned. Perhaps he should stay away from the fish and oats which the cat has spilled into the maister can. Not great wisdom, assuredly, but this is clearly a comic tale so no great wisdom is expected.[42]

Another genre of medieval poetry that employs a similar format is the chanson d'aventure. Sometimes described as framing fiction,[43] a poet-narrator employs an opening motif to frame the narrative that follows. Typically, the poet claims to have simply wandered out alone, usually into some bucolic setting of trees and stream, there to experience a scene that leads to a moral at the end of the story, which serves as the closing frame.[44] The core of the poem, that part inside the frame, makes sense by itself; the framing fiction gives a listener familiar with medieval narrative strategies a context for the story (or fiction). While generally this framing format is specificially associated with medieval France or England, it was present in Scotland beginning in the later fifteenth century.[45]

David Herd placed Wallifou fa’ the Cat under the category of Comic and Humourous Songs in his second edition. The poem’s plain humour is obvious, but the possibility also exists that the poem is intended to be a satire on poems of elegy, or that the cat’s antics reflect the scenes of devastation that were sometimes cataloged in the wisdom poems.[46]

This poem might also be satire on, or at least a humourous echo of, the Pastoral, in which knights impose unwanted advances on innocent country lasses. Thus the cat may represent the shepherdess who is endeavoring to make her escape from an unappealing situation. Satirical poetry was also associated with coarseness of language in the Renaissance, as in the satires of John Marston in the late sixteenth century, so the coarseness present in this poem might be another indication that the poem is intended as satire.[47]

The plain humor of this lyric might of itself be a sign that it is old. As former poet laureate Billy Collin is quoted as saying,

It’s the fault of the Romantics, who eliminated humor from poetry. Shakespeare’s hilarious, Chaucer’s hilarious. [Then] the Romantics killed off humor, and they also eliminated sex, things which were replaced by landscape. I thought that was a pretty bad trade–off, so I’m trying to write about humor and landscape, and occasionally sex.[48]

There is certainly more landscape and less humor in the lyrics of Crawford and Lord Yester than in the poem about the maladroit and malodorous Cat.

David Herd’s manuscripts

The songs collected by David Herd were published in a single volume 1904 by Hans Hecht, whose plan was to base his edition on Herd’s manuscripts and, as promised in his preface, to reprint the whole song–material contained in them, following the method established by Herd himself. Hecht writes:

... That some pieces might be found offensive could not prejudice the selection. On their worth or worthlessness we are free to entertain any opinion, but in dealing with the popular poetry drawing–room considerations must not be allowed to interfere. A chapter of itself could be written on the destructive influence of cleansing, i.e. spoiling of old texts. Nor could seemingly insignificant fragments be excluded, since they were the only remnants of old texts still to be found in Herd’s days.[49]

The version reproduced above of Wallifou fa’ the Cat is labeled B by Hecht, who notes that it was printed in both editions of Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs but that it is not in Herd’s manuscripts.

Another version of this poem is labeled with the letter A by Hecht and is entitled Wali fu fa the Cat. This version was published by David Herd in 1776 Volume II, in the section Fragments of Comic and Humourous Songs. Hecht reveals that this version is in the manuscripts, where the following notation is written under the title: The following is a different copy sent from Tweedside of the song in the former collection called [Wallifou’ fa’ the Cat]. The former collection was of course Herd’s first edition. These different lyrics from Tweedside omit the identification of the observer of the scene:

Wali fu fa the Cat

from David Herd’s second edition

As I came down bonny Tweed-side,
I heard and I wist nae what;
I heard ae wife say to anither,
O waly fu fa’ the cat!
O waly fu fa the cat!
For she has bred muckle wanease;
She has op’ned the amry door,
And has eaten up a’ our bit cheese.
She has eaten’ up a’ the bit cheese;
O’ the bannocks she’s no left a mote;
She has dung the hen aff her eggs;
And she’s drown’d in the sowin-boat.
O waly fu fa the cat!
I kend she wad never do grace;
She has pist i’ the backet of sa’t;
And has dung the bit fish aff the brace.
She has dung the bit fish aff the brace;
And it’s fallen i’ the maister-can;
And now it has sic a stink,
It’ll pizen the silly good man.

Conclusion to Section I: the Scottish Lyrics for Tweedside

Using limited documentation to infer oral history does not result in recovered history. At best we can aspire to a vague and remote understanding. Even should we by great good luck arrive at a perfect realization of past performance there is no means by which we can know we have done so. Likewise we must carefully guard against looking only for those facts that support our belief or, perhaps more accurately, our fantasy of what the past practice may have been. With this caveat, we move forward into conjecture.

Acknowledging there might be a connection between the familiar tune Tweedside and the lyric Wallifou fa the Cat, we may try and cast those words upon the tune as John Muir Wood copied it from the lost manuscript of Blaikie, which may represent the oldest version extant of the tune in Scotland. However, we find that the two do not easily fit: the melody is simply too florid for the words; there are too many notes for this text to sound natural. The extremes one must go to in order to fit syllables to notes create an unconvincing performance. Could this be because they were never meant to fit together, or is there a disparity in age and place that could explain why the Cat lyric does not fit a melody that it once did long ago?

The melody Wood copied was from a manuscript of music that was intended to be played on the lute. Might an instrumentalist have added extra notes to display their virtuosity? However, this instrumental melody fits Lord Yester’s Maggy lyric. But might that lyric have been written to fit the melody as it was popularly performed in the mid to late 17th century? It may be revealing to note that Lord Yester’s lyric was written at nearly the same time as the missing Blaikie manuscript was made (before 1697 and 1692, respectively).

We have proof that singers elaborated upon melodies they sang. There is the case in point of the court singer and song–collector William Thomson, who published Orpheus Caledonius first in 1725 and in a later edition dated 1733. In the words of Henry George Farmer the fioratura in the melodic line of the 1725 volume, most of them reflecting his [Thomson’s] own vocal gymnastics, were severely cut, some almost to the outline of the original tune in 1733. Farmer also observes that the decorative habit on the vocal line was endemic to the period. [50] If collectors of poems were habitually cleaning up coarse language, might not the collectors of melodies be guilty of embellishing what to their ears were unsophisticated melodies?

Given the tendency of singers to embellish the vocal line, and given that the melody was often played instrumentally (without song), might we be justified in simplifying the Tweedside melody as we have received it so that it will fit the Cat lyrics? The result is a successful song in its own right, capable of a convincing performance.

Doun Tweedside with the Cat words

The tune Down Tweedside with the lyrics for Wallifou fa the Cat, set by Cynthia Cathcart
To download a printable version of this music, click on the image above.


I am grateful to Sten Maulsby for sharing his knowledge on medieval poetry and critiquing my discussion of Wallifou fa’ the Cat; to Michael Billinge and Keith Sanger for general support and background knowledge, to the various librarians who helped with access to materials with a special thank you to Eileen Moran of the Dundee Central Library.

This paper represents the first of a three part examination of this tune and its lyrics, covering the time period from the earliest sources to the present, focusing particularly on Scotland, England and Ireland. The next two parts are currently being composed and will be published at a later date.

[1] Among the early collection where Tweedside does not make an appearance are the Rowallan, Straloch and Skene lute manuscripts (early seventeenth century), as well as the manuscript of Lady Margaret Wemyss (1630–c.1649). As will be discussed in this paper, it does appear in both the so-called Blaikie Manuscript (c. 1692), the Leyden (1695), and a manuscript of William Graham dated 1694.

[2] Peter Holman, Life After Death: The Viola da Gamba in Britain from Purcell to Dolmetsch. Sufflolk, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2010. 86–87. Print.

[3] William Dauney, Ancient Scotish Melodies, from a Manuscript of the Reign of King James VI. With an Introductory Enquiry illustrative of the History of the Music of Scotland. Dissertation. Edinburgh; Maitland Club, 1838. Print. 143.

[4] Evelyn F. Stell, Sources of Scottish Instrumental Music 1603–1707. Thesis. University of Glasgow, Dept. of Music, 1999 Vol I. 41–42.

[5] Dauney, Ancient Scotish Melodies, from a Manuscript of the Reign of King James VI. The manuscript of the title is commonly called The Skene Manuscript.

The Skene MS was also written in musical tablature. Dauney published the music, interpreted into standard notation, as part of his dissertation. Dauney observed that the Skene employed a method of noting music for instruments of the Lute species, besides being sometimes adapted for the Viol. (page 211 of the dissertation). The tablature of the Skene is for the mandore, which is indeed a small member of the Lute family.

[6] Dauney, Ancient Scotish Melodies. 143.

[7] Malcolm Lewis, ‘Shrouded in Mystery’: The Development of Music Provision in Public Libraries in Great Britain, 1850–1950. Music Librarianship in the United Kingdom: Fifty Years of the United Kingdom Branch of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres. Ed. Richard Turbet. Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2003. 23. Print.

[8] Stell, Sources of Scottish Instrumental Music. 39.

[9] Stell’s thesis gives the 112 figure (page 40); Library & Information Officer Eileen Moran of the Dundee Central Library reports that the highest numbered tune is no. 106 (personal email correspondence of 8/26/2015) — John Glen (p.11–12) says there were 112 tunes in the 1683 MS. Glen confused which MS was lost and which was copied, so this may be the source of the discrepancy in these numbers.

[10] Confirmed by Eileen Moran of the Dundee Central Library (email correspondence of 8/26/2015).

[11] Stell, Sources of Scottish Instrumental Music. 43–45.

[12] The Muir in John Muir Wood was because he was named after his father’s business partner Muir and they of course were the music company which restrung the QM harp in 1805. Keith Sanger, message to the author. 13 August 2015. Email.

[13] John Muir Wood. Being Transcripts of the Music of Others, including W. Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius and Alexander Stuart’s Musik for Allan Ramsay’s Collection of Songs, with Notes by John Muir Wood. 2 Volumes. 1877. MS 209, Glen Collection. National Library of Scotland. Special Collections of Printed Music. II, p30. Web. Accessed 22 Apr. 2016. Note that the tune Doun Tweedside is indeed on page 30, fit in underneath My Apron Deary even though it is not listed by Wood in his Table of Contents.

[14] Robinson, John H. John Leyden’s Lyra Viol Manuscript in Newcastle University Library and George Farquhar Graham’s Copy in the National Library of Scotland. Viola Da Gamba Society Journal 2 (2008): 24. Print. John Robinson had access to the original manuscript, but I do not have access to it and would be pleased to have the opportunity to update this paper if it becomes available.

[15] Peter Holman, Life After Death. 87.

[16] From the Leyden MS, University Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, c. 1695 [Lyra viol MS. French 6–line tablature, transcribed by G.F. Graham, transposed an octave higher, with emended barring by Aloys Fleischmann, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, and Paul McGettrick. Sources of Irish Traditional Music, C. 1600–1855. New York: Garland, 1998. Vol. I, 34 (tune number 166). Print.

[17] John Glen, Early Scottish Melodies: Including Examples from MSS. and Early Printed Works, along with a Number of Comparative Tunes, Notes on Former Annotators ... Biographical Notices , Etc. Edinburgh: n.p., 1900. Print. 80.

John Muir Wood commonplace book details are given under footnote [13] above.

[18] Warwick Edwards, Seventeenth–century Scotland: the musical sources. In Porterm J. (Eds) Defining Strains. The Musical Life of Scots in the Seventeenth Century. 69. Web. Bern: Peter Lang (2007) Deposited on 9 November 2007. Web. Accessed 22 March 2016. The William Graham Manuscript is described as untraced on page 69.

[19] George Petrie, Ed. The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland. M.H. Gill, Dublin: 1855. Vol I. 99. Do note that while Wood was accurate in copying the music from Petrie, he records the date of publication as 1857.

[20] Down Tweedsead in the Gairdyn Manuscript Glen 37 (formerly MS GB–EN3298) bearing the dates 1710, 1729 and 1735; also Down Tweed Side in a commonplace music book variously attributed, NLS Acc 10182 — The reverse side of the page on which Down Tweed Side appears bears the date 1722.

Down Tweed Side in John Dow his Musick Book / 1793 [1743?], Alexander Anderson his book / 1776 [1722 and 1742 his name is given twice], Andrew Smith Musick Book for flute. NLS Acc 10182, p.22; #39.

[21] John, Lord Yester, is generally acknowledged to have composed the Maggy poem prior to becoming the second Marquis of Tweeddale upon his father’s death on August 11, 1697. The poem first appeared in print in David Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. (Second Edition, Vol. 1) in 1776.

[22] Matthew Spring, ed. The Music of Scotland Ceòl na h–Alba: The Balcarres Lute Book. Woodbridge: Boydell Brewer, 2010. Print. Vol II pp xxi–xxi.

[23] This analysis relies on the modal theory originated and described by Annie G. Gilchrist in her essay, Note on the Modal System of Gaelic Tunes, part of the introduction to Fances Tolmie’s One Hundred and Five Songs of Occupation from the Western Isles of Scotland, The Journal of the Folk–Song Society., No. 16, 3rd part of Vol. IV. 1911. 150–153.

[24] This quote is from a short biography of Ramsay by John D. Ross from Celebrated Songs of Scotland, from King James V. to Henry Scott Riddell, Edited with memoirs and notes by John D. Ross, New York: 1887. p7. Two specific examples of this epithet which I have identified are:

  • Joseph Robertson, Lives of the Scottish Poets: With Ports. And Vignettes, Printed for T. Boys, Ludgate Hill, London. 1821 Vol. I. 70.
  • William Tennant. The Life of Allan Ramsay, Born 1686. — Died 1758. Preface. The Gentle Shepherd. A Pastoral Comedy. By Allan Ramsay. New York City: William Gowans, 1852. xi. Project Gutenburg, 1 Sept. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.

[25] David Johnson, Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. London: University Press, 1972. 134.

[26] Ibid., 134.

[27] Henry George Farmer (Foreword), Orpheus Caledonius: A Collection of Scots Songs Set to Music by William Thomson; two volumes in one. Folklore Associates. Hatboro, Pennsylvania. 1962. iv.

[28] Amongst these various publications some small changes were introduced, similar to the changes found between different publications of the earlier lyric. Of some interest are the agreements among some of the later changes amongst the various collections. Notable examples are:

  • Whitelaw, J.G. Wilson, and Ross all agree that the line Tweed’s Murmurs should lull her to Rest are better represented as Should Tweed’s murmurs lull her to rest.
  • Whitelaw, Bremner, and Ross change To relieve the soft Pains of my Breast to To ease the soft...
  • Bremner and Wilson agree that Love’s Graces around her do dwell is better as Love’s graces all round her...

The rare collection from America was printed for Samuel Campbell in New York, the full title of which is The American Songster: Being a Select Collection of the most celebrated American, English, Scotch and Irish Songs, 1788. Tweedside begins on page 24.

[29] Alexander Whitelaw, The Book of Scottish Song: Collected and Illustrated with Historical and Critical Notices. Edinburgh: 1843. page ix of the preface.

[30] Ibid., xi.

[31] Hans Hecht, Songs from David Herd’s Manuscripts edited with Introduction and notes by Hands Hecht, Dr. Phil., Edinburgh: 1904. Footnote, page ix of preface.

[32] Allan Cunningham. The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern, with an Introduction and Notes, Historical and Critical, and Characters of the Lyric Poets. London: 1825. Printed for John Taylor. Vol. IV, 361.

[33] William Stenhouse, Illustrations of The Lyric Poetry and Music of Scotland. published posthumously based on an earlier work (with additions by David Laing), originally compiled to accompany the Scots Musical Museum. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London: MDCCCLIII (1853).

Follows a list of the songs Stenhouse credits David Herd with saving from being lost:

  • Low Down in the Broom rescued from the Stalls p 93
  • Bonny May rescued from oblivion by old David Herd p 111
  • Herd preserved a fragment of a song related to Lass, Gin Ye Loe Me, Tell Me Now p 229
  • Under the title The Drap o’ Capie, O Stenhouse writes: This comic old ballad, beginning There lived a wife in our gate end, was rescued from the stalls, and placed in a regular Collection of Songs and Ballads, by David Herd, in 1776. p 291
  • Get up and Bar the Door This exceedingly humorous Scottish ballad was recovered by old David Herd p 292
  • Donald Couper David Herd has preserved the following fragment of the old song p 316.
  • The Wee, Wee Man We are indebted to old David Herd for recovering this curious fragment of romantic ballad p 343
  • Patie’s Wedding This humorous ballad...was published by David Herd... p 353
  • The Humble Beggar This fine old humorous ballad...was recovered by David Herd, and printed in his Collection. p 379
  • Hallow Fair — There’s Fouth o’braw jockies and jennys This published by David Herd p 399
  • Our Goodman Came Hame at E’en The words of this extremely curious old ballad were recovered by David Herd, p 401
  • Argyle Is My Name Old David Herd published a copy of this ballad, with two additional stanzas which were later rejected in the SMM on account of their being both spurious and indelicate p 487

For further reading on Stenhouse, I recommend Karen McAulay, Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era Ashgate, England: 2013. pages 154–158.

[34] David Herd, The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. Now first Collected into one Body, From the various Miscellanies wherein they formerly lay dispersed. Containing likewise, A great Number of Oritingal Songs, from Manuscripts, never before published. Edinburgh: 1769. Printed by and for Martin & Wotherspoon. vii.

[35] Ibid., vii.

[36] Ibid, vi–v.

[37] It is also the only occurrence I have found with this particular word combination, despite searching for this (in various spellings) in the many song collections that have been digitized and thus readily searchable.

[38] The late ballad historican Bruce Olson references a broadside in the online discussion group Mudcat Cafe which has a very similar final verse to the first verse of the Cat lyric presented above, given as the poem for Scotch Song [1679?] (for further details and the full discussion please visit (accessed 18 May 2016). Olson also initially doubts any connection between Herd’s published Cat lyric and the tune Tweedside until he makes the same connection as the present author: that is, the appearance in the Cat lyrics of the words Down Tweedside and the title of Down Tweedside in the early collections.

[39] David Ashurst, Old English Wisdom Poetry, in A Companion to Medieval Poetry, ed. Corinne Saunders. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK:2010. doi: 10.1002/9781444319095. ch7, 125–140. (of Durham University, M.A. In Medieval Studeis, Ph.D. In Old Norse). Quoting from page 129: Structure, or the apparent lack of it, in Old English wisdom poetry has been a major issue in the appreciation of the genre and has attracted much negative criticism. Ashurst goes on to suggest that works of a catalogue nature, in particular, are likely to be seen as inorganic and badly ordered, as noted by Nicholas Howe in The Old English Catalogue Poems: A Study in Poetic Form (1985) 12.

[40] Ibid., chapter 7, 125.

[41] Urine was collected for its usefullness as a mordant to fix a dye or stain into fabric, as well as for treating seeds prior to sowing for which the urine provides protection and a measure of fertilizer. Appreciation to Keith Sanger for sharing this folk–knowledge for purposes of this paper.

[42] Ashurst, Old English Wisdom Poetry. on page 139: Finally, the term ‘wisdom poetry’ suggests something weighty, revelatory, consequential, definitive. On occasion it can be some, if not all, of these things. Equally often, however, it is likely to be light, and far from being revelatory may be disarmingly obvious or willfully obscure; it can toy with sounds and patterns for their own sakes, and in tackling the big questions of existence can neutralise definite answers even as it seems to give them. It is hard to imagine, in fact, that anyone ever became well informed through reading Old English wisdom poetry, but easy to see how people were entertained by it. The thoughtful and observant reader, nevertheless, would come away from the best poems with an awareness that many things, including some of the most important, cannot be known — which is indeed the beginning of wisdom.

[43] Judith M. Davidoff, Beginning Well: Framing Fictions in Late Middle English Poetry. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1988. Print. 17.

[44] Ibid., 36–37; 43.

[45] Helen Estabrook Sandison, The chanson D’aventure in Middle English. Bryn Mawr, PA: Bryn Mawr College, 1913. Print. 23. Specific well–documented examples of this framing technique can be observed in the late 12th century poem The Owl and the Nightingale as well as Gilote et Johane from the end of the 13th, beginning of the 14th centuries.

[46] Ashurst. Old English Wisdom Poetry. 136.

[47] Alex Preminger, Terry V. F. Brogan, Frank J. Warnke, O. B. Hardison, and Earl Miner, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1993. Print. 340.

[48] For this quote:
and for Collin’s bio:
Both accessed May 17, 2016.

[49] Hecht, Songs from David Herd’s Manuscripts. page x of preface.

[50] William Thomson, Orpheus Caledonius: A Collection of Scots Songs: Set to Music by William Thomson. Ed. Henry George Farmer. Hatboro: Folklore Associates, Hatboro PA, 1962. Print. III of the forward.

Submitted by Cynthia Cathcart, 16 August, 2016