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Baltic Street

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 169843 ; Violet Jacob]

Baltic Street is a poem written by Violet Jacob (1863-1946) from her book Bonnie Joann and Other Poems, London: John Murray, 1921.

Sylvia Barnes sang Baltic Street in 2007 on her Greentrax album The Colour of Amber. She noted:

I first discovered the poetry of Violet Jacob; novelist, poet, short-story writer & diarist (1863-1946) in the mid 70’s and used her The Last o’ the Tinkler as a song on an early recording with the band Kentigern. Since then, I have been delighted to see her work become a rich vein of material for songmakers in Scotland and elsewhere.

I have recorded two on this album, the first, Baltic Street, is from my good friend and erstwhile singing partner Carole Prior, who wrote the tune, together with a number of others which she has married up with Jacobs’ lyrics to make some memorable songs.

Hector Gilchrist sang Baltic Street in 2018 on his WildGoose CD Gleanings. He noted:

I have recorded a number of Violet Jacob’s poems but on this occasion with a tune by friend and former regular singer at The Ram Club, Carole Prior. The tale is that of a pretty, young English lass who has been rejected by a lad from Montrose. Despite having her “tocher” (dowry) ready! Although fond of the girl, he recognises that she might not be happy in the East Coast fishing town particularly in winter. Having played in a rugby match there in the teeth of a North East gale and following a Burns supper in Greenock the night before, I can totally agree.

Iona Fyfe sang Baltic Street in 2020 on her download single Baltic Street. This video shows Iona Fyfe as a finalist at Celtic Connections 2017:


Violet Jacob’s poem Baltic Street

My dainty lass, lay you the blame
    Upon the richtfu’ heid;
’Twas daft ill-luck that bigg’d yer hame
    The wrang side o’ the Tweed.
Ye hae yer tocher a’ complete,
    Ye’re bonny as the rose,
But I was born in Baltic Street,
    In Baltic Street, Montrose!

Lang syne on mony a waefu’ nicht,
    Hie owre the sea’s distress,
I’ve seen the great airms o’ the licht
    Swing oot frae Scurdyness;
An’ prood, in sunny simmer blinks,
    When land-winds rase an’ fell,
I’d flee my draigon on the links
    Wi’ callants like mysel’.

Oh, Baltic Street is cauld an’ bare
    An’ mebbe no sae grand,
But ye’ll feel the smell i’ the caller air
    O’ kippers on the land.
’Twixt kirk an’ street the deid fowk bide,
    Their feet towards the sea,
Ill nee’bours for a new-made bride,
    Gin ye come hame wi’ me.

The steeple shades the kirkyaird grass,
    The seamen’s hidden banes,
A dour-like kirk to an English lass
    Wha kens but English lanes;
And when the haar, the winter through,
    Creeps blind on close and wa’
My hame micht get a curse frae you,
    Mysel’ get, mebbe, twa.

I’ll up an’ aff the morn’s morn
    To seek some reid-haired queyn,
Bauld-he’rted, strang-nieved, bred an’ born
    In this auld toon o’ mine.
And oh! for mair I winna greet,
    Gin we hae meal an’ brose,
And a but an’ ben in Baltic Street,
    In Baltic Street, Montrose!