> Folk Music > Songs > Eence Upon a Time

Eence Upon a Time

[ Roud 3361 ; G/D 7:1399 ; Ballad Index GrD71399 ; trad.]

Jeannie Robertson sang Eenst Upon a Time, on her 1959 EP Jeannie's Merry Muse. Another version, recorded live with audience participation by Hamish Henderson in Edinburgh in 1958, was included in 1984 on her posthumous album Up the Dee and Doon the Don.

Ray Fisher sang Aince Upon a Time, accompanied by her brother Archie on guitar, on the Fisher Family's 1966 Topic album Traditional & New Songs from Scotland. Norman Buchan commented in the album's sleeve notes:

The Birken Tree, Aince Upon a Time: These two tell you all you need to know about Scottish folk-song. The clear narrative line in the first, the trysting place as always the birken tree (the birch); and the couthy kitchie background of the second, clear, direct and hard, and in both the swinging belt of the tune with the floating last notes. What more is to be said? Except that the last song was learned from Jeannie Robertson and added to by Ray Fisher and this perhaps symbolises their true response to the traditional; that the best way of respecting it is by developing it.

Gordeanna McCulloch sang Eence Upon a Time on her 1978 Topic album with The Clutha, Sheath and Knife. She commented in her sleeve notes:

From the singing of Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen with additional verses (2, 3, 4 and 6) by Ray Fisher. Published in Norman Buchan and Peter Hall's The Scottish Folksinger (London & Glasgow, 1973).

Maureen Jelks sang Eence Upon a Time (When I Wis Young and Bonny) in 2000 as the title track of her Tradition Bearers album Eence Upon a Time. She noted:

First heard from the singing of Ray Fisher, one of my favourite singers. To be found in The Scottish Folksinger. Verses 1, 5 and 7 are from the original version by Jeannie Robertson, the others were added by Ray. It is a song of warning to young girls when working at the threshing, to

Be sure ye gaither in the grain,
And not the chaff that blaws.

Ellen Mitchell sang Aince Upon a Time in 2002 on her Tradition Bearers album On Yonder Lea. She commented in her liner notes:

This is a song I have heard over many years, and sung by many singers. I liked it but was never inspired to learn it until I heard the late Christine Stewart singing it on the Foundry Bar Band CD Rolling Home (Springthyme SPRCD1028). She lifted the song to another dimension for me. I greatly admire her interpretation and style.


Gordeanna McCulloch sings Eence Upon a Time

Eence upon a time, fan I wis young an bonnie,
Eence I had a bonnie lad, but noo I hannae ony.

Chorus (after each verse):
Fan I wis cook aboot the hoose, an he wis but a laddie,
I gied him aa ma breid an ale, tae be ma bairnie's daddy.

My mistress aft times says tae me, an weel I ken she's richt O,
That I should be safe in the hoose, afore twas connlelicht O.

Nut Johnny took me for his ain, an I wis weel contentit,
But noo these nichts are past an gaen, an it's aft times I've repentit.

Noo Johnny he is lang since gane, an thinks on me nae mair O,
Sae I main fin anither lad, tae faither Johnny's bairn O.

But dinna ye think, ma bonnie lad, that I'm mad aboot ye,
For I can dae wi a man, or I can dae wi oot ye.

Sae lassies aa taak heed o me, when the threshin time it faas O,
Be sure tae gaither in the grain, an no chaff that blaws O.

Final Chorus:
For fan I wis cook aboot the hoose, an he wis but a laddie,
I gied him aa ma breid an ale, tae be ma bairnie's daddy.