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Maggie Lauder

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Norman Buchan: 101 Scottish Songs

Ewan MacColl sang Maggie Lauder in 1962 on his Folkways album Popular Scottish Songs. The album’s booklet noted:

This song is widely known in Scotland, both by those who accept it at its fave value as a rollicking description of a country dance and by those who see it in a highly elaborate piece of sex symbolism. Burns said of it. “This old song, so pregnant with Scottish naivete and energy, is much relished by all ranks, non-withstanding its broad wit and palpable allusions.” It first appeared in print in Herd’s collection and has often been attributed, with little evidence, to Francis Sempill, who lived and wrote during the middle of the 17th century.

Dick Gaughan sang Maggie Lauder in 1977 on his Highway/Trailer album Kist o’ Gold. He noted on his now defunct website:

In essence, Maggie Lauder, although written by a man, is a celebration of female sexuality; which probably explains why the overtly sexual nature of the song was overlooked by the bourgeois collectors who blissfully included it in collections from which they had excluded numerous innocuous others on the grounds of their ‘coarseness’. Although the autonomy of women was a natural element of older Scottish culture, in post-Reformation times the concept of a sexually aggressive and independent woman was beyond the grasp of most middle-class male intellectuals and so they would accept the song at literal face value. So there is a subtextual strand of subversive humour attached to this song.

The Earl’s Chair is simply a rather nice reel which seemed to flow naturally after the song. The guitar was tuned DADGBE.

Five Hand Reel sang Maggie Lauder in 1979 on their Topic album A Bunch of Fives.

George Duff and Adam Jack sang Maggie Lauder on the 1994 Greentrax CD Ceilidh House Sessions from the Tron Tavern, Edinburgh.

Margaret Christl sang Maggie Lauder on her 1998 album The Picture in My Mind.

Jean Redpath sang Maggie Lauder in 2000 on her Greentrax CD Summer of My Dreams. She noted:

One of the songs that belong in that dim region of memory when I don’t really remember not knowing it. Habbie Simson was a well-known piper in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, who was the subject of an elegy by Robert Sempill of Beltrees.

Alas! for him my heart is sair
For of his springs 1gat a skair
At every play, race, feast or fair
But guile or greed
We need not look for pyping mair
Sen Habbie’s dead.

The Piper of Kilbarchan helped to give Scotland the Habbie Simpson stanza, the Scots stanza form most often associated with Robert Burns.

Maggie Lauder is attributed to Sempill’s son, Francis (c. 1616 -1682), written c. 1642 to an existing popular air.

Ivan Drever sang Maggie Lauder on his 2004 album Tradition. He noted:

Learnt from the wonderful Dick Gaughan, do check out his version. A very old song written by Francis Sempill of Beltrees in Renfrewshire in the 1600s.

Barbara Dymock sang Maggie Lauder live at St Andrew’s in the Square, Glasgow, during Celtic Connections 2017. A recording of this concert was released in the same year on the TMSA DVD 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book 2.


Dick Gaughan sings Maggie Lauder

Wha wadnae be in love wi bonnie Maggie Lauder?
A piper met her gaun tae Fife an speirt whit was’t thae caad her?
Richt dantonlie she answered him “Begone, ye hallanshaker!
Jog on yer gate, ye blatherskite, ma name is Maggie Lauder”

“Meg”, quo he, “an by ma bags, A’m fidgin fain tae see ye
Sit doun by me ma bonnie bird in troth A winnae steer ye
For A’m a piper tae ma trade ma name is Rab the Ranter
The lassies loup gin thae were daft whan A blaw up ma chanter”

“Piper”, quo Meg, “hae ye yer bags an are yer drones in order?
Gin ye be Rab A’ve heard o ye live ye upon the border?
The lassies aa baith far an near hae heard o Rab the Ranter
A’ll shak ma fit wi richt guidwill gin ye blaw up yer chanter”

Then tae his bags he flew wi speed about the drones he twisted
Meg up an walloped owre the green for brawlie cud she frisk it
“Weel dune!” quo he, “Play up!”, cries she, “Weel bob’d”, quo Rab the Ranter
“It’s worth ma while tae play indeed whan A hae sic a dancer!”

“Weil hae ye played yer pairt”, quo Meg, “yer cheeks thae are like crimson
Thair’s nane in Scotlan plays sae weel sin we lost Habbie Simpson
A’ve lived in Fife baith maid an wife these twalve year an a quarter
Gin ye sud come tae Ainster fair, speir ye for Maggie Lauder”

Jean Redpath sings Maggie Lauder

Wha widna be in love wi’ bonny Maggie Lauder?
A piper met her qaun tae Fife
And speired what was’t they ca’d her?
Fu’ scornfully she answered him,
“Begone, ye hallan-shaker!
Jog on your gait, ye bladder-skate
My name is Maggie Lauder.”

“Meg,” quo’ he, “and by my bags
I’m fidgin’ fain tae see thee.
Sit doon by me my bonny bird,
In troth I winna steer thee.
I am a piper tae my trade,
My name is Rab the Ranter.
The lassies lowp as they were daft
When I blaw up my chanter.”

“Piper,” quo Meg, “hae ye yer bags
And is your drone in order?
If ye be Rab, I’ve heard o’ you
And live ye on the border?
The lassies a’ baith near and far
Have heard o’ Rab the Ranter,
I’ll shake my foot wi’ rieht quid will
Gin ye’ll blaw up your chanter.”

Syne tae his bags he flew wi’ speed,
Aboot the drone he twisted.
Meg and walloped ower the green
For brawly she could frisk it.
“Weel done!” quo he, “Weel played!” quo she.
“Weel bobbed!” quo Rab the Ranter,
“It’s worth my while tae play, indeed
When I hae sic a dancer!”

“Weel hae ye played your pairt,” quo she
“Your cheeks are like the crimson.
Auld Scotland hasnae heard the like
Since we lost Habbie Simson.
I’ve lived in Fife, baith maid and wife
These ten years and a quarter,
Gin ye should come tae Anster Fair
Speir ye for Maggie Lauder”