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Sleepytoon in the Morning

[ Roud 9140 ; Ballad Index RcSlee2 ; George Morris]

John MacDonald sang Sleepytoon in November 1974 to Tony Engle and Tony Russell in his caravan at Pitgaveny, Elgin, Morayshire. This recording was included in the following year on his Topic album of Scots ballads, bothy songs and melodeon tunes, The Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire and in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come All My Lads That Follow the Plough (The Voice of the People Volume 5). Hamish Henderson commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

A ‘cornkister’ or bothy song composed by the late George Morris of Old Meldrum. In Victorian and Edwardian days farm servants in the North-East were housed in bothies (stone outhouses, where they had their sleeping and feeding quarters), and these served as fertile incubators of the ploughman's folksong. Many of such songs provide vivid and often scurrilous descriptions of the auld-style bothy life (cf. descriptive booklet with the Tangent LP Bothy Ballads).

Geoff Morris, who wrote a number of popular ‘cornkisters’, was a well-known entertainer in the North-East. John has added a lilting chorus to his song.

Jim Taylor sang Sleepytoon in the Morning at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2009. This recording was included a year later on the festival anthology There's Bound to Be a Row (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 6). The album's booklet commented:

A George Morris composition. This song is typical of the later bothy ballads or ‘cornkisters’ of the early 20th century and was recorded on a 78 by George in the early 1930s. George's father was a farrier with his own business and George too became a blacksmith. In 1912 he married Agnes Kemp, the sister of Willie Kemp, the King of the Cornkisters, and moved to Oldmeldrum in 1919 where the Kemp family ran a hotel business. During his time in Oldmeldrum he started performing and writing and by 1930 he had come to the attention of the Beltona record label. During the following decade he recorded more than 40 bothy ballads or cornkisters composed by himself or in collaboration with Willie Kemp.


John MacDonald sings Sleepytoon Jim Taylor sings Sleepytoon in the Morning

Cam all my lads that follow the ploo,
And a story true I'll tell to you,
O' some of the things that could happen to you,
At Sleepytoon in the morning.

Come aa ye lads that follow the ploo,
A story true I'll tell tae you,
O some o the ongyangs we gyang through,
At Sleepytoon in the mornin.

At five o'clock a foreman champs like a shot,
Crying, “Come awa', you sleepy-headed lot!
Are ye gan to lie in your beds till you rot,
At Sleepytoon in the morninh?“

At five oor foreman jumps like a shot,
And cries, “Lord sakes, what a sleepy heided lot!
Are ye aa gaun tae lie there till ye rot,
At Sleepytoon in the mornin?“

At half past five we follow our nose,
Out to the kitchen to chow the brose,
For a fairm servant seldom needs a dose
Of castor oil in the morning.

Syne at half past five we follow wir nose,
Ower tae the kitchen tae chaw wir brose,
Fairm servants seldom need a dose
O castor ile in the mornin.

Oor foreman lays his brose cup by,
Syne ben the hoose he gaes a cry;
He's hardly time his pints tae tie,
Till he's oot til his horse in the mornin.

Oor bailie's sober, thin an sma,
Sideweys he's hardly seen ava;
But he'll pu neeps wi ony twa,
That ever raise in the mornin.

He's a hardy nut is the orra loon;
For his nicky tams cost half a crown.
And his breeks are so ticht that he's feared to sit down,
That he will burst them all in the morning.

I ken but Birkie is oor loon,
His waltams cost him hauf a croun;
His briks are that ticht, he's fly tae set doun,
For tearin his briks in the mornin.

We hae a great muckle kitchie-deem,
I'll swear she's gey near auchteen steen;
The auld cat kittled in ane o her sheen,
Afore she got up ae mornin.

The fairmer's name is Geordie Brown,
And he's weel respected roond and roond;
But you canna say the same for Mrs Brown,
Wi a scowling face in the morning.

The fairmer's name is Geordie Broon,
He's weel respeckit roun and roun;
But I canna say the same for Mrs Broon,
Wi her scowlin face in the mornin.

She's a argefying bitch, the fairmer's wife,
If you say Forfar, she'll swear it's Fife;
Wi' a mou' like a decanter, with a nose like a knife,
That would hash swaddy neeps in the morning.

She's a hungry hun, the fairmer's wife,
Ae ee says Forfar, the ither says Fife;
She's a face like a decanter and a nose like a knife,
That wad hash Swedish neeps in the mornin.

But oor misses she is nae sae bad,
It's jist aboot time she had a lad;
I've been thinkin masel o spierin her dad,
For his dother some fine mornin.

I've been writing this stroud on the corn kist,
I'm the orra loon an I'll seen be missed;
An if I dinna want a wallop fae the foreman's fist,
It's 'ta ta' til some ither mornin.