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The Band o' Shearers

[ Roud 1524 ; G/D 3:406 ; Ballad Index FVS196 ; trad.]

Norman Buchan: The Scottish Folksinger Sheila Douglas: The Sang's the Thing Ewan MacColl: Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland Alison McMorland: Herd Laddie o' the Glen John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads

The shearers in this bothy ballad are not working with sheep, but cutting the grain crops with a sickle.

The Band o' Shearers is printed in Ewan MacColl's book Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland (New York: Oak Publications, 1965), in Norman Buchan's The Scottish Folksinger (Glasgow: Collins, 1973) and in Alison McMorland's book on Willy Scott, Herd Laddie o' the Glen (Selkirk: Scottish Border Council, 2006).

Ewan MacColl sang The Band o' Shearers in 1961 on his Folkways album Bothy Ballads of Scotland. He commented:

This song was the work of Robert Hogg (a nephew of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd) who was born at Stobo in Peebles, in 1799. In Ord's introduction to Bothy Songs and Ballads there is an interesting note concerning shearers: “The shearing was mostly done by women. The value of a day's work was calculated by the number of thraives cut. A thraive consisted of two stooks of twelve sheaves each. To cut seven or eight sheaves was considered a good day's work for a shearer. After the introduction of the scythe (1810), the best men cut the corn, the women gathered it into sheaves, and made the bands, while younger men, as a rule, bound and stooked the sheaves. The bandster could claim a kiss from the gatherer for each band whose knot slipped in the binding.”

From the singing of James Grant of Aberdour, Banffshire.

Barbara Dickson sang The Band o' Shearers at folk clubs in between 1969 and 1973. This recording was included in 2013 on her CD B4 Seventy-Four: The Folkclub Tapes.

Silly Wizard sang The Shearing in 1976 on their eponymous Transatlantic album, Silly Wizard.

Gordon McIntyre sang The Band o' Shearers, with his wife Kate Delaney joining in on the chorus, in 1978 on his and Danny Spooner's album Revived and Relieved!.

Isla St Clair sang Band o' Shearers on the BBC Radio 2 series Tatties & Herrin', transmitted in 1995. It was issued two years later on her Greentrax CD Tatties & Herrin': The Land.

Norman Kennedy sang The Band o Shearers at a live concert in Aberdeen in 1996 that was released in 2002 on his Tradition Bearers CD Live in Scotland.

Carnival of Souls sang Band o' Shearers on their 1999 CD No Scone Unburned.

Jack Beck sang Band o' Shearers in 2001 on his Tradition Bearers album Half Ower, Half Ower tae Aberdour. He noted:

I honestly cannot remember where I first heard this song, although it must have been someplace like Dumfernline's Howff or the Blairgowrie Festival. Two versions can be found in Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads.

Jim Reid sang The Band o' Shearers in 2005 on his Greentrax CD Yont the Tay. He noted:

As I once told a folk band in Ullapool, this is not a song about shearing sheep. It is another love song in the fields amidst the cutting of the corn.

Ewan McLennan sang The Shearing in 2014 on his Fellside album Stories Still Untold.

Emily Smith sang The Band o' Shearers on a digital download bonus track of her 2014 CD Echoes and on her 2014 EP A Winter's Night.

Lyrics

The Band o' Shearers in Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland Gordon McIntyre sings The Band o' Shearers

Noo summer days and heather bells
Come reakin owre yon hieland hills,
There's yellow corn in yonder fields,
And autumn brings the shearin'.

Summer days and heather bells
Are creeping owre yon high, high hills.
Corn is high in yonder fields,
Autumn brings the shearin'.

Chorus (after each verse):
O, bonnie lassie, will ye gang
And shear wi' me the hale day lang?
And love will cheer us as we gang
To join yon band o' shearers.

Chorus (after each verse):
Bonnie lassie, will ye gang
And shear wi' me the hale day lang?
Love will cheer us as we gang
To join the band o' shearers.

And if the thistle it be strang,
And if it jags your milk-white hand,
It's wi' my hook I'll cut it doon,
When we join yon band o' shearers.

And if the weather it be hot
I'll cast my waistcoat and my coat
And shear wi' ye amang the lot,
When we join yon band o' shearers.

And if the weather it be hot
I'll cast my waistcoat and my coat
And shear wi' ye amang the lot,
When we join the band o' shearers.

If the thistle it be strang,
And if it cuts your milk-white hand,
It's wi' my hook I'll cut it doon,
When we join the band o' shearers.

And if the weather it be dry,
They'll say there's love 'tween you and I
But we'll slyly pass each other by,
When we join the band o' shearers.

If the weather it be dry,
They'll say there's love twixt you and I
But we'll slyly pass each other by,
When we join the band o' shearers.

And when the harvest is all done
We'll have some rantin' roarin' fun,
We'll have some rantin' roarin' fun,
And forget the tolls o' shearin'.

When the harvest it's all done
Then we'll gi'e us some rare old fun,
We'll sat to watch the setting sun
When we leave the band o' shearers.