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The Collier Laddie

[ Roud 3787 ; G/D 5:991 ; Ballad Index Ord040A ; DT COLLAD , COLLAD2 ; Mudcat 15642 ; trad.]

Norman Buchan: 101 Scottish Songs Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil Ewan MacColl: Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads

Ewan MacColl sang The Collier Laddie, accompanied by Al Jeffery, on Topic’s untitled album (TRL1). He also sang it, accompanied by Peggy Seeger, in 1958 on their Topic album Second Shift. This track was also included in 1964 on their Topic album Steam Whistle Ballads, and in 2003 on MacColl’s anthology The Definitive Collection. The 1964 liner notes commented:

One of the oldest and the most beautiful of Britain’s industrial ballads, this song dates back to at least the 17th Century. Robert Burns noted it and sent it to James Johnson, editor of The Scots Musical Museum, with the comment, “I do not know a blyther old song than this”. The song, still fairly widely known, is most commonly found among farm workers, who sometimes substitute ‘ploughboy laddie’ for ‘collier laddie’. Ewan MacColl’s version was learned from his grandmother, Isabell Henry of Auchterarder, Perthshire.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Collier Laddie in 1964 in their Transatlantic album Across the Hills and in 1965 in their Transatlantic album Coal Dust Ballads.

Dave Burland sang The Collier Laddie on his 1979 album You Can’t Fool the Fat Man. His version is from Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland, compiled by Ewan MacColl.

Jean Redpath sang My Collier Laddie in 1985 on her anthology The Songs of Robert Burns Volumes 5. Serge and Esther Hovey noted:

The great Scots ballads as well as those reflecting the new industrial age were both significant for Burns. He reshaped this song, which appears in no other collection, probably heard in his native Ayrshire where the coal industry flourished. Burns sent his lyrics and the tune in his own handwriting to editor Johnson for publication in The Scots Musical Museum.

Dick Gaughan sang The Collier Laddie in 1986 on his Trade Union album of songs of the Scottish Miners, True and Bold.

Maggie Holland sang The Collier Laddie in 1993 on the miners’ benefit album on the Fuse Records label, Undefeated.

Sisters Unlimited sang The Collier’s Laddie in 1995 on their Fellside album No Bed of Roses. This track was also included in 2001 on Fellside’s 25th anniversary anthology Flash Company.

Alan Reid sang My Collier Laddie in 1996 on the Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 2.

Elspeth Cowie sang The Collier Laddie in 1998 on Chantan’s Culburnie album Primary Colours. They noted:

Imagine it. Turning down riches and a handsome suitor tae “ging wi’ yin that’s black” (black was the name given to a collier—coal miner—because he was always covered in black coal dust).

Bob Blair sang The Collier Laddie in 2000 on his Tradition Bearers album Reachin’ for the High, High Lands. A recording from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2006 was included in 2007 on the festival’s anthology Some Rants o’ Fun (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 3).

Billy Ross sang The Collier Laddie in 2000 on his Greentrax album Shore Street. He noted:

At the time that this song would have been written, miners in Scotland existed on the margins of society. A system of serfdom to mine owners effectively made miners and their families a class of industrial slaves enduring truly atrocious working conditions. During the 17th and 18th centuries they were so looked down upon it was recorded that in some parts of Fife they had to be buried outside the consecrated ground of local churchyards. The song is known in various forms—this one appears in Ord’s Bothy Ballads

Lynne Heraud and Pat Turner sang Collier Laddie in 2007 on her WildGoose album September Days. They noted:

This lovely song of a rich man spurned for a collier lad was written by Robert Burns.

Janet Russell sang Collier Laddie in 2009 on her Harbourtown album Love Songs and Fighting Talk.

Ed Miller sang The Collier Laddie on his 2009 album of songs written or collected by Robert Burns, Lyrics of Gold.

Kate Taylor sang The Collier Laddie live at St Andrew’s at a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the TMSA in the Square, Glasgow, during Celtic Connections 2018; this recorging was released in the same year on the TMSA DVD 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book 3.

George Duff sang The Collier Laddie as the title track of his 2018 album The Collier Laddie.


Dick Gaughan sings The Collier Laddie

I’ve traivelt east an I’ve traivelt west,
An I hae bin tae Kirkcaldy,
But the bonniest lass that ere I spied,
She wis followin her collier laddie.

“O whaur live ye, my bonnie lass,
Come tell me whit thae caa ye?”
“Bonnie Jean Gordon is ma name
An A’m follayin ma collier laddie.”

“Dae ye see yon high, high hills,
The sun shines on sae brawlie?
Thae are aa mine an shall be thine
Gin ye leave yer collier laddie.”

“Tho ye had aa that the sun shines on
An the earth conceals sae lawlie.
A’d turn ma back on you an it aa
An embrace ma collier laddie.”

Then he has tae her faither gaen
Til her faither gaen sae brawlie,
“Wad ye gie tae me yer dochter fair
That’s follayin a collier laddie?”

“For I’ll gie her rents an I’ll gie her lands
An I’ll mak her a ladie,
I’ll raise her up tae a higher degree
Than tae follay a collier laddie.”

Then he has tae his dochter gaen
Til his dochter gaen sae brawlie,
Says, “Ye’ll gang wi this braw gentleman
An forsake yer collier laddie.

“For he’ll gie ye lands an he’ll gie ye rents
An he’ll mak ye a ladie.
He’ll mak ye ane o a higher degree
Than tae follay a collier laddie.”

“O I winnae hae his rents an I winnae hae his lands
And I’ll no be his ladie.
I’ll mak ma bed in the collier’s neuk
An lie doun wi ma collier laddie.

“For, luve for luve is the bargain for me
Tho a wee cot-hous should haud me.
An the warld afore me tae win ma bried
An share wi ma collier laddie.”

Elspeth Cowie sings The Collier Laddie

I’ve travelled east, I’ve travelled west,
I ha’e been in Kirkcaldy,
But the bonniest lassie that e’er I spied,
She wis followin’ her collier laddie.

“Whaur dae ye bide, my pretty fair maid,
Come tell me what do they ca’ ye?”
“Bonnie Jean Gordon is my name
And I’m followin’ ma collier laddie”

“Aw dae ye see yon hills and dales,
The sun shines on sae brawlie.
Well they’re a’ mine and s’all be thine
Gin ye’ll leave yer collier laddie.

“And ye shall ging in gay attire,
Weel buskit up sae brawlie,
Wi’ ain tae wait on either hand
Gin ye’ll leave yer collier laddie.”

“Aw I winna ha’e yer lands and I winna hae yer rents,
Ye’ll never mak me a lady.
I’d raither ging wi’ yin that’s black
Than you wi’ a’ yer money.

“O love for love it’s the bargain fer me
Tho’ a wee cot hoose should haud me.
I’ll mak my bed in a collier’s neuk
An’ lay doon wi’ ma collier laddie.”

Billy Ross sings The Collier Laddie

I hae traivelled east and west
And I’ve traivelled tae Kirkaldy,
But the bonniest lass that e’er I saw,
She was following a collier laddie.

“Whaur dae ye live my bonnie lass
And tell me what they ca’ ye?”
“Bonnie Jean Gordon is my name
And I’m following the collier laddie.”

“Do ye see yon hills the sun shines on,
That the sun shines on sae brawly?
They are a mine and they shall be thine
Gin you’d leave your collier laddie.”

“Gin ye had a’ the sun shines on
And the earth conceals sae lowly,
I would turn my back on you and it a’
And follow the collier laddie.”

Then he has gane tae her faither’s door,
Tae her faither’s door sae brawly,
Sayin’, “Gie tae me your bonnie bonnie lass
That’s following a collier laddie.

“And would she marry ane that’s black
Wi me sae braw and gaudy,
I would raise her up tae higher degree
Than following a collier laddie.”

“Well I winna hae your lands or rent,
I winna be your lady.
I will mak my bed in the collier’s neuk
And lie doon wi’ ma collier laddie.”