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The Iron Horse

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Norman Buchan and Peter Hall: The Scottish Folksinger Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil Robert Ford: Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland Nigel Gatherer: Songs and Ballads of Dundee Roy Palmer: Strike the Bell

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang The Iron Horse on their 1972 album Something to Sing About. Ian Campbell noted:

This song records the wonder and awe of a simple rural Scot on his first encounter with a steam loco. At a time when learned men were debating whether the human frame could survive the shock of travel at 30 mph the railway engine was indeed the wonder of the age.

Kempion sang The Iron Horse in 1977 on the Broadside anthology Steam Ballads.

Kentigern sang The Iron Horse in 1979 on their eponymous Topic album Kentigern. They noted:

From Robert Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland [p. 179ff], this is a humorous account of a Perthshire farmer’s first encounter with the railway system. We learned it from Tony Cuffe, a fine singer and guitarist from Edinburgh.

Tony Cuffe sang The Iron Horse on his 1988 album When First I Went to Caledonia.


The Iron Horse in Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland

Come Hielandman, come Lowlandman, come every man on earth, man.
And I’ll tell you how I got on atween Dundee and Perth, man;
I gaed upon an iron road—a rail they did it ca’, man—
An’ ruggit by an iron horse, an awfu’ beast to draw, man.
Sing fal, lal, la.

Then first and foremost, near the door, there waa a wee bit wicket,
It was there they gar’d me pay my ride, and they gied me a ticket;
I gaed awa’ up through the house, sat down upon a kist, man,
To tak’ a look o’ a’ I saw on the great big iron beast, man.
Sing fal, lal, la.

There was houses in a lang straucht raw, a’ stannin’ upon wheels, man,
And then the chiels that fed the horse were as black’s a pair o’ deils, man;
And the ne’er a thing they gae the brute but only coals to eat, man—
He was the queerest beast that e’er I saw, for he had wheels for feet, man.
Sing fal, lal, la.

A chap cam’ up, and round his cap he wore a yellow band, man.
He bade me gang and tak’ my seat. Says I, “I’d rather stand, man.”
He speer’d if I was gaun to Perth. Says I, “And that I be, man;
But I’m weel enough just whaur I am, because I want to see, man.”
Sing fal, lal, la.

He said 1 was the greatest fule that e’er he saw on earth, man!
For ’twas just the houses on the wheels that gaed frae this to Perth, man,
And then he laughed, and wondered hoo I hadna mair discernment.
Says I—“The ne’er a ken kent I; I thought the hale concern went.”
Sing fal, lal, la.

The beast it roared, and aff we gaed, through water, earth, and stanes, man;
We ran at sic a fearfu’ rate, I thought we’d brak’ oor banes, man.
Till by and by we stoppit at a place ca’d something Gowrie,
But ne’er a word had I to say, but only sit and glower aye.
Sing fal, lal, la.

Then after that we made a halt, and in comes Yellow Band, man;
He asked me for the ticket, and I a’ my pouches fand, man,
But ne’er a ticket I could get—I’d tint it on the road, maqn—
So he gar’d me pay for’t ower again, or else gang aff to quod, man.
Sing fal, lal, la.

Then after that we crossed the Tay, and landit into Perth, man;
I vow it was the queerest place that e’er I saw on earth, man;
For the houses and the iron horse were far aboon the land, man,
And hoo they got them up the stairs I canna understand, man.
Sing fal, lal, la.

But noo I’m safely landit, and my feet are on the sod, man,
When I gang to Dundee again I’ll tak’ anither road, man;
Though I should tramp upon my feet till I’m no fit to stand, man,
Catch me again when I’m ta’en in wi’ a chap in a yellow band, man.
Sing fal, lal, la.