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The Monymusk Lads / Rural Courtship

[ Roud 5568 ; G/D 3:375 ; Ballad Index Ord068 ; Mudcat 37715 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger sang The Monymusk Lads in 1956 on their Tradition album Classic Scots Ballads, and in 1961 on his Folkways album Bothy Ballads of Scotland. He commented on the first album:

A favourite theme in the songs of the Scots ploughmen has always been the outwitting of their employers by means of clever stratagems. The Monymusk Lads is such a song. I learned it from John Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads.

The Gaugers sang Monymusk Lads on their 1976 Topic album Beware of the Aberdonian. Duncan McLennan commented in the album’s sleeve notes:

Arthur Watson sings this spirited tale from the bothy community. This version is taken from Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads where it is called Rural Courtship, a title which hardly indicates the determination with which the lad pursues his romantic quest. Rural courtship was, indeed, a popular theme with the bothy singers. Here, however, we have more than just a tale, but also subtle delineation of character along with sharp comment on the attitude towards the serving classes, as when the guidwife says:

Providence has acted wrang,
Sic pleasures for tae gie,
Tae only servant lad or lass,
Just working for a fee.

Ian Manuel sang Monymusk Lads on his 1977 Topic album of Scots traditional songs, The Dales of Caledonia.

Silly Wizard sang Monymusk Lads in 1978 on their second album, Caledonia’s Hardy Sons. They noted:

An Aberdeenshire song describing a young man’s visit to his serving girl sweetheart’s bedroom. He is discovered by the lady of the house who runs outraged to the Laird and berates a social system which allows servants to indulge in such pastimes, while gentlewomen must abstain (or at least use more discretion). The young man is thrown out, but intends to return once everyone has gone back to bed.

Sylvia Barnes sang Rural Courtship on her and Jim Barnes’ 1991 album Mungo Jumbo.

Old Blind Dogs sang Monymusk Lads, “an Aberdeen night visiting song”, on their 2003 CD The Gab o Mey.


Ewan MacColl sings The Monymusk Lads

As l cam’ in by Monymusk and doon by Alford’s dale,
A sad misfortune happened to me and l think nae shame to tell.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Fal to too a riddle doo,
Fal to toodle I doe.

As l gaed in by Monymusk. the moon was shining clear;
And I held on to Lethendy to see my Maggie dear.

I did gang when I did think that a’ were sleepin’ soun’,
But plague upon yon auld wife for she cam’ slinkin’ doon.

Sae cannily she slipped the lock and set the door agee;
Then crawled upon her hands and knees to see what it could be.

Then to the bells, wi’ a’ her micht sae loud she made thern ring.
Till faith! l thoeht aboot my lugs the biggin she would bring.

And when she saw l wouldna slip, she ran to the guidman.
Says: “There’s a lad into the hoose and that l winna stand.

“For it is a most disgraceful thing, it would provoke a saunt,
To see a’ the servant girls wi’ lads when the gentle anes maun want.”

“Providence has acted wrang, sic pleasures for to gie
Tae ony servant lad or lass, just working for a fee.”

The auld man he cam’ ben himsel’ and he pushed ben his heid;
Guidfaith! I thocht it was a ghost just risen frae the deid.

He’d duddy draws upon his legs, he’d on a cap o’ white.
And he’d a face as lang’s my leg and in his hand a light.

He’s ta’en me by the shoulders broad an’ pushed me oot o’ doors.
Thinks I, my auld lad, I’ll come back when sleepin’ gars ye snore.