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The Moss o Burreldale

[ Roud 1876 ; Ballad Index K351 ; trad.]

Jimmy McBeath sang The Moss o Burreldale to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson in Elgin, Scotland, on 19 July 1951. This recording was included in 1994 on the Saydisc anthology Songs of the Travelling People, in 2002 on his Rounder CD Tramps and Hawkers and in 2005 on the Rounder anthology 1951 Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh. He also sang it in 1960 on his Collector EP Come A' Ye Tramps and Hawkers and in 1967 on his Topic album Wild Rover No More. The latter's sleeve notes commented:

Around the turn of the century the North-east saw an earlier folk song revival and it is to the credit of song writers of the period that many of their pieces have been taken up by traditional singers. Often they adapted existing songs, as with this one written by G.S. Morris of Old Meldrum.

Ian Manuel sang The Moss o Burreldale in 1972 on his Topic album The Frosty Ploughshare.

Hector Riddell sang G.S. Morris' verses of The Moss o Burreldale at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2007. This recording was included a year later on the festival anthology Nick-Knack on the Waa (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 4). The liner notes commented:

Composed by George Morris of Oldmeldrum around 1930. Geordie and his brother in law Willie Kemp were responsible for composing many of the later bothy ballads or cornkisters and their recordings of the songs issued as 78s and easily available printed song booklets ensured their wide popularity.

Jim Reid sang Upon the Moss o Burreldale with different verses in 1984 on his Springthyme album I Saw the Wild Geese Flee. His sleeve notes commented:

Very much a song of travelling folk, Jim learned this from the traditional singer the late Christina Stewart at a ceilidh in her house in Fetterangus. Jane Turriff, the well known ballad singer, is Christina Stewart's daughter.

Steve Byrne sang The Moss o Burreldale in 2015 on Malinky's CD Far Better Days. Their liner notes commented:

From the singing of Jim Reid, who got the song from Christina Stewart of Turriff, this is one of two songs called The Moss o Burreldale. The other version is more comical written for the stage by bothy balladeer G.S. Morris, made famous by Jimmy McBeath (although he also sang this one). While it has been the source of some dispute down the years, there is a peat moor named Burreldale Moss on the edge of Bourtie parish, a few miles northeast of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.


Jimmy McBeath sing The Moss o Burreldale

Hove ye ever seen a tinkler's camp upon a simmer's nicht
A nicht afore a market fin a'-thing's gyan richt
Fan a' the tramps and hawkers they come fae hill an' dale
Tee gaither in the glonmin' in the Moss o' Burreldale

Chorus (after each verse):
Fan the ale wis only tippence an' o tanner bocht a gill
A besorn or a tilly pon, a shelt we aye could sell
An' we a' forgot oor troubles awer a forty o' sma' ale
As we gaithert in the gloamin' in the Moss o' Burreldale

Noo time wis nae longer heard when muckle Jock McQueen
He startit tunin' up his pipes he bocht in Aiberdeen
He blew see hard, the skin wis thin, the bag began tae swell
An' awa' flew Jock wi' the sheepskin pyoke ower the Moss o' Burreldale

Noo little Jimmie Docherty, a horseman great wis he
He jumpit on a sheltie's back, some tricks tae lat us see
Bit a gallant shoved some prickly wins aneath the sheltie's tail
An he cast a shot in a mossy pot in the Moss o' Burreldale

gyan = going, fan = when, bocht = bought, shelt= pony, forty =fortifier, pyoke = bag, prickly wins = gorse

Malinky sing The Moss o Burreldale

There were Stewarts, McKenzie and McPhee,
Neatly they did plait their knees;
Neatly they did plait their knees,
Upon the Moss o Burreldale.

It was on the nicht o auld Kinkell,
They filled their belly fu o ale;
Filled their bellies fu o ale,
Upon the Moss o Burreldale.

Now the bonniest laddie on the green,
Was a heather merchant cried McQueen;
Silver buckles on his sheen,
Upon the Moss o Burreldale.

Then he blew his bags, he played a reel,
They danced the dance wad gleg the deil,
And then they toasted auld Lochiel,
Upon the Moss o Burreldale.

Noo the women fought wi jug and pail,
Tae see if they could sell their ale;
Neatly as they faced the gale,
Upon the Moss o Burreldale.

Noo the auld man bein on the booze,
Ahent the dyke tae hae a snooze;
McLaren woke him wi the news,
Aboot the Moss o Burreldale.

Humdree hee da hum de ah, etc.

There was Hieland Rory through the whins,
Painted faces and broken shins;
Painted faces and broken shins,
Upon the Moss o Burreldale.

It was on the nicht o auld Kinkell,
They filled their belly full o ale,
Filled their bellies full o ale,
Upon the Moss o Burreldale.