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The Pressers

[Mary Brooksbank]

The Pressers is a song about losing one’s lover to press gangs. Ray Fisher sang it in 1982 on her Folk-Legacy album Willie’s Lady. She commented in the accompanying booklet:

The theme of this press gang song is based on remnants of a traditional song. Mary Brooksbank of Dundee, composer of the widely-known Jute Mill Song (or Ten and Nine), added some verses of her own to the existing snippet that she had retained in her memory. The reference to ‘Boney’ (Napoleon Bonaparte) suggests this to be the case. Wee Mary was a bundle of enthusiasm and a joy to listen to. I recall at an early TMSA [Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland] festival in Blairgowrie, Scotland, she enthralled everyone with her songs and poems of love, work and politics. She was one of the quiet giants, although she stood just over five feet tall.

Stravaig sang The Pressers, “from the singing of Ray Fisher”, in 1994 on their Greentrax CD Movin’ On.

Compare to this song The Weary Cutters on the same album.


Ray Fisher sings The Pressers

There is nocht in this wide world but sorrow and care,
I weary on Johnnie, but Johnnie’s no there.
Sae waesome and dowie, I feel like tae dee
Since the pressers hae stolen my laddie fae me.

I look aroond the steading, but Johnnie’s nae there,
At toil in the hairst field, my hert it feels sair.
When I look tae yon high hills, a tear blin’s my e’e
Since the pressers hae stolen my laddie fae me.

For he’s far ower yon high hills and syne ower the sea,
I ken nowhere my ain dear laddie micht be.
In some foreign battlefield maybe he’ll dee,
Oh, curse on ye, Boney, took my laddie fae me.

Now the bonnie larks singing mocks me in my care
But I’ll go on still hoping till grey grows my hair.
Oh, ye wild winds a blowing far ower the sea
Will ye blow back my bonnie lad Johnnie tae me.