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Traiveller’s Joy

[ Roud 22011 ; lyrics Helen Fullerton, music trad.]

Alison McMorland sang Traivellers Joy in 2000 on her Tradition Bearers CD of Scots songs and ballads, Cloudberry Day. She noted:

This song is written from the viewpoint of Alex, ex-soldier and fisherman, who had taken to the road as a ‘long distance man’. However at this point he had given up ‘the tramp’ and was working as a navvy at the Glen Shira Hydro-Electric Dam project, in Highland Argyll, in the 1950’s. Alex worshipped, from afar, the ‘nameless lass’ who worked in the labourers cookhouse. The girl restless and shy was most anxious to deny her own traveller background. She had her sights firmly set on an engineer on the project. Alex preferred the ‘Traivellers Joy’, i.e. wild-flower—the girl of his dreams, to the ‘Rose(s)’ of the nearby town of Inveraray and who, no doubt, were equally unattainable! In short, Alex had no chance…

Helen Fullerton worked in the cookhouse. She knew the personalities in this ‘gem of a story’ first hand. Other fine songs emerged from this period, in Helen’s distinguished and varied working life, including her insightful Shira Dam.

Susan McClure sang Traiveller’s Joy at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2006. This recording was inlcuded in the following year on Autumn Harvest’s festival anthology Some Rants o’ Fun (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 3). The album’s liner notes tersely stated:

A song of the traveller life composed by Glasgow poet and songwriter Helen Fullerton.

Emily Smith sang Traiveller’s Joy in 2011 as title track of her album Traiveller’s Joy. She noted:

Helen Fullerton was a Scottish poet who worked in the cookhouse of the Glen Shira Hydro-Electric Dam project, Argyllshire, during the 1950s. She wrote Traiveller’s Joy, a tale of unrequited love based on her observations between Alex, a navvy on the project, and a traveller girl who worked in the cookhouse alongside Helen. The traveller girl, shy and keen to deny her traveller background had eyes for another, higher in rank than Alex, whereas Alexfar preferred his wild flower “Traiveller’s Joy’ to the girls, or ‘roses’ from the nearby town of Inveraray.

Hector Gilchrist sang Traiveller’s Joy in 2014 on his WildGoose album Days o’ Grace. He noted:

In this poem, Helen Fullerton tells the story of a travelling lass, who worked in the canteen of the Shira Dam Project, near Inveraray. She was the object of a siteworker‘s affection, but declined his advances, refusing to walk with him up the Shian (fairy) hill. The original tune is traditional, but has been subject to various arrangements, including that of McMorland / McIntyre.

Jim and Susie Malcolm sang Traivellers Joy on their 2022 CD Auld Toon Shuffle. They noted:

Having heard the wonderful Emily Smith sing this song many times we were keen to have a crack at it. While this is a straightforward love song with a traveller girl as the object of an unrequited love, Traiveller’s Joy is also the name of a plant that was said, when placed in their shoes, to soothe the tired feet of weary travellers. We haven’t had a crack at that yet.


Jim and Susie Malcolm sing Traivellers Joy

I ken a lass she has nae name, nor hame that she will own to
She traivels lighter than the swan, that builds its nest on Lochan Dhu.

Chorus (after each verse):
It’s will ye bundle and will ye go
And are ye awa tae leave me.
It’s will ye bundle and will ye go
Or up the Shian wi me.

Let Inverara folk look doon, she’s sunshine tae the Shira
And gans mair braw in her apron, than they in aa their gear.

Her hands sae rough wi weary work, the mair her face entrances
As whiter blooms the April thorn, upon its blackened branches.

The flooer that twines in yon broon hedge, grows sweet for the wayfarer
But I wouldna gie my traiveller’s joy, for the rose o Inverara.

Wi dooncast eyes she’ll pass us by, withoot a word for ony
Just like the little mountain rose, as bleek and dour and bonny.

I ken a lass she has nae hairt, ayeways awa tae leave us
She’s gane aa through the mountain range, nae mair she says she’ll see us.