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When Fortune Turns the Wheel
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When Fortune Turns the Wheel is a song often printed as a broadside and whose popularity may also have been helped by its inclusion in John Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads (1930).
The High Level Ranters sang Fortune Turns the Wheel on their 1976 Topic album Ranting Lads. They noted:
A Scottish drinking song learnt from the singing of Louis Killen, who collected it from Alan Rogerson, in 1959. Alan is a shepherd who lives in the Wooler area of Northumberland. The song appears in print in Gavin Greig’s Scottish collection, Folk-Song of the North-East (1907-11, reprinted 1963).
Louis Killen recorded When Fortune Turns the Wheel in Winter 1977 at the Eldron Fennig Folk Museum of American Ephemera for his album Old Songs, Old Friends. He also sang it live at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2005. This recording was included in 2006 on the festival’s CD For Friendship and for Harmony (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Vol. 2). He commented in his album’s sleeve notes:
… And it was with Brian [Ballinger], and his 50-60 lb “portable” tape recorder (well, it could be carried—in a bus!) that I collected from Alan Rogerson, of Common Burn farm, near Wooler, Northumberland, a song with which I’ve had a love affair since 1958—When Fortune Turns the Wheel.
Bill Price sang Fortune’s Wheel in 1978 on his Autogram album I Sing As I Please. He commented:
A Scottish exile ballad learned from Louis Killen some years ago.
Ray Fisher sang When Fortune Turns the Wheel in 1982 on her Folk-Legacy album Willie’s Lady. She commented in the accompanying booklet:
I first heard Louis Killen, of Gateshead, Co. Durham, sing this song. His version had come from Alan Rogerson of Northumberland and had a “south of the border” flavour. I subsequently gleaned the Scottish text from Greig’s Folk-Song of the North-East which was remarkably similar in tune and content, but varied only in local references, i.e. place names etc. This is one of the great parting songs.
Aaron Jones sang When Fortune Turns Her Wheel in 2005 on his and Claire Mann’s CD Secret Orders.
Jon Boden sang Fortune Turns The Wheel as the final, 23 June 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.
Jackie Oates learned When Fortune Turns the Wheel from Louis Killen and recorded it in 2011 for her album Saturnine. She sang it at Dave and Gill Lowry’s 40th Wedding Anniversary Party at Clyst St Mary Village Hall on 12 June 2010:
Niamh Parsons sang When Fortune Turns Her Wheel on her and Graham Dunne’s 2015 album Kind Providence. She noted:
Learnt from Aaron Jones, this Scottish song comes from the singing of Willie Scott (1897-1989), a border shepherd and carrier of songs. Alison McMorland has published a wonderful book on Scott called Herd Laddie o’ the Glen—Songs of a Border Shepherd. I changed the place names to reflect my own area.
John Roberts and Debra Cowan sang When Fortune Turns the Wheel in 2015 on their CD Ballads Long & Short. They noted:
When Fortune Turns the Wheel was a signature song of the late Louis/Louisa Jo Killen, who learned it from Alan Rogerson in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland in the late 1950s. We sing it in memory of Louisa, with whom we shared many years of friendship, individually and collectively.
The Brothers Gillespie sang When Fortune Turns the Wheel in a 2021 video about Hadrian’s Wall in North England. This is part of a video series Songs of England which explores traditional songs and their connections to historic places. It was commissioned by English Heritage and the Nest Collective.
Louis Killen sings When Fortune Turns the Wheel
Come fill the cup, let’s drink about, this nicht we’ll merry be,
For friendship and for harmony, likewise my comrades three;
Tae meet yence mair some other nicht my secret joy reveal,
For I now mun stray so far away til fortune turns the wheel.
Nae love, nor gold, nor dress I’ll take my estimate of man,
But when I meet a friend in need to stretch a helping hand;
To him I’ll drink, for him I’ll fecht, to him my mind reveal,
And friends we’ll be, whatever way blind fortune turns the wheel.
But it’s some of my pretended friends, if friends ye may them call,
They falsely turned their back on me when mine was at the wall;
Yet in a glass I’ll drink their health—ye’ll ken I wish them well
That someday I may pay the debt when fortune turns the wheel.
And it’s of a lovely lassie, aye, it’s her I’ll justly blame,
When dark misfortune frowned on me she denied she knew my name;
But friendship by remorse is past—to her I’ll never kneel,
I’ll sweethearts find, both true and kind, when fortune turns the wheel.
O ye dewy hills o’ Caledon, likewise sweet Coquetdale,
Whaur friendship binds the firmest ties and love tells the sweetest tale;
Here’s to my friends and to my foes, ye’ll ken I wish them weel,
That we all may meet some other nicht when fortune turns the wheel.
Ray Fisher sings When Fortune Turns the Wheel
Come fill your glass, let’s drink aboot, for this nicht we’ll merry be,
Good liquor and good company, likewise my comrades three;
For tae see ye a’ again, dear freends, a secret joy I feel,
Though I must stray, soon far away, when fortune turns the wheel.
It’s not from goud or costly claithes I take my estimate of man.
But when I meet a friend in need, I’ll stretch oot a helping hand;
And wi’ him I’ll drink, for him I’ll fecht, tae him my mind reveal,
And freends we’ll be, whatever way blind fortune turns the wheel.
Now, some of my pretended friends, if friends I can them call,
Proved false and turned their backs on me when mine was at the wall.
Well, in a glass, I’ll let it pass, ye ken I’ll wish them weel,
But someday I’ll return the debt when fortune turns the wheel.
O, it was of a bonnie laddie, it’s him I’ll justly blame,
When sad misfortune on me frowned he denied he ken’t my name;
Now sorrow and remorse they are past, tao him I’ll never kneel,
And I’ll sweethearts find, baith true and kind, when fortune turns the wheel.
Ye dewy hills o’ Caledonia, likewise sweet Liddesdale,
Whaur friendship bides, wi’ foremost ties, and love tells the fondest tale;
O, it’s noo that I maun rise tae go, kind freends, I wish ye weel,
That we’ll a’ meet some ither nicht, when fortune turns the wheel.