> Peter Bellamy > Songs > The Burning
> June Tabor > Songs > Susie Clelland

Lady Maisry / The Burning / Bonnie Susie Cleland

[ Roud 45 ; Child 65 ; Ballad Index C065 ; Wiltshire 1049 ; trad.]

Derek & Dorothy Elliott recorded Lady Maisry in 1972 for their eponymous album, Derek & Dorothy Elliott. They commented in their sleeve notes:

This ballad can be found in greater detail in Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The many versions found there suggest that Lady Maisry was pregnant by a lord of whom her family disapproved, and they made preparations for her for a last kiss, but her body fells apart. The version here was collected by Cecil Sharp in Somerset, and omits these gruesome details, leaving a sad romantic song similar to Lord Lovell.

Peter Bellamy sang The Burning unaccompanied to his own tune on his 1975 album Tell It Like It Was. He commented in the album's liner notes:

This fragment, probably of the ballad Lady Maisry, was brought to my attention by a good friend and singer, John Moreton, who found the words in an old Norfolk miscellany. The tune is mine.

The Clutha sang Bonnie Susie Cleland on their 1977 Topic album The Bonnie Mill Dams.

Chris Foster sang Lady Maisry in 1977 on his Topic album Layers and in 2004 on his Tradition Bearers CD Jewels. He commented in the booklet notes:

I found the main guts of the text and tune for the ballad Lady Maisry in the Hammond manuscripts at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in London. Henry Hammond collected the song in 1906 from Sam Gregory at Beaminster, a small Dorset town that I often hitch hiked through om the way to the seaside at West Bay in my youth. I filled out the Sam Gregory text with verses from versions in the Child collection in order to complete the story.

June Tabor sang Susie Clelland in 1990 on her album with the Oysterband, Freedom and Rain. A live recording from the American public radio programme “Mountain Stage” was included in 1993 on the Rykodisk anniversary sampler Medium Rare.

Hen Party sang Bonnie Susie Cleland in 1998 on their WildGoose CD Nobody Here But Us…. They commented in their liner notes:

We are very puzzled by Susie. She preferred to be burnt at the stake by her father rather than give up her English lover. Some may say, “Serve her right” others may think she made the correct decision. There are no records of Scottish parents chastising their errant daughters in the way that this song describes. As far as we know it has never been a crime to fall in love with a man south of the border. Could Devolution change all this …? Vaughan Williams collected this version of the song in Cambridge.

Sheena Wellington sang Bonnie Susie Cleland in 2003 on her Greentrax CD Hamely Fare.

Maureen Jelks sang Bonnie Susie Cleland at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2006. This recording was released in the following year on the festival anthology Some Rants o' Fun (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 3). The liner notes commented:

This is a version of the ballad of Lady Maisry (Child 65) and, in this form, it was originally collected by William Motherwell in the west of Scotland and first published (words and tune) in his Minstrelsy of 1827. It does not seem to have survived in the living tradition but has been recorded by several singers in recent years.

It seems unlikely that the ballad is a record of a historic event. However, there were a number of witch burnings in Dundee, the last being that of Grissell Jaffray in November 1669. Local tradition holds that a number of women were killed for consorting with English soldiers in the years after the Siege of Dundee in 1651 when General Monk's troops sacked the city.

The name Cleland is a Lanarkshire name—and Motherwell's versions came from singers in Kilbarchan, Ayrshire and Glasgow. The name was not common in the Dundee area and is not included among the names of those burned in Dundee in the Presbytery records. A spine-chilling manuscript is in Dundee's archives. This account lists the sums spent on the 1590 burning of a witch, such as two shillings (£0.10) to Esmie Goldman for four fathoms of rope, fifteen shillings (£0.75) for three baskets of coal, six shillings (£0.30) for two tar barrels and six shillings and eightpence (£0.33) for the hangman's travel expenses from St Andrews. The treasurer totals the expense as five pounds, sixteen shillings and eightpence (£5.81)—but the name of the poor woman does not merit a mention!

Bella Hardy sang Bonnie Susie Cleland in 2007 on her CD Night Visiting.

Alasdair Roberts sang Bonnie Susie Cleland in 2011 on Concerto Caledonia's CD Revenge of the Folksingers.

Mark T sang Lady Maisry in 2011 on his CD Folk Songs and Ballads.

Lady Maisery sang Lady Maisry in 2013 on their RootBead CD Mayday. They commented:

Social class is also at the heart of The Factory Girl, a traditional song of Irish origin which we learnt via 1980s female pop trio, The Roches. The factory girl's work is a source of her independence, strength and identity, and so she rejects the rich man who would turn her into a ‘lady’ who need never work again. In contrast, Lady Maisry comes from a wealthy family, but her social position eventually affords her less freedom than the factory girl. For centuries, women from aristocratic families were often married-off to in order to forge political alliances. Lady Maisry attempts to marry for love instead and assert her own sexual freedom, which drastically ends in what we might call an honour killing today. We collated our text from various versions in the Child Ballad collection. The tune was collected by George Gardiner from David Clements of Basingstoke in January 1909.

Lyrics

Chris Foster sings Lady Maisry Peter Bellamy sings The Burning

O the young men of the North Country
Have all wooing gone
To win the love of Lady Maisry
But of them she would have none.

“O hold your tongues, young men,” said she,
“And think no more of me,
For I've given my love to an English lord
Who promised to marry me.”

Then word has to her father gone
As he put on his shoe
That Lady Maisry goes with a child
Unto some English lord.

Then in there come her bold father dear
Stepping on the floor.
Hey says, “They tell to me, my daughter Maisry
That your are become a whore.”

“O a whore father, a whore father,
That is what I'll never be,
Though I've given my love to an English lord
Who promised to marry me.”

“But couldn't you have gotten a duke or a lord
From you own country
But now you have gone with this English lord
To bring this shame on me.”

“Now where are all my merry young men
Whom I give meat and fee
Tu pull the thistle and the thorn
to burn her vile body.”

Then her father has to the greenwood gone,
Her brother has to the broome,
All for to kindle a bold bonfire
To burn her body in.

Then in there come an old woman
Lady Maisry's nurse was she,
But before she could speak one single word
A salt tear blinded her eye.

“O your father has to the greenwood gone,
Your brother has to the broome,
All for to kindle a bold bonfire
To burn your body in.”

And her father was the first man
Who tied her to a stake
And her brother was the second man
Who did the fire make.

My father was the first good man
Who tied me to the stake;
My mother was the first good woman,
She did the fire make.

And her mother was the first woman
Who did the fire fetch
And her sister was the second woman
Who lighted it with a match.

My brother was the second good man,
He did the fire fetch;
And my sister was the second good woman
Who lighted it with a match.

The blew the fire and they kindled the fire
Till it reach her knee.
“O mother, mother, quench the fire
For the smoke it'll smother me.”

And they blew the fire, they kindled the fire
Till it did reach my knee:
“Oh mother, mother, quench the fire!
For the smoke do smother me.”

“O had I but a little footboy
My errand he could run,
He would run unto gay London town
And bid my lord come home.

“Oh had I but my little foot-page,
An errand he might run;
I would send him away to London gay
To bid my lord come home.”

“O nurse come and fetch to me my little footboy
Who is called my sister's son,
So that he may go and tell to my own true love
That I am sick at home.”

Well, by there stood by her sister’s child,
Her own dear sister’s son:
“It's many an errand I’ve run for thee
And this one too I’ll run.”

Well the first two miles the little boy walked,
The second two he run,
And he run until he come to some broad waterside
And then he's fell upon his breast and he swum

He ran, where the bridge it were broken down,
He bent his bow and swam;
He swam till he came to the good green land,
There he jumped to his feet and ran.

Until he come undo some dry land again.
Then he took to his heels and he run
And he run until he come to some high park gate
Where lords were sitting at their meal.

And he ran till he came to his uncle’s hall
Where is uncle sat at meat:
“Good meat, good meat, good uncle, I pray,
If you knew what I have to say,
How little you would eat!”

“O if you did but know what news I have brought
Not a bite more would you eat.”
“O is my park gates overthrown
Or is my walls falling down?”

“Oh is my castle broken down,
Or is my tower won?
Or is my lady brought to bed
Of a daughter or a son?”

“O your high park gates they are all overthrown,
Your high park walls they are all a-falling down,
And your Lady Maisry lies sick at home
And shall die before you can come.”

“Your castle is not broken down,
Nor is your tower won;
Nor is your lady brought to bed
Of a daughter or a son.”

“O mother go and fetch to me my milk-white steed
And saddle it with speed
So that I may go and kiss her cherry cheeks
Before they are turned to clay.”

“But she has give me a gay gold ring
With posies round the rim,
And she swears if you bear any love for her,
You will ride to her burning.”

“Now where are all my merry young men
By one, by two and three?”
Then he's mounted up on his milk-white steed
To get to his Lady Maisry.

So he's called up his merry men
By one, by two, by three;
And heÄs mounted upon his milk-white steed
To ride to Margery.

They blew the fire and they kindled the fire
Till it did reach her head.
“O mother, mother, quench the fire!
For I am nearly dead.”

She's looked o'er her left shoulder,
Saw her girdle hanging free:
“Oh God bless them that gave me this!
For no more they’ll give to me.”

The she's turned her head on her right shoulder,
She saw her lord come riding home,
“O mother, mother, quench the fire!
For I am nearly gone.”

She's looked o'er her right shoulder,
Saw her lord come riding home:
“Oh mother, mother, quench the fire!
For I am nearly gone.”

But they blew the fire, they kindled the fire,
Till it did reach her chin:
“O mother, mother, quench the fire!
For I am nearly gone.”

Then he's mounted off of his milk-white steed
And he's leapt into the fire,
He was thinking to save his Lady Maisry
But he had stayed too long.

He's mounted down from his milk-white steed
And into the fire he's run;
He was thinking to save his lady gay,
But he had staid too long.

And the Lady she was buried in a cold churchyard,
The lord was buried in the choir,
And out of her heart there sprung a sweet rose
And out of his mouth a sweet briar.

And they growed so high unto the church wall
Until they could not grow any higher,
And there they did twang in a true lover's knot
For all true lovers to admire.

June Tabor sings Susie Cleland

There lived a lady in Scotland
    Oh my love, oh my love
There lived a lady in Scotland
    Oh my love, so early
There lived a lady in Scotland
She's fallen in love with an Englishman,
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be married in Dundee.

The father to the daughter came,
The father to the daughter came,
The father to the daughter came,
Saying, “Will you forsake that Englishman?”
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be married in Dundee.

“I will not that man forsake,
    Oh my love, oh my love
I will not that man forsake,
I will not that man forsake,
Though you should burn me at the stake.”
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be married in Dundee.

“Where can I get a fine young boy,
Where can I get a fine young boy,
Where can I get a fine young boy,
To carry the tidings to my joy?”
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be married in Dundee.

Up and spoke the fine young boy,
Up and spoke the fine young boy,
    Oh my love, so early
Up and spoke the fine young boy,
“I'll carry the tidings to your joy.”
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be married in Dundee.

“Give to him this little pen knife,
Give to him this little pen knife,
Give to him this little pen knife,
Tell him to get him another wife.”
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be married in Dundee.

“Give to him this fine gold ring,
Give to him this fine gold ring,
Give to him this fine gold ring,
Tell him I'm going to my burning.”
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be buried in Dundee.

The father dragged her to the stake,
    Oh my love, oh my love
The father dragged her to the stake,
    Oh my love, so early
The father dragged her to the stake,
The mother then the fire did make,
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be buried in Dundee.

There lived a lady in Scotland
    Oh my love, oh my love
There lived a lady in Scotland
    Oh my love, so early
There lived a lady in Scotland
She's fallen in love with an Englishman,
Bonnie Susie Cleland, to be buried in Dundee.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café threads Lyr Req: Bonny Suzie Cleland and Origins: Bonnie Susie Cleland.