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Cam Ye O’er Frae France

[ Roud 5814 ; G/D 1:120 ; Ballad Index DTCYOFF ; GlosTrad Roud 5814 ; DT CAMFRANC ; Mudcat 19555 ; trad.; from Hogg’s Jacobite Relics of Scotland]

Ewan MacColl: Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland

George I, being a protestant German king, was viewed with ridicule and hatred by the Jacobite rebels. This is a scurrilous attack upon him and his court.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France in 1966 on their Transatlantic EP Four Highland Songs. Ian Campbell commented in the sleeve notes:

Cam Ye O’er Frae France is one of many bitter satirical songs composed by the Jacobites about the court of George I or Geordie Whelps (Guelph). The goose referred to is Madame Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal, Geordies mistress, and the linkin’ blade was the Count Königsmark. The only other identifiable name is Bobbin John presumed to be the Earl of Mar, Commander in Chief of the English army in Scotland.

Owen Hand sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France in 1966 on his Transatlantic album I Loved a Lass. He noted:

Cam Ye O’er Frae France is a masterpiece among satirical songs. It comes from the period preceding the 1715 rebellion where “Bobbing John” (John Earl of May) was raising the Highland Army to overthrow George “the wee German lairdie”.

Ewan MacColl sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France in 1968 on his Topic/Folkways album The Jacobite Rebellions. A live recording made in Chicago in September 1984 was released in 1990 on his Cooking Vinyl album Black and White. The Folkways album notes commented:

When George the First imported his seraglio of impoverished gentlewomen from Germany, he provided the Jacobite songwriters with material for some of their most ribald verses. Madame Kielmansegg, Countess of Platen, is referred to exclusively as “The Sow” in the songs, while his favourite mistress, the lean and haggard Madame Schulenburg, afterwards crested Duchess of Kendall, was given the name of “The Goose”. She is the goosie referred to in this song. The “blade” mentioned is the Count Königsmark. “Bobbing John” refers to John, Earl of Mar, who, at the time this song was made, was recruiting Highlanders for the Hanoverian cause. “Geordie Whelps” is, of course, George the First.

Archie Fisher sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France in 1969 on an album with songs of the Jacobite Rebellions, The Fate o’ Charlie.

Dick Gaughan sang Cam’ Ye Ower Frae France in 1972 on his Trailer album, No More Forever. He also sang it in 1995 on Clan Alba’s eponymous and only CD, Clan Alba. He noted on his album:

Cam’ Ye Ower Frae France is a witty and bitingly satirical song, which shows the general feeling of the Scots to the replacement of the Stuarts by the Hanoverarians. The Scots apparently found it illogical to have a puppet king who hardly spoke a word of English, seemed unaware of the existence of Gaelic, and appeared to have an intense preoccupation with gardening. The time signature varies between 7/4 and 6/8.

and on his now defunct website:

This comes from volume 1 of James Hogg’s Jacobite Relics of Scotland and is a scathing commentary on the political situation, and in particular on the members of the Scottish Establishment comfortably esconced in exile in France, prior to the first Jacobite Rising of 1715. All the names in the song refer to actual people, although some are obscure these days. e.g., “Geordie Whelps” was George I, “Bobbing John” was the Earl of Mar, known as “Bobbing” because of his tendency to shift his allegiance to whoever looked like being victorious.

Steeleye Span sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France in 1973 on their album Parcel of Rogues, accompanying the record’s title track Rogues in a Nation. They recorded it a second time for their CD Present to accompany the December 2002 Steeleye Span reunion tour.

At least five live recordings of Cam Ye O’er Frae France with several Steeleye Span line-ups are or were available:

  1. from the Royal Opera Theatre in Adelaide, Australia, in 1982 on the CD Gone to Australia,
  2. from the Beck Theatre, Hayes, Middlesex, on 16 September 1989 on the video A 20th Anniversary Celebration:
  3. from their 1991 tour on the CD Tonight’s the Night… Live,
  4. from The Forum, London, on 2 September 1995 on the CD The Journey,
  5. and from Southampton Civic Hall on 15 May 2004 on both the video The 35th Anniversary World Tour 2004 and the CD The Official Bootleg.

The Tannahill Weavers sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France in 1978 on their Plant Life album The Old Woman’s Dance. They noted:

Scandal, libel and bribery are not trappings of political life borne only by today’s statesmen. Under the guise of satire, King George I and his political friends are savagely attacked and threatened in this song. The Jacobites* really stuck the boot in here. We get it all—corruption, graft, double dealing, and even a visit to a famous house of horizontal refreshment.

*Jacobites are not a crunchy cat food, being, in fact, the followers of the Stuarts. King George was Hanoverian.

Drinkers Drouth sang Cam Ye Ower Frae France in 1982 on their first album, When the Kye Comes Hame. This track was also included in 2001 on their Greentrax compilation Drinkers Drouth with Davy Steele: A Tribute.

Isla St Clair sang Come Ye O’er Frae France on her 1993 CD Inheritance.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France on their 1998 album The Bee-Loud Glade.

Carolyn Robson sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France on her 1999 album All the Fine Young Men. She noted:

A Jacobite song from the 1715 rising, it takes a satirical swipe at the German King George who brought with him many creature comforts including his favourite mistress nicknamed the ‘Goose’. Freya [Tabbush]’s percussive feet are meant to mimic the marching boots of the armies.

Joshua Burnell sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France on his 2019 album The Road to Horn Fair. He noted:

What better way to finish an album than with an angry Jacobite rebel song mocking George I and his entourage? Here the ‘Geordie’ refers to King George; the ‘goosie’ is George’s mistress, Madame Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendall; “the blade” is Count Königsmark; and ‘Bobbing John’ is supposedly the Earl of Mar. As we all know, a ‘little housie’ is a brothel.

I initially tried to harvest album names from this song, burt didn’t like the connotations of ‘Joshua Burnell: belted, brisk and lordly’ or the fact that ‘Cockolorum” means a ‘self-important little man’. ‘Riding on a Goosie’ was out of the question!

I feel compelled to mention that if I hadn’t picked up a dusty vinyl copy of Steeleye Span’s All Around My Hat in a charity shop some four years ago, this album probably wouldn’t exist, nor do I think I’d be playing folk music at all. I was immediately hooked and first heard this track from their fabulous album, Parcel of Rogues. I hope they would approve of my arrangement with some added hyperactive lunacy and valve distortion in an attempt to compete with how completely nuts the traditional lyrics are.

The song is followed by an Irish tune called The Musical Priest which is one of my all-time favourites and has been a staple in our set since I first began playing with a band. It always goes down storm with live audiences and finally, at long last, here it is on record for you to enjoy.

Fiona Ross sang Cam Ye O’er Frae France in 2020 on her and Shane O’Mara’s CD Sunwise Turn. She noted:

The song relates to the 1715 Jacobite Rising. It’s the Jacobites’ response to the supplanting of the Stuarts by the Hanoverians—a scurrilous satire that mocks George I (1660-1727) and his entourage. I’ve known this song for a long time, but it was guitarist Ken Nicol who suggested to me to sing it in recent years.


Dick Gaughan sings Cam Ye Ower Frae France

Cam ye ower frae France? Cam ye doun by Lunnon?
Saw ye Geordie Whelps an his bonnie wumman?
Wis ye at the place caad the Kittle Housie?
Saw ye Geordie’s grace a-ridin on a goosie?

Geordie he’s a man, thair is little dout o’t,
He’s dune aa he can—wha can dae wiout it?
Doun thair cam a blade linkin like malordy
He wad drive a trade at the loom o Geordie.

Tho the claith were bad, blythely may we niffer
Gin we get a wab, it maks little differ
We hae tint our plaid, bunnet, belt an swordie
Haas an mailins braid—but we hae a Geordie!

Jockie’s gane tae France an Montgomery’s ladie
Thair thae’ll learn tae dance—Madam, are ye ready?
Thae’ll be back belyve, beltit, brisk an lordlie
Brawly may thae thrive tae dance a jig wi Geordie!

Hie for Sandy Don, hie for Cockalorum
Hie for Bobbing John an his Heilan quorum
Mony’s a sword an lance swings at heil an hurdie
Hou thae’ll skip an dance owre the bum o Geordie!

Steeleye Span sing Cam Ye O’er Frae France

Cam ye o’er frae France? Cam ye down by Lunnon?
Saw ye Geordie Whelps and his bonny woman?
Were ye at the place ca’d the Kittle Housie?
Saw ye Geordie’s grace riding on a goosie?

Geordie, he’s a man there is little doubt o’t;
He’s done a’ he can, wha can do without it?
Down there came a blade linkin’ like my lordie;
He wad drive a trade at the loom o’ Geordie.

Though the claith were bad, blythly may we niffer;
Gin we get a wab, it makes little differ.
We hae tint our plaid, bonnet, belt and swordie,
Ha’s and mailins braid—but we hae a Geordie!

Jocky’s gane to France and Montgomery’s lady;
There they’ll learn to dance: Madam, are ye ready?
They’ll be back belyve, belted, brisk and lordly;
Brawly may they thrive to dance a jig wi’ Geordie!

Hey for Sandy Don! Hey for Cockolorum!
Hey for Bobbing John and his Highland Quorum!
Mony a sword and lance swings at Highland hurdie;
How they’ll skip and dance o’er the bum o’ Geordie!

(Repeat first verse)


The lyrics are from Ewan MacColl: Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland, New York: Oak Publications, 1965.