> Steeleye Span > Songs > The Old Maid in the Garrett

The Old Maid in the Garrett / Maids at 18

[ Roud 802 ; G/D 7:1378 ; Henry H138 ; Ballad Index R364 ; Bodleian Roud 802 ; Wiltshire 597 ; trad.]

Dolina MacLennan sang Dee an Old Maid in a Garrett at Leith Town Hall on November 1963. This concert was released in the following year on the album The Hoot'nanny Show Vol. 1.

Alex Campbell sang The Old Maid in the Garrett in 1965 on his eponymous Transatlantic album Alex Campbell.

Sweeney's Men sang The Old Maid in the Garrett in the late 1960s on a Transatlantic single that was included in 2004 on their Castle anthology The Legend of Sweeney's Men.

Isabel Sutherland sang Old Maid in a Garrett on her eponymous 1974 EFDSS album Isabel Sutherland.

Isabel Sutherland sang An Old Maid in a Garrett in 1985 on her Lismor album What a Voice.

Steeleye Span recorded The Old Maid in the Garrett in 1996 for their album Time. Their sleevenotes commented:

Definitely to be taken with a large pint of salt, this is probably the first (and last) time that this sung has been sung by women!

Ellen Mitchell sang An Old Maid in a Garrett on her and Kevin Mitchell's Musical Traditions CD Have a Drop Mair. She and Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

Ellen: Although this sounds Scottish it actually derives from a London music hall song. I learned this by osmosis from people around me when I was growing up.

Indeed, it has actually been collected twice as frequently in England. Baring-Gould, Sharp, Hammond, and Gardiner all heard it in the early years of the 20th century, as did Alfred Williams and Mervyn Plunkett later. In Scotland, four versions appear in Greig-Duncan, and Lizzie Higgins recorded it on her 1985 Lismor LP What a Voice.

The Witches of Elswick sang Maids at 18 in 2003 on their first album, Out of Bed. They commented in their liner notes:

Bry found this song in a book and fiddled about with the tune. As we're all getting on a bit, we can identify with the sentiments… We dedicate it to anybody struggling to find a partner; it usually works out but not always with long lasting success.


Ellen Mitchell sing An Old Maid in a Garrett Steeleye Span sing The Old Maid in the Garrett

I have often heard it said
By ma faither an ma mother
Tae gang tae a wedding
Is the makkings o another
If this is true
Then I'll gang withoot a biddin.
Oh kind Providence,
Won't you send me tae a weddin.

I was told by my Aunt
I was told by my Mother
That going to a wedding
Is the making of another
Well if this be so
Then I'll go without a bidding
Oh kind Providence
Won't you send me to a wedding

Chorus (after each verse):
And it's oh dear me, whit will I dae,
If I dee an auld maid in a garret?

Chorus (after each verse):
And it's, Oh dear me, how will it be
If I die an old maid in a garret

Auch well, there's ma sister Jean,
She not handsome or good-lookin
She's scarcely sixteen
And a fellow she was courtin.
Noo she's twenty four,
With a son and a daughter;
I am forty twa
And I've never had an offer.

Now there's my sister Jean
She's not handsome or good-looking
Scarcely sixteen
And a fellow she was courting
Now she's twenty-four
She's a son and a daughter
Here am I, forty-four
And I've never had an offer

I can cook and I can sew
I can make the hoos richt tidy,
Get up in the mornin
An mak the breakfeast ready.
But there's nothing in this wide world
Would mak me half sae cheery
As a wee fat man
That would caa me his ain deary.

I can cook and I can sew
I can keep a house right tidy
Rise up in the morning
And get the breakfast ready
There's nothing in this wide world
That makes my heart so cheery
As a wee fat man
To call me his own deary

So come tinker or come tailor,
Come soldier or come sailor,
Come ony man at aa
That'll tak me fae ma faither,
Come rich man, come poor man,
Come wise man or come witty,
Come ony man at aa
That'll mairry me for pity.

Oh come landsman, come townsman
Come tinker or come tailor
Come fiddler, come dancer
Come ploughman or come sailor
Come rich man, come poor man
Come fool or come witty
Come any man at all
Won't you marry out of pity?

Oh, well I'll awa hame
For there's naebidy heedin
There's naebidy heedin
Tae poor auld Annie's pleadin.
I'll awa hame
Tae ma ain wee bit garret,
If I cannae get a man,
I'll surely get a parrot.


They say that the women are
Worse than the men
They go down to Hell
And they're thrown out again.

The Witches of Elswick sing Maids at 18

Maid at eighteen, maid at nineteen, maid at twenty marry,
Here am I at twenty-five, no longer can I tarry.

Chorus (after each verse):
With a hey, hey down and a derry, derry down
Maid or wife, it's a happy life
She leaves his heart, is free from strife
With a hey down, derry down dey

Sister Kate is far too young, she's younger far than I am,
She's had sweethearts by the score, she's forc-ed to deny them.

Sister Bess has an ugly face and besides she is my shape in,
Before that she was seventeen a bride she had been made in.

Before that she had nineteen years she'd a son and a daughter,
Here am I at twenty-five, I'd never had one offer.

Tinker. tailor, soldier, sailor, come before my chance fade,
Come and woe me, please pursue me, don't let me die an old maid.