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Best o' the Barley

  • Brian McNeill

    For he's the best o' the barley, cream o' the crop
    Easy on the water and I'll tell you when to stop
    Would you please charge your glasses with the real pure drop
    And drink tae the best o' the barley

    My uncle Jim he served his time on the shores of the Forth as a joiner
    And three pounds ten a week was all he earned
    But the wages were better working Michigan pine so he sailed on an ocean liner
    To build a better life with the trade he'd learned
    And the shore he reached in twenty-three, the home of the brave, the land of the free
    Was dry as the devil's tongue on judgment day
    But to find a dram in a foreign land it's the natural gift of a Falkirk man
    And Lady Liberty looked the other way
    Or so I've always heard my uncle say

    My uncle Jim was a child of his time, and the tricks of the time they were dirty
    And the dirtiest of all was the one they played
    On the working man's dollar and the poor man's dime between twenty-nine and thirty
    For they killed all the steady jobs in the building trade
    And the only way that Jim could see was to play the game with Lady Liberty
    Though no one ever told him all the rules
    And when fainter hearts were homeward bound Jim sold Michigan ice by the pound
    With a leather sling and an iron hook for tools
    Just to show the yankees how to keep their cool

    My uncle Jim he could keep good time when the band played an eightsome reel
    And he loved to waltz away the summer nights
    And the spring in his step kept him in his prime through the turns of fortune's wheel
    As it spun him through the darkness and the light
    And to dance the jig called history Jim took the hand of the century
    And he never let her steal a backward glance
    From the D-Day beaches to the cold lakeshore he whirled her round and round the floor
    To show her how a Scotsman takes his chance
    And he never missed a measure of the dance

    Here's a health to the best o' the barley
    To Scotland and the best o' the barley

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1991:] James McNeill, my great-uncle, is, at the time of writing, a spry eighty-eight. He first went to the States in 1923, worked as a joiner in Detroit, then returned to Scotland in 1929 for a holiday. It says a great deal for his confidence in the USA that he was prepared to return again, despite the stock market crash. - With the building trade depressed, he became a deliveryman, of ice - until another visit home, in 1936, when he went back to his old trade of joinery with a firm in his home town (and mine) of Falkirk. The coming of war in 1939 killed any chance of returning to the USA, and eventually he was conscripted - a circumstance which was to land him on Queen White beach in Normandy on D-Day, and which, like everything else in his life, he took in his remarkable stride. (Notes Brian McNeill, 'The Back o' the North Wind')

  • [1992:] The real reason why my uncle went back to the USA in 1929, although everybody tried to persuade him to stay is - he had a return ticket. (Intro Brian McNeill)

  • [1993:] Sadly he died in Scotland about four months ago (= c. June). (Intro Brian McNeill)

  • [2000:] Brian's great uncle James McNeill was still alive when this was written, and although he has since passed away, a whole new generation of people have got to know him and his exploits through this song. Created as a part of Brian's audio-visual show about Scottish history [...] (Notes Iain MacKintosh & Brian McNeill, 'Live and Kicking')

Quelle: Scotland

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