[1966:] HAIRY MARY by RON CLARK & CARL MacDOUGALL - This song was written in George Square, Glasgow, one Friday morning some so [???] years ago by Ron Clark and I after we had missed our late-night buses. At that time, many versions of "The Virgin Mary" were being sung around the West of Scotland clubs, and we had heard it once too often that night at Paisley. Though it may seem sacrilegious, the original draft was on the back of a volume of Joe Corrie's poems.
Although Ron and I sang it, to mixed receptions, at one or two clubs, the song was soon forgotten and it lay dormant until almost four months after its inception, when we taught it to Archie Fisher.
What happened after that is anyone's guess. In the transcription Archie altered some of the words and the song was picked up at various clubs around the country. Now I am told localised versions exist in Perth and Dundee as well as Kirkcaldy where, apparently, the "Hard man" comes from Dysart [?] and goes to the Burntisland Palais. Someone took the song to London and a version has also been heard in Dublin. (Carl MacDougall in 'Chapbook')
[1966:] [This has] already passed into the Tradition although written only recently. In this case, the Tradition is the Scottish tradition and the song was written by Ronnie Clark and Carl MacDougall. (Notes 'The Best of British Folk Music II')
[1985:] When I first recorded this song 20 years ago I didn't think anyone outside the west of Scotland would understand it. And now, many friends, all over the British Isles, have heard my version - from a Dutchman in Germany, a Japanese in London and a drunk Indian doctor on a very liquid overnight flight from Canada to Scotland! (Notes Hamish Imlach, 'Sonny's Dream')
[1990:] Hamish's undying contribution to this song is a patented evil laugh that in the words of one reviewer 'sounds like he gargles with razor blades'. Hamish never expected Cod Liver Oil to become the most requested song on British Forces Radio. Although Hamish's version is so famous, I've [...] printed the original version, then called Hairy Mary. The song was written as a protest about overexposure to Hamish Imlach singing a beautiful number called Virgin Mary Had A Little Baby. Carl McDougall originated the song, then it passed through the hands of Ron Clark and Archie Fisher before reaching Hamish. When he recorded it he credited it to Carl and Ron as co-writers, but the then music publishers neglected to track them down. After all, Glasgow is a long way from London. Then the publishers sold their stock of songs. When I started the GALLUS label I refused to pay royalties for the song away to the new publishers. On negotiation they agreed to pay back what they had, but most of its earnings were before their time. Carl and Ron got £ 27 each, a pound for every year of the song's life. Both Carl and Ron have handed their winnings on to good Scots political causes. (McVicar, One Singer One Song 48)
[1992:] I became a full-time professional performer in the Beachcomber Bar at Butlin's in Ayr [...]. I was sacked on the third night because of Cod Liver Oil. Several Butlin's directors were there, touring round various camps. Many people had asked me for the song, and when I started doing it, together with the jokes and patter, a couple of hundred people left their seats and instead of being scattered over this vast area among the rubber crocodiles they came and stood in front of me shouting encouragement. The language was unintelligible to the visiting directors from the South. They became convinced this was obscene, not the thing for a family camp. So I got my books. As well as displeasing Butlin's, this song got banned from the Beeb. At a big meeting it was decided that it was certain to be erotic and full of double meanings, and therefore could not be played on 'Two Way Family Favourites'. (Imlach, Reminiscences 62)
[On British Forces Radio, this] was the most requested song in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A disc jockey [...] later told me of the BBC meeting [...]. It was decided that the song must be full of obscene double meanings that they couldn't spot, and the song was vetoed because Scots ministers of religion listening would spot the dirty meanings and be offended. The BFBS was not covered by this veto, so in 1969 my songs were being hammered out [...]. (Imlach, Reminiscences 131)
In a way Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice has become my song, although it was written by Ron Clark and Carl MacDougall, because of the way I personalised it. A couple of groups have recorded it, but they tried to do it as near as possible exactly as I do. [...] People have suggested that [this] was the first time American-type music was used for a dialect song. I never figured out what the special attraction of the song was, a lot of parodies were written at that time which were as funny or funnier. [...] Why was it Cod Liver Oil that everyone asked for? I first heard Carl MacDougall doing bits of it, then one night at the Elbow Room in Kirkcaldy Archie Fisher and I were sharing the night. My production number for the second half was the original of Cod Liver Oil - an American spiritual song called Virgin Mary Had A Little Baby. Out of the East there came three Wise men
Virgin Mary had a little baby
Oh oh sweetest little baby
Oh oh, glory hallelujah
Glory be to the new-born king
Archie in the first half did the couple of verses of Cod Liver Oil that he remembered as a joke, and it went down a storm.
I thought, 'Wait a minute, I'm doing the wrong song!' So I switched, put some laughing bits in, rearranged the verses a bit and did some rewriting. I can't remember now exactly what I did alter, but it included changing didgy to cludgie, and taking out references people outside Glasgow wouldn't understand - 'the Denny Palais', and 'The Floo'er o' the Calton'. The song kept growing, and lines were changed - Den Warwick of Belfast contributed one line which got incorporated. A woman called Mary Airey living in the Lake District is still plagued by the song, because her name is often written or printed as - Airey, Mary. (Imlach, Reminiscences 172ff.)
[1993:] Cod liver oil and orange juice was what a woman expecting a baby got, free. That was in the days before Margaret Thatcher became minister of health. (Intro Hamish Imlach)
[1999:] There is (or was) a
cheap fortified wine called "Lanliq" or something like
that. It was always regarded with amusement/derision, because it was
purchased for its potency rather than any delicate taste it may have
(Nigel Gatherer, uk.music.folk, 1 July)
[1999:] Lang's Liqueur, also
known as Lannie. It is/was a South African port- type fortified
wine, cheap, strong and tasted, well, not exactly brilliant.
Milne, uk.music.folk, 1 July)
- more: http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=2157