Henry's Songbook

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The Rovin' Ploughboy

  • (Trad)

    Ploughboy-o, ploughboy-o
    Follow the rovin' ploughboy-o

    Saddle tae me my old grey mare
    Saddle tae me my pony-o
    And noo she's on the road and she's far far awa'
    Awa' wi' her rovin' ploughboy-o

    Champion ploughboy her Geordie lad
    Cups and medals and prizes-o
    In bonnie Deveron-side there is none can compare
    Wi' the jolly rovin' ploughboy-o

    Yestreen she lay in a fine feather bed
    Sheets and blankets sae cosy-o
    And noo she maun lie in a cauld barn-shed
    Ro'ed in the arms o' her ploughboy-o

    Fare thee weel tae auld Huntly toon
    Fare thee weel Drumdelgie-o
    And noo she's on the road and she's far far awa'
    Awa' wi' her rovin' ploughboy-o

    (as sung by Iain MacKintosh & Hamish Imlach)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1959:] The man who has preserved [this song] is John MacDonald, of Pitgaveny, Elgin, who is - among other things - a molecatcher, a puppet-maker, and a notable balladmaker. John first heard it "when he was a laddie" from a ploughman, Donald MacLeod, who was fee'd on his father's farm at Dava. According to John, it was Donald's father who composed it. Like most "composed" songs in the folk idiom, however, it has its roots in another song, and internal evidence shows that this can only be the famous classical ballad, "The Gypsy Laddies." I played it over to Jeannie Robertson just after it was first recorded; she at once recognised the relationship, and began to sing the traditional "Gypsy Laddies" words she had from her own people to the "Ploughboy" tune. The new setting rapidly gained a wide currency [...]. The "Ploughboy" is not only a fascinating example of the sort of lyric love song which, in the nineteenth century, and on both sides of the Atlantic, began to sprout from shattered versions of the old ballads [...].(Hamish Henderson, letter to Weekly Scotsman, Apr 2)

  • [1961:] The song uses the poetic formulas and the tune of The Gypsy Laddie, but it is also related to The Collier Laddie, to the famous love song of the bothies, Mormond Braes, and to The Brewer Laddie. In such songs as these the girls choose workingmen over all other suitors. (Peter Kennedy, notes 'Jack of All Trades', The Folk Songs of Britain, vol 3)

  • [1961:] When I asked him about the origin of this song, John told me: "I learned it off a ploughman my father had when I was a laddie - it was his father composed it, he said. His name was Donald MacLeod." Now it was immediately apparent to me that the first part of the song is nothing more nor less than a displaced fragment of a version of The Gypsy Laddies. [...] The remaining two verses of The Rovin' Ploughboy had obviously been added at a later stage. Was this where Donald MacLeod's father came in? My instinctive feeling was that the Aberdeenshire placenames were quite recent importations into the song - Drumdelgie, the famous "fairm-toun by the Cairnie", is now known far beyond the North-East because of the bothy song which bears its name - and I had an idea that the singer could enlighten me on this point. A tentative question brought a perfectly plain and straightforward answer: The song, as he had heard it, was "a bittie short", and needed a better ending, so he had provided it himself. So much for the words - but what of the tune? Was it related to any previously recorded tune for The Gypsy Laddie? Looking into Gavin Greig's 'Last Leaves', I found that he had collected two tunes for the ballad, the first of which seemed clearly related to the Rovin' Ploughboy tune. [...] We have therefore a fascinating example before our eyes of the evolution of a bothy song. A fragment of Child 200 goes its own way and becomes a lyric song, some ploughman chiel or other following a time-honoured practice by substituting 'ploughman' for 'gipsy'. (It seems a fair guess that this was Donald MacLeod's father's principal contribution.) And when it reaches John MacDonald (himself a folk poet, with a number of songs to his credit), it acquires the local touches which give it its characteristic stamp - in effect, make it a North-East bothy song.

    Interestingly enough, the process did not stop there, for when Jeannie Robertson heard The Rovin' Ploughboy on tape, she at once spotted the connection between it and The Gypsy Laddie, and when I paid her a visit in Aberdeen only a very short time after she had first heard the tape, I found that she had already set a long version of the Child ballad, got orally from her own folk, to the Ploughboy tune. - It only remains for somebody to use her 're-created' Gypsy Laddies as the starting point for a new lyric song, and the wheel will have come full circle. (Henderson, 'Alias MacAlias' 115ff, repr. in notes 'The Muckle Sangs')

  • [1978:] A typical bothy ballad, of which there are many versions. [...] A bothy was (and in some places, still is) a summer dwelling used by the male farm workers, and there is a strong tradition of story and song originating from the bothy nichts. (Notes Iain MacKintosh & Hamish Imlach, 'A Man's A Man')

  • [1982:] This song could be [...] a lesson on the bothy system in Scotland with its hired labour, poor living conditions and pay, and what John McDonald describes as 'slavery work'. It was in these conditions that the bothy bands, with fiddle, melodeon, whistle and pipes, and the bothy ballads with their lively satire on farmwork, were born, out of the necessity of providing homemade entertainment. (Douglas, Sing a Song of Scotland 45)

Quelle: Scotland

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aktualisiert am 02.05.2002