A lighthearted look at the Wedderburns

 

 

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- A lighthearted look at the Wedderburns - 

including Captain Wedderburn's Courtship, a ballad from 1785

Thomas Wedderburn, a Northumberland highwayman

Miss Wedderburn - a Scottish reel

Wedderburn House - a 18th century Scottish Reel by Abraham McIntosh

 

"Of the numerous branches of the Home family, the earliest, as well as the most powerful and prolific, were the Homes of Wedderburn, whose courage and savage cruelty have already been noticed. Their founder was Sir Thomas Home of Thurston, second son of Sir Thomas Home of Home, who obtained, in 1413, from Archibald, Earl of Douglas, a grant of the barony of Wedderburn, and became the ancestor of the Homes of Polwarth, Kimmerghame, Manderston, Renton, Blackadder, and Broomhouse. David Hume of Godscroft, author of a 'History of the House and Race of Douglas and Angus,' was a cadet of this line. The Homes of Blackadder, as we have seen, were descended from John Home, one of the 'Seven Spears of Wedderburn,' who married the heiress of the estate......"

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Captain Wedderburn's Courtship

Images scanned from original 8 page copy, title woodcut vignette

transcription - original version


A copy of this ballad appeared in 1785 in The British Songster. there are several versions of the tune including Lord Roslin's Daughter and The Laird of Roslin's Daughter. It was popular throughout Scotland.

1. The Laird of Rosslyn's daughter
Walked through the wood her lane.
And by came Captain Wedderburn,
A soldier of the king.
He said unto his serving man,
Were't not against the law,
I would take her to my own bed
And lay her next the wall.
2. I'm walking here my lane, says she,
Among my father's trees,
And you may let me walk my lane,
Kind sir, now, if you please.
The supper bell it will be rung
And I'll be missed awa',
So I'll not lie in your bed
At neither stock nor wall.
3. Then said the pretty lady,
I pray tell me your name.
My name is Captain Wedderburn,
A soldier of the king.
Though your father and all his men were here,
I would take you from them all,
I would take you to my own bed
And lay you next the wall.
 
4. O hold away from me,
Kind sir, I pray you let me be,
For I'll not lie in your bed
Till I get dishes three.
Three dishes for my supper,
Though I eat none at all,
Before I lie in your bed
At either stock or wall.
5. I must have to my supper
A chicken without a bone,
And I must have to my supper
A cherry without stone,
And I must have to my supper
A bird without a gall,
Before I lie in your bed
At either stock or wall.
6. The chicken when it's in the shell
I'm sure it has no bone,
And when the cherry's in the bloom
I wat it has no stone.
The dove she is a gentle bird,
She flies without a gall,
And we'll both lie in one bed
And you'll lie next the wall.
 
7. O hold away from me, kind sir,
And do not me perplex,
For I'll not lie in your bed
Till you answer questions six.
Six questions you must answer me,
And that is four and twa,
Before I lie in your bed
At either stock or wall.
8. O what is greener than the grass,
What's higher than the trees,
O what is worse than a woman's wish,
What's deeper than the seas,
What bird crows first, what tree buds first,
What first on them does fall,
Before I lie in your bed
At either stock or wall.
9. Death is greener than the grass,
Heaven's higher than the trees,
The devil's worse than woman's wish,
Hell's deeper than the seas,
The cock crows first, the cedar buds first,
Dew first on them does fall,
And we'll both lie in one bed,
And you'll lie next the wall.
 

10. Little did this lady think,
That morning when she raise,
It was to be the very last
Of all her maiden days,
For now she's Captain Wedderburn's wife,
A man she never saw,
And now they lie in one bed,
And she lies next the wall.

From The English and Scottish Popular Ballads

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midi files sequenced by Barry Taylor

Captain Wedderburn's Courtship  (traditional version)

(Trad - Child 46)

The Laird o' Roslin's dochter walked through the woods her lane
And met wi' Captain Wedderburn, a servant tae the King
Says he untae his servant man, Were't nae against the law
I'd tak' her tae my ain bed any lay her at the wa'

I'm walking here my lane, she said, Amang my faither's trees
And you maun let me walk my lane, kind sir, now if you please
The supper bell it will be rung, and I'll be missed awa'
So I'll no lie intae yer bed at either stock or wa'

Says he, My bonnie lady, I pray gie me yer hand
And you'll hae drums and trumpets always at your command
And fifty men tae guard ye wi' that weel their swords can draw
So we'll baith lie in ae bed, and ye'll lie at the wa'

O haud awa' fae me, kind sir, I pray let go my hand
The supper bell it will be sung - I maun nae langer stand
My faither will nae supper tak' if I am missed awa'
So I'll no lie intae yer bed at either stock or wa'

My name is Captain Wedderburn, my name I'll ne'er deny
And I command ten thousand men upon yon mountain high
If yer faither and his men were here o' them I'd stand nae awe
But I'd tak' ye tae my ain bed, and lay ye at the wa'

Then he lap off his milk-white steed and set the lady on
And a' the way he gae'd on foot and held her by the hand
He held her by the middle jimp for fear that she would fa' (jimp - neat)
Sayin', I'll tak' ye tae my ain bed, and lay ye at the wa'

He's ta'en her tae his lodgin'-hoose, the landlady looked ben
Sayin', Mony's a pretty lady in Edinburgh I've seen
But sicna bonnie lady is nae intae it at a'
So mak' for her a fine down bed and lay her at the wa'

O haud awa' fae me, kind sir, I pray ye let me be
For I'll no lie intae yer bed till I get dishes three
It's dishes three ye maun dress me, gin I should eat them a'
Afore I'll lie intae yer bed at either stock or wa'

For my supper I maun hae a chicken withoot a bane
An' for my supper I maun hae a cherry withoot a stane
An' for my supper I maun hae a bird withoot a ga'
Afore I'll lie intae yer bed at either stock or wa'

When the chicken's in the shell, I'm sure it has nae bane
And when the cherry's in the bloom, I wat it has nae stane
The doo she is a genty bird, and flees withoot a ga' (ga' - gall)
So we'll baith lie in ae bed, and ye'll be at the wa'

O haud awa' fae me, kind sir, I pray ye gie me ower
For I'll no lie intae yer bed till I get presents fower
It's presents fower ye maun gie me, and that is twa an' twa
Afore I'll lie intae yer bed at either stock or wa'

I maun hae some winter fruit that in December grew
And I maun hae a silken goon that waft gaed never through
A sparrow's horn, a priest unborn this nicht tae jine us twa
Afore I'll lie intae yer bed at either stock or wa'

My faither has some winter fruit that in December grew
My mither has a silken goon that waft gaed never through
A sparrow's horn ye sune would find - there's ane on ilka claw
An' twa upon the gab o' it, and ye shall hae them a'

The priest that stands withoot the yett just ready tae come in
Nae man can say that he was born, nae man unless he sin
For he was whale cut frae his mither's side and fae the same lat fa'
So we'll baith lie in ae bed, and ye'll lie at the wa'

Oh little did that lady think that morning whan she raise
That this was for tae be the last o' a' her maiden days
But noo there's no within the realm tae be found a blither twa
For noo she's Mistress Wedderburn, and she lies at the wa'

As sung by Jean Redpath

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a extract from....Susannesīs Folksong-Notizen [1966:] An example [of encapsuling an old song in a ballad narrative] would be [this], which incorporates the ancient song of My love gave me a cherry, appearing as early as the fifteenth century in the Sloane MS. 2593. (Bronson, Ballad 271) [1978:] Collected in Aberdeenshire early this century by Gavin Greig, and published in Greig and Keith's 'Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs' (Aberdeen 1925) (Child no. 46). (Peter Shepheard, notes 'Sheath & Knife') [1987:] This ballad has gone full circle. The older element of the story, the riddles, can be traced back at least as far as the Sloan MS. of the early 15th century. Scholars agree that the rest of the story is late and literary. In America it has again been reduced to the basic riddling format in the song I Gave My Love A Cherry. There is no English counterpart of this ballad as far as I know, but it is the basis for Bob Coltman's contemporary American song Captain Hanley and Sweet Mazie. (Notes 'Jean Redpath') [1995:] The first printing of this ballad was in 'The New British Songster, a collection of Songs, Scots and English, with Toasts and Sentiments for the Bottle', Falkirk, 1785. The standard North-East tune which Sheena sings is first found in Christie's 'Traditional Ballad Airs', and he traces it back to his grandfather's singing in the late 18th century. Not found in England, the piece is known from both Scotland and Ireland and usually taken to be a rather late flowering of the ballad form, its regularity and literary tendencies savouring of the broadside press. The customs it alludes to are, however, very ancient. Tales of winning a lady by wit are present in the 3rd or 4th century work of Appolonius of Tyre, and there are similar riddles in Virgil. The German minnesingers, witness Tannhauser, demanded ferlies (wonders) from lovers and in Russia the bridegroom has to answer riddles for the bride to be released from her house for the wedding. (Peter Hall, notes 'Folk Songs of North-East Scotland')

 

A Scottish Reel (date unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abraham McIntosh was the son of the well-known Scottish composer Robert McIntosh. In Cape Breton the reel "Wedderburn House" has been popular for generations. Originally published in D minor, local traditional settings are usually modal (mixolydian) as below.

 

 

 

A local highwayman - Thomas Wedderburn - once hid out in a cave in Thrunton Wood, north of Rothbury, Northumberland, now known as "Thomas Wedderburn's Hole". The authorities traced him, he refused to surrender and was smoked out by igniting oil poured into the entrance, then shot.

 

 

 

 

 

Contact email: Peter Garwood

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