Coorie Doon (The Miner's Lullaby)

by Matt McGinn (1928 – 77)

Coorie doon, coorie doon, coorie doon
my darling,
Coorie doon the day (

Lie doon my dear, and in your ear,
To help you close your eye
I'll sing a song, a slumber song,
A miner's lullaby.

Your daddy's doon the mine, my darling,
Doon in the Curlby Main,
Your daddy's howking coal, my darling,
For his own wee wean.

There's darkness doon the mine, my darling,
Darkness, dust and damp.
But we maun hae oor heat, oor light,
Oor fire and oor lamp.

Your daddy coories doon, my darling,
Doon in a three foot seam,
So you can coorie doon, my darling,
Coorie doon and dream

Coorie: snuggle, nestle
Howking: hewing, digging
Wean: small child

Matt McGinn was a very prolific writer with a political and socialist point to many of his songs and often that point was made with humour. This lullaby has a lilting tune and soothing words – but listening adults can still hear his anger with the working conditions of miners “doon in a three foot seam.”

Hamish Henderson in Alias Macalias says of Matt:
“In a class of his own was Matt McGinn, a rasp-voiced Glaswegian of genius, whose main inspiration was the Glasgow music hall. Matt wrote some superb comic songs such as ‘The Dundee Ghost’ and ‘The Foreman O’Rourke’, but he also wrote songs conveying immense tenderness and compassion: an example is ‘Coorie Doon’ (The Miner’s Lullaby). Anyone listening to his hard-hitting political songs – and Matt could take on and demolish anything that smelled of toffee-nosed pretension – will readily understand what Pete Seeger meant when he called him ‘the Scottish Woody Guthrie.’”

Born in the Calton district of Glasgow, Matt’s formal schooling ended at 12 when he had two years in Approved School. But he was intelligent, read widely and won a Trade Union Scholarship to Ruskin College in Oxford. He was a teacher in Rutherglen before his involvement in the folksong revival of the 60s led to his becoming a full-time singer, performer and song-writer.

Janette McGinn in her preface to his autobiography and song-book McGinn of the Calton tells how this title came about. Matt attended the launch of the Scottish Daily News and was invited to sign the visitors’ book. “Immediately ahead of him in the queue of distinguished visitors was Lord MacLeod of Fiunary. On spotting the signature of the noble Lord – ‘MacLeod of Fiunary’ – Matt immediately dubbed himself ‘McGinn of Calton’”