Hishie Ba

When I wis new bit sweet sixteen
In beauty blythe and bloomin o
Little, little did I think
At nineteen I'd be greetin o

For the plooman lads, they're gey braw lads
But false and deceivin o
They'll tak aa, an they gang awa
An they leave their lassies greetin o

For if I had kent whit I noo ken,
An taen ma mither's biddin o
I widna be sittin at your fireside
Crying hishie ba ma bairnie o

Oh, hishie ba, oh I'm your ma
But the Lord kens wha's yer daddie o
But I'll tak good care an I'll be aware
O the young men in the gloamin o

Gey braw: very fine
Gloamin: twilight
Greetin: weeping
Hishie ba: soothing sound to a baby, lullaby
Ken: know

The theme here is found also in “Eence Upon a Time” and other songs of the big fairm toons – the plooboy is the glamorous worker in the farm hierarchy – plooboys are “aa the go” – but they can disappear to other farms and it’s unwise for a lassie to spend much time in the gloamin with them.

This was one of Jeannie Robertson’s songs, found in print in her biography and in The Scottish Folksinger. Her biographers, Porter and Gower, say that the tune is a relative of “Jockey’s Gray Breeches” from about 1745 found in “Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion”.

Sangschule’s version has only small differences from Jeannie’s which has: “in beauty just in bloomin O”, and “gey weel lads”. According to the version in her biography, Jeannie used the verse: “For the plooman lads, they’re gey weel lads” as the chorus.

Also found in the biography, Jeannie Robertson: emergent singer, transformative voice is a verse learned by Jean Redpath from Lucy Stewart via Arthur Argo.

“It’s keepit me frae loupin dykes, (leaping, jumping over stone walls)
Frae balls and frae waddins O (weddings)
It’s gien me balance tae my stays (corsets)
And that’s the latest fashion O”