Johnnie Lad

19th century

O ken ye my love Johnnie, he is doon on yonder lea?
An he’s lookin an he’s joukin and he’s aye watchin me
He’s pu’in an he’s teasin but his meanin’s no sae bad
Gin it’s ever gaun tae be tell me noo Johnnie lad

Tell me noo my Johnnie laddie
Tell me noo my Johnnie lad
Gin it’s ever gaun tae be
Tell me noo Johnnie lad

When the sheep are in the fauld and the kye are in the byre
An ither lads an lassies sittin roond a roarin fire
There’s me a glaiket lassie, just like’s gin I wis mad
Through the nooks an barley stooks I’m jinkin you Johnnie lad

Jinkin you my Johnnie laddie
Jinkin you my Johnnie lad
Through the nooks an barley stooks
I’m jinkin you Johnnie lad

O Johnnie’s blythe an bonnie, he’s the pride o a’ yon lea
An I loe him best o ony though he’s aye teasin’ me
Though he teases me an pleases me an tickles me like mad
Nane comes near me that can cheer me like my ain Johnnie lad

Aye it’s you my Johnnie laddie
Aye it’s you my Johnnie lad
Nane can tease me an can please me
Like my ain Johnnie lad

O Johnnie’s nae a gentleman nor yet is he a laird
But I wad follow Johnnie lad although he wis a caird
O Johnnie is a bonnie lad, he is a lad o mine
An I’ve never had a better lad, though I’ve had twenty nine

An wi you my Johnnie laddie
An wi you my Johnnie lad
I’ll dance the buckles aff my shoon
Wi you Johnnie lad

Aye: always
Blythe: blithe, cheerful
Caird: tinker (from Gaelic cea`rd, a craftsman)
Fauld: sheepfold, pen
Gin: if
Glaiket: foolish
Jinkin: dodging
Joukin, jookin: ducking out of sight
Kye; cattle
Laird: land-owner
Lea: open grassland:
Loe: love
Pu’in: pulling
Shoon: shoes
Stooks: sheaves of corn set up to stand together and dry
Yon: that one over there

Sangschule’s text above appears in Ewan MacColl’s Scotland Sings (1953) p162 credited to the singing of Hamish Henderson

In Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland, 1899 – 1904, a version appears as ”Jinkin’ You, Jockie Lad”, with very similar verses to the ones we know plus some more sentimental ones:
Last hairst, when oor toon it was aa in a roar / To welcome peace and plenty to Great Britain’s shore / He took me by the hand, and he lookit, oh, sae glad!/ That my heart grew sae warm, it never could be sad. (It’s my ain Jockie lad etc)

He tells me that he has a wee hoosie o his ain, / An he whispers things into my lug that gars me whiles think shame/ But for a’ that, an a’ that, his meanin’s no sae bad,/
An there’s nane on earth can please me like my ain Jockie lad

O when I’m married to him I’ll loe but him alane / A’ my wealth I’d freely gie him, tho’ the warld were my ain, / For nae treasure could gie pleasure, O there’s nocht could make me glad, / E’en in Heaven I’d be grievin, wantin you, Jockie lad!

Ford in his 1904 compilation of Vagabond Songs And Ballads says “thirty and more years ago this happy and rather ingenious song was a common favourite in most of the northern counties of Scotland – particularly in Aberdeenshire.”

Ford had made a public appeal for the song and received letters from near and far, with assorted verses. The only complete copies were in clippings “from a penny songster” – a source that he thought usually “suffered defacement at the hands of the printer.” Most of the chosen version he credits to “the late Mr Thomas Cromb, Wolfhill, Perthshire, a well-known dancing-master” with a good memory and appreciation for the songs he had nearly all learned from hearing them sung.

Ford goes on to note that “Peter Buchan, in his Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, prints a song under the title of “Johnny Lad”, which he claims to be the original of all the songs – and they are not a few, he says - of this name.” Ford quotes the first verse:

“I bought a wife in Edinburgh / For ae bawbee, / I got a farthing in again / To buy tobacco wi / We’ll bore a hole in Aaron’s nose / And put therein a ring;/ And straight we’ll lead him to and fro, / Yea, lead him wi a string.
And wi you, and wi you / And wi you my Johnny lad
I’ll drink the buckles o my sheen / Wi you, my Johnny lad”

Ford concludes: “Older that may be; but it won’t compare with our version as a song to sing and enjoy.” We may agree, especially about the apparent Jew-baiting of “Aaron”.

This “Johnnie Lad”, with a different tune and very different atmosphere is also recorded in Ord’s Bothy Ballads (1930) where it is described as a Nursery Song and has dropped Aaron in favour of King Arthur and the wise man of Nineveh.

MacColl quotes it too as an urban folksong in Scotland Sings from the singing of his father, William Miller, who keeps King Arthur and the man from Nineveh, but adds Samson in crimson flannel drawers, Napoleon and also the Queen, playing fitba on Glasgow Green. Our song he lists with children’s songs, as the “Henderson version.”

Whether or not Peter Buchan is correct in his claim that this “humorous” song is the ancestor of Sangschule’s text above, it is true that they share certain lines.

Both songs mention the 29 former lads, and Ord also has the verse beginning “O Johnnie’s nae a gentleman nor yet is he a laird” which was not however recorded from Miller’s singing. Choruses in both songs are similar, but Ord and Miller have “drink the buckles” where Henderson has “dance the buckles”.

Sandy Watt, singing in Glenfarg Folk Club in the seventies is quoted by his son in The Sang’s The Thing 1992 by Sheila Douglas as singing two of the more familiar verses but also two that relate to the verses from Ford’s ”Jinkin’ You, Jockie Lad” and perhaps give an example of the “folk process”.
“It was in aboot the harvest time, the towns were in a steer,/ There wis plenty for yin an aa o baith breid an beer / For I gien tae him an I modestly did say,/ “If it’s e’er gaun tae be, tell me noo, ma Johnny lad.”

“O gin that I were married in a hoose o wir ain / I wad whisper in his ear what he wad tell tae nane./ If treasures were but pleasures, although ‘twad mak me sad,/ It’s in Heaven I’d be grievin, wantin you Johnnie lad.”