Katie Bairdie

Tune: Whistle Ower The Lave O’t

Katie Bairdie had a coo
Black and white aboot the moo
Wisn't that a dainty coo?
Dance Katie Bairdie

Katie Bairdie had a hen
Toddled but and toddled ben
Wisn't that a dainty hen?
Dance Katie Bairdie

Katie Bairdie had a pig
It could dance the Irish jig
Wisn't that a funny pig?
Dance Katie Bairdie

Katie Bairdie had a wean
Widnae play oot in the rain
Wisn't that a clever wean?
Dance Katie Bairdie

Hey Jenny, cock-a-lee
Come tae bed and cuddle me
I'll gie you a cup o tea
Tae keep your belly waarm

Toorl-oorl, oorl-ey
Fal-de, ree-dl, al-de day
She's as sweet as honey dew
The lass o Killicrankie

Noo I'm getting auld and frail
Like a dug wi half a tail
O'er the heid o Jean McPhail
The lass that stole ma hankie

Hey Jenny, cock-a-lee
Come tae bed and cuddle me
I'll gie you a cup o tea
Tae keep your belly waarm

But and ben: the outer room and the inner ‘good’ room of a two-roomed house
Coo: cow
Dainty : pleasant, nice, thriving
Wean: child
Widnae: wouldn’t

This well-known children’s rhyme with all its menagerie has been around a long time and lends itself to favourite verses from elsewhere floating in and out, eg our last four.

But there are signs that adults too were once involved. In Doh Ray Me When Ah Wis Wee: Scots children’s songs and rhymes, Ewan McVicar quotes the collector Mactaggart in 1824: “In Galloway now slumbers a singular old song and dance, called Dolly Beardy.” This is the first of Mactaggart’s 8 verses:
Dolly Beardy was a lass/ Deil the like o’r on the grass,/ Her lad was but a moidert ass,/Hey, Dolly Beardy.

The Opies in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes say there is “tolerable proof that this song is more than three centuries old. Katherine Bairdie is one of the tunes given ‘for kissing, for clapping, for loving, for proving’ in a manuscript …. believed to have been written not later than 1628.”
After other suggestions of it being a popular dance, they add: “When it was first given into children’s keeping is uncertain, but William Dauney, born in 1800, said ‘Kitty Bairdie’ is the heroine of a nursery rhyme in the recollection of most people.”

Ewan McVicar quotes several other verses where Katie had a grice, a cock and a cat but also different names eg:
Katie Beardie had a cat/ That could eat baith moose and rat/ Wasna that a daintie cat?/ Dance Katie Beardie

He points out that “she seems to have had another cat, of rather less athletic habits:
Dally Bairdy had a cat/ That aye aboot the ingle sat/ She was sleekit plump an fat/ Canty Dally Bairdie”

Dally, in that verse and the next turns out to be the name of a chap, Adolphus:
Dolly Bairdie hid a wife/ She could use baith fork an knife/ Wisna she a dainty wife?/ Dance, Dolly Bairdie

Children’s imagination still finds fun with Katie Bairdie. McVicar quotes a 1961 Scottish version from Paisley:
Jeannie Bairdie had a wean/ Somebudy hit it wi a stane/ The doactur said it wuz a shame/ Dance Jeannie Bairdie

And in 1991 a Glasgow child made his own sense of “coo”:
Kitty Birdie had a canoe/ It was yellow, black and blue/ Open your legs and let it through/ Dance Kitty Birdie