Mally Leigh

18th century

And we're a' gaun East and West
We're a' gaun aye ajee
We're a' gaun East and West
A-courtin Mally Leigh

As Mally Leigh came doon the street
Her capuchin did flee
She cast a look behind her back
To see her negligee

Doon alang the Canongate
Were beaux o ilk degree
And mony an ane turned roond aboot
This comely sicht tae see

Doon intae the palace ha
And nane sae braw as she
A prince speired leave tae dance wi her
And earlies twa or three

But Hieland Brodie fleered them a'
Wi proud and glancing ee
He's won for aye the hert and hand
O Bonnie Mally Leigh

Ajee: off the straight, off balance
Beaux: admirers
Capuchin: hooded cloak
Earlies: comic allusion to little Earls
Fleered: floored, got the better of
Ilk degree: every rank
Negligee: in 18th century, a kind of loose gown
Speired: asked

Elaine and Sylvia of Stairheid Gossip brought this song to Sangschule.

It appears in a longer version in Robert Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads. His note in the 1904 edition says: ”Here is a charming and clever song, in celebration of the many winsome ways of an Edinburgh belle of the olden time. Why it has not commanded a place in the popular collections is a curious problem. The first verse appears in a manuscript subsequent to 1760, where, however, the name is Sleigh, and not Leigh. In 1725, Mrs Mally Sleigh was married to the Lord Lyon Brodie of Brodie. Allan Ramsay celebrates her. This song, we need scarcely doubt, celebrates the same party.” Our version refers to Brodie in the last verse.

Mally Leigh seems to have gone in for French fashions with her capuchin and negligee, and two of the verses now missed out refer to fashionable dress, no longer worn. This one sounds comical, but turns out to be just a version of the English pom-pom.

At ilka bab her pong-pong gied (every time her pom-pom
Ilk lad thought – that’s to me, (every lad thought- she’s trying to catch my eye)
But feint a ane was in the thought (never a one)
O bonnie Mally Leigh