My Pittenweem Jo

words and music by John Watt of Milnathort

Oh I gang wi a lass frae Pittenweem,
She’s every fisher laddie’s dream
She guts the herrin doon on the quay
And saves her kisses just for me

Pittenweem, Pittenweem
She’s every fisher laddie’s dream
She guts the herrin doon on the quay
And saves her kisses just for me

‘Twas in July this cam tae pass
I met this bonnie fisher lass
Wi her een sae blue an black her hair
She’s the pride o Anster Fair.

Oh I speired at her could I tak her hame
She said “Oh fine I ken your game,
But ne’er the less you’re awfy kind,
In fact I widnae really mind

Oh I took her hame on the Saturday nicht
The moon was shinin oh sae bricht
An as we lay there on the grass
I said “Oh Jo, will you be my lass?”

She’s my lass noo, and weel I ken
She disnae go wi ither men
For I was quick an they were slow
That’s hoo I won my Pittenweem Jo.

Anster: Anstruther, fishing town in Fife
Jo: sweetheart (as well as a girl’s name)
Pittenweem: fishing town in Fife
Speired at: asked

Gordeanna McCulloch brought this song to Sangschule. It was the first song written by John Watt, in 1961, and according to the note on his CD Heroes, it was recorded by traditional singer Jimmy McBeath (amongst many others) who told John that “it was an old Sang he had learned in Fife.”

Pittenweem is a fishing port in Fife, with a regular commercial auction of fish.
“Pittenweem Jo” seems to look back to the days of the fisher lassies, who would wait for the catch of herring to be unloaded, gut them at the harbour and carry them round the local towns for sale in a creel or basket on their backs.

John Watt, a native of Dunfermline and living in Milnathort in Fife until his death in 2011, was a prolific songwriter. He was well-known from the 60’s for songs that often had a humorous twist, set in his own backyard e.g. “The Kelty Clippie” and “Fife’s Got Everything”, but his range extended to other issues eg “The Eyemouth Disaster” about the massive loss of fishermen’s lives in 1881.

The CD Heroes, one of the Traditionbearers series, issued by The Living Tradition, is a celebration of John Watt’s songs and of the man himself and Pete Heywood, editor of The Living Tradition, describes him there as a natural wordsmith “in the tradition of the ‘people’s poets’ and says that he has had “a greater influence on the Scottish folksong revival than most people would appreciate.”

The CD Notes also list John Watt’s many other contributions to Scottish music. For example, he has been Chairman of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland, presented numerous documentaries and musical programmes on radio, including “Fife’s Got Everything” for Billy Kay’s Odyssey series, lectured on Fife Poets and Songwriters for the Association of Scottish Literary Studies and tutored for The Workers Educational Association in creative writing and musical appreciation.

Although his songs have been widely recorded by other artists, he himself had made only one previous album, Shores of the Forth with Davey Stewart.