Up The Noran Water

(Shy Geordie by Helen B Cruikshank)
Tune by Jim Reid

Up the Noran Water
In by Inglismaddy,
Annie’s got a bairnie
That hasna got a daddy.
Some say it’s Tammas’s
An ithers say it’s Chay’s
An naebody expectit it,
Wi Annie’s quiet ways

Up the Noran Water
The bonnie little mannie
Is dandled an cuddled close
By Inglismaddy’s Annie.
Wha the bairnie’s daddy is
The lassie never says
But some think it’s Tammas’s
An ithers think it’s Chay’s

Up the Noran Water
The country folk are kind
An wha the bairnie’s daddy is
They dinna muckle mind.
But oh! The bairn at Annie’s breist,
The love in Annie’s ee –
They mak me wish wi a’ my micht
The lucky lad was me!

Chay: Charles
Inglismaddy: a village near Montrose
Muckle: much
Noran Water: flows into the South Esk near Brechin (according to Springthyme Music, Jim Reid’s publisher)
Tammas: Thomas
Wi a my micht: with all my might, strength

Jim Reid set Helen Cruikshank’s poem “Shy Geordie” to music and brought it to a whole new audience, a success repeated with some of Violet Jacobs’ poems. The three writers came from the same airts, Jim from Dundee and the two others from Angus.

There are only slight differences between the text of the song as we have it and the words of the original poem. In the first verse, the poem has ‘expec’it ‘, missing out the middle ‘t’ to show local speech. Where the poem in verses 1 and 2 repeats ‘Some’ say and ‘Some’ think, our text contrasts ‘Some’ and ‘Ithers’.

Jim Reid (1934 – 2009) is described in the Herald’s obituary as a “singer songwriter who became one of the most valued upholders of the Scottish tradition.” When he was chosen as Scottish singer of the Year at the 2005 Scots Trad Music Awards, his response “No afore time” was a wee joke from this modest man, but true nevertheless – he won his first singing competition aged seven.

Rob Adam’s Herald article says that Jim got hooked on traditional song during his national service, through hearing Seamus Ennis’s radio programme, As I Roved Out. Back home, Jim joined the Shifters, a Dundee folk group, and then the Taysiders. As a regular in the Arbroath Foundry Bar, he persuaded the session players to enter the ceilidh band competition at Kinross in 1971. They won, and Jim’s professional life in music seems to have taken off from there, with The Foundry Band and An Teallach and then as a solo performer.

The writer, Helen B Cruikshank (1886 – 1975) was brought up near Montrose in Angus. Though most of her working life as a civil servant was spent in Edinburgh, her holidays took her all over Scotland, often on foot, observing and collecting material for her verse, according to Leslie Wheeler, editor of Ten Northeast Poets. She said she was grateful for her schooling in Angus because it was ‘ a stronghold of the Scots tongue’ and she identified herself with the dialect poets like Violet Jacob and Charles Murray. She also gave support and encouragement to Hugh MacDiarmaid and Lewis Grassic Gibbon, and was an Honorary Secretary for the Scottish branch of PEN, the international association of writers.

This poem belongs to her first volume, Up The Noran Water (1934).