Author Topic: Add: The Wraggle Taggle Gipsies, O!


Posted - 26 Feb 03 - 01:48 pm

Wraggle Taggle Gipsies-O!, The

There were three gipsies a-come to my door,
And downstairs ran this a-lady, O!
One sang high and another sang low
And the other sang bonny, bonny Biscay, O!

Then she pull'd off her silk finish'd gown
And put on hose of leather, O!
The ragged, ragged rags about our door
She's gone with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

It was last last night, when my lord came home,
Enquiring for his a-lady, O!
The servants said, on ev'ry hand:
She's gone with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

O, saddle to me my milk-white steed,
Go and fetch me my pony, O!
That I may ride and seek my bride,
Who is gone with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

O he rode high and he rode low,
He rode through woods and copses too,
Until he came to an open field,
And there he espied his a-lady, O!

What makes you leave your house and land?
What makes you leave your money, O?
What makes you leave your new wedded lord,
To go with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O?

What care I for my house and my land?
What care I for my money, O?
What care I for my new wedded lord?
I'm off with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

Last night you slept on a goose-feather bed,
With the sheet turned down so bravely, O!
And tonight you'll sleep in a cold open field,
Along with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

What care I for a goose-feather bed,
With the sheet turned down so bravely, O?
For tonight you'll sleep in a cold open field,
Along with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

Source: Sharp, C (ed),1916,One Hundred English Folksongs,Boston,Oliver Ditson Co


Sharp wrote:

Compare this song with "The Gipsy Countess" (Songs of the West, no 50, 2d ed.) and "The Gipsy" (A Garland of Country Song, no 32). A Scottish version of the words is in Ramsey's Tea-Table Miscellany (volume iv); see also "Gypsie Laddie," in Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (volume ii, p. 95, ed. 1791). In Finlay's Scottish Ballads (1808) the balld appears as "Johnnie Faa," and in Chmabers Picture of Scotland, a valiant effort is made, after the manner of Scottish commentators, to provide the story with a historical foundation.

The tune is in the AEolian mode. I have noted no less than eighteen variants.

I have read many 'explanations' for this song, ranging from enchantment, though a simple abandonment, through to some sort of proto-feminist stand against male domination (I kid you not!) Personally, I favour the middle ground of someone rejecting what may have been an arranged marriage.

Database entry is here.

Jon Freeman

Posted - 26 Feb 03 - 02:10 pm

I'd always thought of it as someone just prefering the "wild" life but maybe you are right. I wonder how many reactions to parents by lovers there are in folk music. A couple I like are Step It Out Mary which has the sort of "not wanting gold and silver" bit before suicides rather than the arranged mariage and a big favourite is Willy Moore where parents don't alow the marriage - she drowns herself and Willy dies in Montreal of a broken heart in the version I know.

I note the notes say compare with "The Gipsy Countess", Songs Of The West. I'm flitting about today and don't have long in one go at the PC but will add it tommorrow.



Posted - 26 Feb 03 - 06:36 pm

Perhaps a word of explanation more is needed. In Child 200A through to G, for example, the Gipsies "cast their glamour over her". Looking at the first definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, this says glamour means "magic, enchantment, spell esp. in the phrase to cast the glamour over one , (see quot 1721). This looks pretty conclusive, except that the quotation is from Child, making everything a bit circular.

This is the line of reasoning that leads to the idea the lady was under a magical spell, but I'm not wholly convinced. I prefer definition 2, ("delusive or alluring charm") where the lady compares the marriage based on worldly ideals (the gold, the power which comes with being a lady, and so forth) and finds them wanting when compared with the alluring charm of the (presumably handsome) gipsies. Perhaps my reference to the marriage being "possibly arranged" was not enough of a caveat: I simply meant that it was founded on the gold, etc rather than any attraction between the partners.

It is worth comparing this song with, say, Jock of Hazeldean. In both cases, the marriage is based on wealth etc, and in both cases the lady rejects it. The notable difference is that, in Hazeldean, love is clearly the reason, whereas here there is no mention of love at all; clearly there is no love for the lord but there isn't any obvious love for the gipsies either, in this version.

Edited By dmcg - 27/02/2003 10:44:37


Posted - 14 Oct 03 - 02:50 pm

I've added a version from the Butterworth collection here.


Posted - 06 Dec 04 - 09:42 am

I've now added a version from 'Singing Together', Spring 1972, here.

Jon Freeman

Posted - 02 Oct 07 - 11:58 am

Received via "contact us"

I recently asked a knowledgeable friend and singer or info on Wraggle Taggle gypsies - this is what
he had to say. the earliest version in Bronson dates before 630 and is associated with the family of the Earl
of Cassilis (the Kennedy Clan). Child records a story that the lady in question was forced to marry the Earl of Cassilis but loved another etc. (see below), but said there was not a scrap of historical evidence to support it. However, Bronson's old tune was called Lady Cassilis' Lilt when published in the manuscript of 1630.

An old tradition which fixed the incident mentioned in the ballad on the Cassilis family is historically inaccurate. According to this legend, Lady Jean Hamilton, daughter of the Earl of
Haddington, was forced to marry John, Earl of Cassilis, who is described as a grim Covenanter,
while her preference was for Sir John Faa, of Dunbar. Some years later the Countess was married,
and after she had a family to the Earl of Cassilis, her husband attended the Assembly of
Divines at Westminster. While he was from home, Faa appeared at Cassilis Castle disguised as a
gipsy, and having several of the tribe along with him. The lady, it is said, eloped with her former
lover, but had not got far away when the Earl returned and, with a body of retainers, started in
pursuit, capturing the fugitives, and hanging Sir John and his followers on a tree. The lady was
afterwards, it is said, confined for life in a house at Maybole, which had a staircase on which
was carved a set of heads, the effigies of Sir John Faa and his troop of gipsies. As I have said,
there is not a particle of evidence in favour of this story. On the contrary, there are letters in
existence written by the Countess to her husband after these events were supposed to have taken
place, which prove that husband and wife were on the most loving terms.

The Oxford Book Of Ballads (Arthur Quiller-Couch 1910) includes a version called The Gypsy
Countess in which the Earl of Cassilis and "Johnny Faa" appear."

- and I would add that John Faa was 'the king of
the gypsies'

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