Author Topic: Add: I'm A' Doon for Lack o' Johnnie


Posted - 01 Mar 04 - 10:00 am

I'm a' doon, doon, doon,
I'm doon for lack o' Johnnie,
I'm a' doon, doon, doon,
I'm doon for lack o' Johnnie.
I sit upon an auld feal sunk,
I sit and greet for Johnnie,
And gin he's gi'en me the begunk,
Ochone, what will become of be?

Source: Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Dec 1936


The entry in the Journal is in an article by Anne G Gilchrist based on the 'Edinburgh' manuscript which was part of Frank Kidson's notes. It was collected from Mrs George Gilchrist (who was born in 1838)sometime before 1900. There is nothing in the Journal entry to say whether Anne Gilchrist was related to Mrs George Gilchrist but the tortuous route of the manuscript would suggest not.

Feal sunk = turf seat
gi'en me the begunk = jilted me

Anne Gilchrist suggests that "My mother bids me bind my hair", (known to 'the select musical circles of Edinburgh') and set to music by Dr Haydn, may be linked to this song.

Database entry is here.

Mary in Kentucky

Posted - 01 Mar 04 - 02:44 pm

Thanks, Dave. I love this tune!

It's used in Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy.


Posted - 03 Mar 04 - 06:32 pm

I have clarified the database notes: although the article is based on the Edinburgh manuscripts, this specific song came from Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 04 Mar 04 - 01:39 am

No, it didn't. Miss Gilchrist quotes the first of three verses given by Christie, but after Mrs George Gilchrist's fragment. The tune Christie prints with Ye're sair dung, Annie is not the same; the alternative given with The Craw's ta'en the Poussie looks much closer to me insofar as I can tell just by sight, but it isn't the one you have quoted.

You might want to read the piece again; you've got a little muddled and probably need to summarise Miss Gilchrist's comments so that what you've said above conveys the information she gave. At the moment it doesn't.

I'll aim to add the set from Christie later, but it will have to wait for now.


Posted - 04 Mar 04 - 07:40 am

OK, thanks Malcolm, I will try again.

The starting sentences of the article say:

The ten songs which follow are taken - all but "The Beggin'" and "I'm a doun for lack o' Johnnie" - from a sheet of manuscript airs which for want of a title I have named the Edinburgh MS. It was found amongst the papers of the late Frank Kidson of Leeds, in a bundle sent to me ... by his niece.

Later, the paragraphs for the song itself, having noted on the score itself that it was sung by Mrs George Gilchrist, go on to say:

This quaint and simple little Scottish song, though not found in print till about the middle of the last century, is traceable in one of its north of Scotland versions to the end of the eighteenth. Christie prints two tunes - one with the title "You're dair dung, Annie", or "Bervie's Braes" in his Traditional Ballad Airs", ii 186 - the other set to another song "The Craw's ta'en the Poussie, O" in the same volume. The "Brevie's Braes" version begins:

Whare will ye get a bonnie boy
To rin your erran' cannie,
And gae away to Bervie's braes
Wi' a letter to your Johnnie?
For ye're sair dung, Annie lass,
Ye're sair dung, Annie,
Ye're sair dung, Annie lass,
Ye're dung for likin' Jonnie.

Ye sit there on a creepy steel
And sigh and sab for Johnnie, etc

Christie, who was apt to consider the stranger-versions were spurious, declared that "doun" instead of "dung" was "ugly and wrong" - which is rather amusing. But the curious interest of the version "I'm a' doon" (a very similar form is printed with additional verse, in Wood's Songs of Scotland) is that it seems to have suggested (note the names Anne and John) to Miss Anne Home (1742-1821) who married John Hunter, that celebrated Edinburgh surgeon, her song "My mother bids me bind my hair", set to music by "Dr Haydn". This originally began:

'Tis sad to think the days are gone
When those we love were near;
I sit upon this mossy stone
And sigh when none can hear.
And while I spin my flaxen thread
And sing my simple lay,
The village seems asleep or dead
Now Lubin is away.

But the first and second verses were afterwards transposed, probably for the sake of a more catching title. Substitute Lubin for Johnnie and a mossy stone for the "auld feal sunk" or "creepie stool" on which Annie sits to spin and greet for Johnnie and her simple lay - as Miss Anne Home rightly calls it - becomes transformed to the elegant lyric and canzonet more worthy of the select musical circles of Edinburgh and the genius of Dr Haydn, who similarly honoured other songs written by the same lady by musical settings. And it is satisfactory to know that this Annie, like the one in Christie's version, got "her ain love Johnnie" soon or late.

Edited By dmcg - 04-Mar-2004 08:00:57 AM

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 06 Mar 04 - 03:50 am

As promised, the set from W Christie: Traditional Ballad Airs, Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1881, vol II, 186-187.

Database entry, with tune (variant but recognisably related) is Here.

Ye're sair dung, Annie, or, Bervie's Braes

Whare will ye get a bonnie boy,
To rin your erran' cannie,
And gae awa' to Bervie's braes,
Wi' a letter to your Johnnie?
For ye're sair dung, Annie lass,
Ye're sair dung, Annie;
Ye're sair dung, Annie lass,
Ye're dung for likin' Johnnie.

Ye sit there on a creepy steel,
And sigh and sab for Johnnie;
But he likes you fu' unco' weel,
To leave you now for ony.
Sae be nae sair dung, dung,
Sae sair dung, Annie,
Sae be nae dung, Annie lass,
A' for the likin' Johnnie.

Ye think he will anither like,
And sigh and sab for Johnnie;
But he'll nae gi'e you the begeik,
And marry ane for monie. *
Sae be nae sae sair dung,
Sae sair dung, Annie,
For ye'll get your laddie yet,
Ye'll get your ain love Johnnie.

Christie notes:

* "In Bourtrees' Braes, the Buchan set of this ballad, the line is, 'And marry ane mair bonnie.'
The Air to Bourtrees' Braes was also sung to a nursery rhyme, —The Craw's ta'e the Pussie,— which is given at a subsequent page [202-203]."

"The Editor's mother, in her young days, learnt this Air and song, in the end of the last century, when on a visit to her uncle, the late Dr Guthrie, Bervie. A copy of the Air and song, different from what is given above, was sent to Findlay Dun from Aberdeenshire; but, as Mr Farquhar Graham says, in his note in Wood's Songs of Scotland, the Air appears modern. It is composite, —part of it being the Air to a traditional song, apparently English, long a favourite in Buchan, He's a Royal Rose, which is given in a future page of this volume [234-235]. 'Doun,' in Woods Songs, is ugly and wrong. 'Dung,' given here, and as sung in Bervie, means 'disconsolate.' 'Begunk,' as far as the Editor has found, is not used in the Mearns, or in the three north eastern Counties. The word used in these districts is 'begeik' (Saxon begeck,) meaning 'jilted by a male or female.' 'Begunk' is used in the South of Scotland as 'a legerdemain trick.' See, for these words, Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary."

Edited By Malcolm Douglas - 06-Mar-2004 04:34:42 AM

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