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 me?
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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
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 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' Johnnie.
Ye sit there on a creepy steel
And sigh and sab for Johnnie, etc
Christie, who was apt to consider that 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.
Roud: 6773 (Search Roud index at VWML)
Related Songs: Ye're sair dung, Annie, or, Bervie's Braes (thematic)