The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #87835   Message #1643292
Posted By: Abby Sale
07-Jan-06 - 09:13 AM
Thread Name: Happy! – Jan 7 (Gil & Katie / Hurston)
Subject: Happy! – Jan 7 (Gil & Katie / Hurston)

Happy Anniversary!

Gil & Katie!

According to Child, Gilbert Hay, the tenth Earl of Errol, married Catherine Carnegie on January 7, 1658. Errol died in 1674 without having had any children. These marital problems may have produced a hearing in 1659. There was a family court case, but the records were trashed. According to at least one text, the Carnegies may have conspired to force the matter, probably to avoid having to pay a dowry. The idea was, and still is, that a marriage, to be legal, constitutes both the public declaration and consummation. Until it is consummated, or presumed consummated, it can be set aside, annulled.

The dowry wasn't strictly due until the consummation was proven one way or another. It seems that Catherine & her father (also an Earl) hit on the clever notion a year after the marriage that non-consummation could be assumed if she could carry the claim Hay was impotent. Hay didn't go for that.

In the song, she complains a whole lot about how there's not much point being married to a "powerless" lord; so he "chooses" the virgin milkmaid...

        An' they were laid intae a bed,
        Wi' the lords a' stannin' roon,
        An' a' o' them's cried oot at yince,
        "Lord Errol's proved a man!"

        He kept her locked intae a room
        Three quarters o' a year,
        And when three quarters ended were,
        A braw young son she bare.

        "Tak' back your daughter, Carnegie,
        And wed her tae a man,
        For Errol canna please her,
        Nor nane o' a' his men."

        "Noo haud yer tongue, Kate, ye hoorish bitch,
        Sae lood's I hear ye lee;
        For yonder sits Lord Errol's son,
        Altho' he's no by thee.

                "The Earl of Errol" Child #231

I think the Folk weren't really comfortable with this usage of Pretty Peggy, the milkmaid. Many versions have her showered with gifts from the Lords in Edinburgh & then Hay marries her. It's most unlikely the Earl would wed a (now) non-virginal commoner. Anyway, we know he died "without issue."

This is one of my favorite ballads. Nearly all the tunes and texts do it justice - the story's compelling & unusual and there are just enough known facts to peg it to history. (And, more importantly, trivia.) This is, of course, one of the songs I sing to celebrate peoples' anniversaries.

It's also fun to me in the line that the street kids made up verses about it: "there wasnae a lad in a' the toon, But on Katie had a sang. On TV now we have Stand-Up-Comic-Caustic-Review-of-Today's-Events-in-the-News. No different.

Folklorist, collector & writer on rural South black culture, Zora Neale Hurston was born 1/7/1903 (d.1/28/1960).
[Check this space the Saturday before Jan. 28]

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
What are Happy's all about? See Clicky