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Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?

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JOHNNIE COPE
JOHNNY COPE (2)


Related thread:
Chord req: Johnny Cope (2)


Highlandman 10 Jun 08 - 10:56 AM
Big Tim 10 Jun 08 - 11:03 AM
Highlandman 10 Jun 08 - 11:04 AM
Big Tim 10 Jun 08 - 11:12 AM
Highlandman 10 Jun 08 - 11:16 AM
GUEST 10 Jun 08 - 11:16 AM
Big Tim 10 Jun 08 - 11:22 AM
Paul Burke 10 Jun 08 - 11:36 AM
Highlandman 10 Jun 08 - 12:16 PM
Jack Campin 10 Jun 08 - 01:40 PM
Little Robyn 10 Jun 08 - 04:02 PM
trevek 10 Jun 08 - 04:42 PM
curmudgeon 10 Jun 08 - 05:14 PM
Gurney 10 Jun 08 - 06:29 PM
Jack Campin 10 Jun 08 - 06:55 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 10 Jun 08 - 08:00 PM
trevek 11 Jun 08 - 05:04 AM
Big Tim 11 Jun 08 - 05:13 AM
Jack Campin 11 Jun 08 - 06:17 AM
Paul Burke 12 Jun 08 - 03:45 AM
Big Tim 12 Jun 08 - 04:08 AM
Jack Campin 12 Jun 08 - 04:41 AM
GUEST,Revisionist Historian 12 Jun 08 - 11:31 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 12 Jun 08 - 08:37 PM
Lighter 04 Jul 17 - 11:02 AM
Jack Campin 04 Jul 17 - 11:27 AM
Lighter 04 Jul 17 - 12:43 PM
Lighter 04 Jul 17 - 02:57 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Highlandman
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 10:56 AM

In the song "Johnny Cope":
I'm basically familiar with the story of the Battle of Prestonpans and its context, but what exactly are the "coals" referring to in the refrain?
As in "gang tae the coals in the mornin'"?
Thanks
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Big Tim
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 11:03 AM

Coal mines.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Highlandman
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 11:04 AM

Thanks, BT.
Follow up question: the coal mines figure into the battle story... how?
-G


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Big Tim
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 11:12 AM

I understand it to mean that if Cope were around ('wauking' - awake), the Jacobite fighter wouldn't go to work in the coalfields around Prestonpans that day but instead would take to the field against General Cope.

It also puzzled me for a long time, so any other interpretations most welcome.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Highlandman
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 11:16 AM

Aha... thanks


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 11:16 AM

Prestonpans is/was the site of coal fields.

The story was that Cope slept the night before the battle, which general's shouldn't do (not true, apparently).

Also, the Highland advantage came from an overnight march and dawn attack (I think), so perhaps it wouldn't have been possible if he'd been awake.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Big Tim
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 11:22 AM

This from Robin's Smith's monumental book 'The Making of Scotland' (2001).

'Prestonpans was the 'Priest-town' where sea water was evaporated from iron 'pans' by burning small coals of very local origin leaving unrefined dry salt. Eight tonnes of coal were needed to produce one ton of salt'.

So plenty of work there.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 11:36 AM

I've mentioned this before somewhere, but just to bore you I'll repeat it... the Battle of Prestonpans is famous among us railway buffs as the first recorded battle involving a railway- the Tranent to Cockenzie Waggonway, which no doubt carried the coals to the salt pans. Cope's forces used an embankment on the railway as an emplacement for his guns and a breastwork for his infantry- quite appropriately since up to the 19th century railway embankments were usually called batteries.

If ye were waukin' I wad wait,
Tae gang tae the coals in the morning.


The "coals" probably means the line that carries the coals, and if General Cope had been on the ball, the singer would have hesitated to attack such a good defensive position. However, the Jacobites outflanked Cope and attacked from the rear, routing his inexperienced force.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Highlandman
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 12:16 PM

Keep it coming :-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 01:40 PM

It's a parody of an older song about the mining in that area, and some of the original words carried over. Only a fragment of the older song was preserved but presumably everybody around Edinburgh or East Lothian knew it at the time.

The military situation has been re-evaluated recently and it seems Cope didn't actually make any serious mistakes. He just in a hopeless strategic position to begin with. There are no good defensive positions there (as it happens I was out near there on a bus a couple of hours ago) - it's just an undulating gentle slope up from the shore. No towering heights to place cannon.

The tune has been said to be a variant of "Katherine Ogie", but none of the words from any form of that song got into Skirving's.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 04:02 PM

Fascinating!
My greatgrandfather worked in a coalmine at Prestonpans when he was a child. He migrated to NZ in 1900 with a young family.
We went there in 1990 and saw a working mine that took tourists but not on Mondays. Guess which day we were there???
Never mind, it's interesting to learn why the mines were important back then.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: trevek
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 04:42 PM

Even at Cope's court martial (he was acquitted) it was shown that he didn't do anything too wrong, other than have a crowd of ill, inexperienced troops who ran like hell (wise people!) in the face of the Highland charge.

Nothing he could do about it, really.

Ther is a story that following the battle a local man was pressed by the victorious Highlanders to write the ballad.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 05:14 PM

A tale I read, perhaps a folktale, goes that one pf Cope's officers challenged Skirving, in absentia, to a duel. Skirving, upon hearing this said, " Let him come up here. If I think I can fecht him, I will. Otherwise, I'll rin awa just like he did."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Gurney
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 06:29 PM

I've always interpreted coals to mean fire. It is used that way in other poetry, and other songs.

If you are awake, I would hesitate (if I were you,) to go to the fire in the morning.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 06:55 PM

The battle was in the middle of one of the largest coalmining districts in the world. It is not very likely that anything metaphorical was meant.

Not all the soldiers on Cope's side were army regulars. A lot of the dead and wounded would have been local miners, factory workers and farm labourers, who would have had to get back to their jobs and "gang to the coals in the morning" again when it was all over. Colliers and salters were serfs, and there was no entitlements for time off while sword cuts healed. The line reflects Skirving's upper-class contempt for them by using that status as an insult directed at Cope; it's saying he was a peon only fit to work the mines. Just about everybody in Skirving's position regarded colliers as literally subhuman.

Those workers wouldn't have gone a bundle on the gloating tone of Skirving's song. (Burns didn't like it much, for similar reasons).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 10 Jun 08 - 08:00 PM

Relegated to the dunghill of history, Cope's soldiers were a bunch of cowards but was Cope better? It seems somewhere there is a missing verse about his shit running down his leg in fear.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: trevek
Date: 11 Jun 08 - 05:04 AM

If I had an army which suddenly disappeared I think I'd need brown leggings myself!

Cope at least went to meet the enemy. I don't blame his guys for turning tale.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Big Tim
Date: 11 Jun 08 - 05:13 AM

I didn't realise that there were railways in the UK in 1745. However, from 'Collins Encyclopaedaia of Scotland',

'RAILWAYS. EARLY ORIGINS. The mining of coal stimulated the construction of early railways, more properly known as wagonways, in Scotland as in other parts of the UK. The first was laid out between Tranent and Cockenzie [near Prestonpans] in 1722...the [Prestonpanss] line enjoyed unusual notoriety by being fought over in the Battle of Prestonpans and there is a passing mention of it in the famous song Hey Johhnie Cope'.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jun 08 - 06:17 AM

There is a lot of documentation about the battle at www.battleofprestonpans1745.org

The images of the area in this document are good:
http://www.battleofprestonpans1745.org/heritagetrust/html/heritage_campaign.pdf

It seems that the place might have been in an industrial slump at the time of the attack. The salt industry had collapsed and the pottery hadn't yet got under way, nor was brewing yet on the scale it got to later. That left mining, fishing and farming as the basis of the economy. Neither colliers nor fishermen could have been expected to have any sympathy with the invaders. Colliers were serfs and seem to have had no sense of national or ideological identity whatever - their world ended at the parish boundary, they couldn't leave it, and they had essentially no religion (the Kirk had only a token presence in mining communities, and the Episcopalianism of the Stuarts would have been as alien as Shinto). The fisherfolk were the exact opposite, with an internationalist coastal community that linked Scotland, England and the Netherlands, and with an intense fundamentalist Protestantism that has persisted to the present day. Farmworkers had no choice but to align themselves with whichever side their laird backed, which in East Lothian was mostly the Government.

With the Jacobite leadership sharing the sort of attitudes Sandy Maclean is displaying here, all were simply massacre fodder, just as they became for the Government in 1797.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 12 Jun 08 - 03:45 AM

I didn't realise that there were railways in the UK in 1745.

The first ones recorded are near Nottingham in 1604/5, and roughly contemporaneously at Broseley near what is now Ironbridge in Shropshire. They were well established around Newcastle by the late 17th century.

Given the serfdom of the colliers, one might expect them (at least those without family responsibilities) to join the victorious Jacobites in a bid for freedom- did this happen?

And Sandy, why is triumphalism about Prestonpans OK, if the same about Cullodden isn't?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Big Tim
Date: 12 Jun 08 - 04:08 AM

I admit that I don't know everything.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Jun 08 - 04:41 AM

Making the colliers into serfs was the Stuarts' idea in the first place - it started in 1603 under James I. Jacobite attitudes to thr Scottish proletariat were always much like Sandy's, they would never have attempted to rally support from them. And nobody attempted to organize them until union agitators arrived from Northumberland in the early 19th century.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: GUEST,Revisionist Historian
Date: 12 Jun 08 - 11:31 AM

I wonder why the fact that Colliers were thirled to the laird and their labour for life isn't more widely known? It would certainly give a more accurate view of the whole Slavery issue; i.e that wasn't just a simplistic case of whites exploiting blacks, as the usual perception has it, but of some people being exploited by others. Who gains from perpetuating such a misunderstanding?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 12 Jun 08 - 08:37 PM

Not sure what you mean about attitude Jack. Just pointing out that there was another verse. Prince Charley was no gem either. The Highland clans mostly fought for him but expected support in the lowlands was limited. The Highlanders wanted to restore the Stuarts to the Scottish throne but quickly lost interest when it became Charley's driving desire to march on London. Many left and returned home and Charley fearing a larger English army was in his path retreated. Charley could have had the throne of Scotland but he was to stupid or greedy and wanted England as well.
He can rest on the dunghill of history as well!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Jul 17 - 11:02 AM

So "If ye were waukin I wad wait/ Tae gang tae the coals in the mornin" means the singer is a collier ready to fight and beat Cope before going to work?

I don't doubt the "coals" reference, but I'm still a little confused.

"If ye *were* waukin" must mean that Cope is presumably *not* awake. So singer is going to work as usual, assuming there will be no battle?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 17 - 11:27 AM

The refrain is most likely from the older song, shoehorned in to the parody - you can't expect it to make a lot of sense. The only side any collier could possibly have fought on was the Government's - though they would hardly have known what a government was, and George II would have been as mythical as King David.

There are only a few anecdotes about the conditions miners lived under in the 1740s, but it probably didn't change much in 100 years. This doesn't pull any punches:

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/report-on-child-labour-1842#


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Jul 17 - 12:43 PM

Possibly, Jack.

But the best part is that it makes no sense to you either!

What a relief!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Johnny Cope - what are 'the coals'?
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Jul 17 - 02:57 PM

Of the various "Katharine Ogie" tunes transcribed at the Traditional Tune Archive only the earliest ("A Scotch Tune," 1687) is clearly   reminiscent of "Johnny Cope," though hardly "the same."

The other "Ogie" versions - some highly elaborated - may have developed separately from that of 1687.


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