Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Lyr Add: Nicky Tams

toadfrog 05 Jun 01 - 10:41 PM
Big Tim 06 Jun 01 - 01:25 AM
Scabby Douglas 06 Jun 01 - 04:28 AM
toadfrog 06 Jun 01 - 11:00 PM
GUEST,Bothy Bill 07 Jun 01 - 06:56 AM
GUEST,Scabby Doug at work 07 Jun 01 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,Scabby Doug 07 Jun 01 - 10:28 AM
toadfrog 07 Jun 01 - 07:54 PM
Malcolm Douglas 07 Jun 01 - 09:35 PM
jacko@nz 07 Jun 01 - 09:56 PM
GUEST,little john cameron 07 Jun 01 - 10:35 PM
GUEST,Scabby Doug at work 08 Jun 01 - 04:28 AM
GUEST,Charles@calsay.freeserve.co.uk 08 Jun 01 - 07:45 AM
GUEST,little john cameron 08 Jun 01 - 09:50 AM
GUEST,Bothy Bill 08 Jun 01 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,little john cameron 08 Jun 01 - 01:53 PM
GUEST,little john cameron 08 Jun 01 - 01:58 PM
Ross Campbell 16 Jan 11 - 09:05 PM
Ross Campbell 17 Jan 11 - 07:44 PM
Jim Dixon 22 Jan 11 - 06:04 PM
BobKnight 22 Jan 11 - 08:20 PM
Effsee 23 Jan 11 - 12:05 AM
BobKnight 23 Jan 11 - 08:03 AM
Ross Campbell 24 Jan 11 - 12:12 AM
BobKnight 24 Jan 11 - 06:15 AM
MGM·Lion 24 Jan 11 - 08:17 AM
BobKnight 24 Jan 11 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Auldtimer 24 Jan 11 - 12:04 PM
Jim Dixon 26 Jan 11 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,a scots exile 20 Nov 12 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,guest 03 Jun 13 - 01:01 PM
Joe_F 03 Jun 13 - 06:26 PM
GUEST,kenny 04 Jun 13 - 05:42 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: Lyr Add: NICKY TAMS
From: toadfrog
Date: 05 Jun 01 - 10:41 PM

How is it that this is neither in the DT nor the form. Its a v. common Scottish farm worker's song (bothy song). Some of the "Scots" (Danish?) words are unfamiliar to me, and I would like advice from someone with knowledge.
Those words are Other words I think I understand are:
Fee'd me = hired me out
breeks = britches
nicky tams= leather, cloth or rope bindings around the
trouser leg, to keep trouser out of barnyard
dreck.
Syne Since, ago, then
bailey foreman
harness nearly deen nearly worn out
gars us bids us, has us, or causes us to
muckle big
gowk gawk
unco' Uncommon, strange, or very
sweer lazy?

I try to avoid unnecessary "Scots" pronunciations for common English words. Thus "to" rather than "tae."

NICKY TAMS

Traditional

When I was only ten years old, I left the parish school.
My father fee'd me to the means to chow my milk and meal.
I first put on my narrow breeks to hap my spinell trams
Syne I buckled round my crapped knees a pair of nicky tams!

First I got on for baileys loon and syne I got on for third.
And then of course, I had to get the horseman's grip and word.
A loaf of bread to be my piece, and a bottle for drinking drams,
Och! You could'nae get through the cathes door without your nicky tams!

The farmer I am wi' the noo, he's wealthy but he's mean!
Though corn's cheap, his horse is thin, the harness fairly deen!
He gars us load our carts o'er fu', his conscience has no qualms!
When breech-straps break, there's nothing like a pair of nicky tams!

I'm courting bonny Anny noo, Rab Tamson's kitchie dame.
Though she is five and forty, and I'm but seventeen!
She cuts a muckle piece to me wi' different kinds of jams,
Aye, and tells me ilke night that she admires my nicky tams.

On Sunday I started out to kirkie for to gang,
My collar it was unco tight, my breeks were nane o'er lang.
I had my Bible in my hand, likewise my book of Psalms,
When Annie roars, "You muckle gowk! Tak' off your nicky tams!"

So unco sweer, I took them off, the lassie for to please,
But aye, my breeks they birked up around about my knees!
A rat went crawling up my leg in the middle of the Psalms,
Hey! Never again will I reach the kirk without my nicky tams!

I often thought I'd like to be a bobby on the Force,
Or else I'll get on the trams to drive a pair of horse.
But whatever its my luck to be, the bobbies or the trams,
I'll never forget the happy days I wore my nicky tams.

Sung by Belle Stewart, apparently for Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, in or about the early 1960's. A googol search indicates that it is also sung by Jeanie Redpath and by approximately one gazillion contemporary folk groups. McColl's "songbook page" at Klik here states that McColl has it from the "Singing of David Johnson of Capar.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: Big Tim
Date: 06 Jun 01 - 01:25 AM

A smashing song. I'm not Scottish but my wife is from Angus, farming country. The only word she would correct is sweer (or sweerd) = reluctant.

Joe Aitken from Kirriemuir sang the song at Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow in January.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: Scabby Douglas
Date: 06 Jun 01 - 04:28 AM

Gowk = fool, idiot - literally a cuckoo.. hap = to dress, clothe

Also I think that in the first verse you have "crapped", and the version I know is "nappin' knees"

I'm not aware of "crapped" as a Scots dialect word - though I could well be wrong

Cheers

Scabby Doug


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: toadfrog
Date: 06 Jun 01 - 11:00 PM

Thanks, Scappy Doug! I have heard "nappin" knees, although I forget where (and I don't know what "nappin" means either, if not "asleep." But Belle Stewart either sang "crapped" or "crappid", or "crappit." It has 2 syllables.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,Bothy Bill
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 06:56 AM

"knapped". The Doric or language that the song is written and sung in actually pronounces the 'k' in many words. So knapped knees should really be pronounced and sung with multiple syllables to each word. Hence "k-nappet k-nees"

All good stuff

Bothy


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,Scabby Doug at work
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 09:56 AM

2nd verse - you have cathes - I think (from memory) - it's caff-house or chaff-house. I think I've even seen calf-house.. But I suspect it may be connected with threshing of grain


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,Scabby Doug
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 10:28 AM

Sorry to keep on adding these in but I keep on spotting your italics ..

loon = chap, fellow.

Teachers in Aberdeenshire will still chastise kids for speaking of boys as "loons" and girls as "quines" or "queans". Some dialect terms persist despite all efforts of "received Pronunciation" and "correct" English teaching to deny their right to exist.

SD


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: toadfrog
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 07:54 PM

Thanks folks! Hey Bothy Bill, I am impressed, but what does "knapped" mean?

Scabby Doug- so, would it then be fairto say, "I got on for bailey's loon" means, "I was hazed (made a fool of) by the bailey"? Like, was sent out for a left-handed monkey wrench?

You seem to know Aberdeenese; what would "Syne I got on for third," mean? Or is that an unreasonable request?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 09:35 PM

A loon, in this context, was just the youngest member of the farmtoun's "crew" (complement of workers) who got all the most menial jobs; "Syne I got on for third" means he later got promoted to "third man", in which position he'd be in charge of a pair of horses.  A useful book to refer to here would be The Ballad and the Plough (David Kerr Cameron, 1978).

Malcolm


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: jacko@nz
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 09:56 PM

Seems to me justice to this song would only be served in a line-by-line translation and i'm not up to that.

The bailie (numerous spellings) referred to is the cow-bailie, or man in charge of the cows. His loon is his boy helper.

Second and third denoted the rankings of the horsemen

Cathes door...? try 'cattle court'

Knappie knees...knobbly knees

Jack


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: BENNYGOAK (Flora Garry)
From: GUEST,little john cameron
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 10:35 PM

Here's ane tae let aw the experts get a wurk oot.

Here's an awfy sad poem aboot wantin tae leave hame but cannae for the auld mither is deein.



my all time favourite by Flora Garry, late of Buchan
Bennygoak
(the hill of the cuckoo

BENNYGOAK [The Hill of the Cuckoo]
(Flora Garry)

It wis jist a skelp o the muckle firth,
A sklyter o' roch grun
Fan Gradfadder's fadder brike it in
Fae the hedder and the funn.
Grandfadder sklatit barn and byre,
Brocht watter tae the closs,
Put fail dykes ben the bare brae face
An a cairt road tull the moss.

Bit wir fadder sotered in the yard
And skeppit amo' bees
An keepit fancy dyeuks and doos
At warna muckle 'eese.
He bocht aal wizned horse an kye
An scrimpit muck and seed
Syne, clocherin wi a craichly hoast,
He dwine't awa and dee'd.

Midder's growen aal and deen
Dylet an sma-bookit tee
But still she's maister o' her wark.
My wark, it maisters me.
Och! I'm tyert o' plyterin oot and in
Amo' hens an swine an kye
Kirnin' amo' brookie pots
an yirnin croods and fye.

I look far ower by Ythanside
to Fyvie's laich, lythe laans,
Tae Auchterless and Bennachie
and the mist blue Grampians.
Sair't o' the hull o' Bennygoak
an' scunnert o' the fairm
Gin I but daar't, Gin I but daar't
i'd flit the comin term.

It's ull to thole on the first Spring day
Fin the black earth lies in clods,
An the teuchat's wallochin' at the ploo
An the sna bree rins on the roads.
O, it's ull tae thole in the still hairst gloam
Fan the lift's a bleeze o' fire;
Ah stan an' glower, the pail in ma haun,
On ma raod oot tull the byre.

Bit it's wirst ava aboot Whitsunday
Fan the nichts are quaet an' clear
An the floorin' currant's by in the yard
An the green corn's in the breer
An the bird at gave this hull its name
Yon bird ye nivver see
Sits doon in the wid by the waater side
an laachs, laich-in, at me.

'Flit, flit ye feel,' says the unco bird
'There's finer, couthier folk
An kindlier country hine awaa
Fae the Hull o' Bennygoak.'
Bit ma midder's growin aal and deen
An likes her ain fireside.
Twid brak her hairt tae leave the hull:
It's brakkin mine tae bide.


LJC


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,Scabby Doug at work
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 04:28 AM

ljc - that's a cracker!

It'd make a great song.

do you think it has ever been set to music?

I'd love to give it a bash...

Is the author still alive? - I've never hear the name before.

SD


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,Charles@calsay.freeserve.co.uk
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 07:45 AM

Syne I got on for third. Syne means soon, third was the third pair of horse used for farm duties before tractors, the head ploughman got the first or best pair then the 2nd 3rd etc.

CH


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,little john cameron
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 09:50 AM

Aye ye're richt Scabby,The mair ye read it,the mair it brek's yer hert.Ah cannae mind whaur ah got it.Ah'm thinkin it is fae the Aiberdeen kintra,Whit,nae translaters? ljc


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,Bothy Bill
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 01:27 PM

Flora Garry the author of the poem Bennygoak died last year aged 99. She came from the New Deer area of Aberdeenshire originally but laterly stayed down in Crieff. She was given a well deserved honorary degree by Aberdeen(I think)University a few months before she died. She didn't seem to be a prolific writer but made up for it in quality. She had the gift putting the rich Doric of the north east into print. Her use of the words was natural and it comes through in the reading. I don't know of Bennygoak being set to music, although I wouldn't mind giving it a try. I did set one of Flora's other poems "Suffie, The Last of the Buchan Fishwives" to music a few years ago and sing it now and again at the folk club or session.

Bothy Bill


More information (JRO)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,little john cameron
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 01:53 PM

Thanks for the info Bill.Gie mah condolences tae her family if ye can.99 is a guid rin for yer money.Mibbe the land is a bit kinder tae her noo,R,I.P. LJC


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: GUEST,little john cameron
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 01:58 PM

LISTEN tae Flora here.
http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/heritage/speclib/oralhistory/garry.htm


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: A PAIR O' NICKY TAMS (G S Morris)
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 16 Jan 11 - 09:05 PM

This version, in the original, unmediated Doric is from http://www.scotsindependent.org/features/singasang/nicky_tams.htm

Click on the link and then click on the "Sung by Peter D Wright" link for his fine rendition of the song (RealPlayer required). I'm presuming the notes below are his, in which case he's far too modest. And the "k-nappin' k-nees" mentioned above are rendered to perfection!


A PAIR O' NICKY TAMS
(G S Morris)
Sung by Peter D Wright

Fan I was only ten year auld, I left the pairish schweel.
My faither he fee'd me tae the Mains tae chaw his milk and meal.
I first pit on my narrow breeks tae hap my spinnel trams,
Syne buckled roon my knappin' knees, a pair o' Nicky Tams.
         
It's first I gaed on for baillie loon and syne I gaed on for third,
An' syne, of course, I had tae get the horseman's grippin' wird,
A loaf o' breed tae be my piece, a bottle for drinkin' drams,
Bit ye canna gyang thro' the caffhouse door without yer Nicky Tams.
         
The fairmer I am wi' eynoo he's wealthy, bit he's mean,
Though corn's cheap, his horse is thin, his harness fairly deen.
He gars us load oor cairts owre fou, his conscience has nae qualms,
Bit fan breist-straps brak there's naething like a pair o' Nicky Tams.
         
I'm coortin' Bonnie Annie noo, Rob Tamson's kitchie deem,
She is five-an-forty an' I am bit siventeen,
She clorts a muckle piece tae me, wi' different kinds o' jam,
An' tells me ilka nicht that she admires my Nicky Tams.
         
I startit oot, ae Sunday, tae the kirkie for tae gyang,
My collar it was unco ticht, my breeks were nane owre lang.
I had my Bible in my pooch, likewise my Book o' Psalms,
Fan Annie roared, "Ye muckle gype, tak' aff yer Nicky Tams."
         
Though unco sweir, I took them aff, the lassie for tae please,
Bit aye my breeks they lirkit up, a' roon aboot my knees.
A wasp gaed crawlin' up my leg, in the middle o' the Psalms,
So niver again will I enter the kirk without my Nicky Tams.
         
I've often thocht I'd like tae be a bobby on the Force,
Or maybe I'll get on the cars, tae drive a pair o' horse.
Bit fativer it's my lot tae be, the bobbies or the trams,
I'll ne'er forget the happy days I wore my Nicky Tams.

Footnote : Be brave, be very brave, click on to hear my favourite Cornkister by G S Morris and my party piece - it will come as no surprise that I am not asked for an encore! G S Morris enriched our Bothy Ballad tradition and his songs are still widely enjoyed.Nicky Tams, as David Toulmin explains in 'Buchan Claik', were leather straps with buckles worn under the knee by farmworkers. They were fashionable before the days of the welly-boot and kept the trouser legs out of the mud. They were also known as Waal-Tams.

Further notes from http://www.raretunes.org/performers/g-s-morris

G. S. Morris

b. 1876    d. 1958

Aberdeen born George Smith Morris was a blacksmith who married the sister of entertainer Willie Kemp and subsequently took over the Kemp owned hotel at Old Meldrum. He became well known as a concert party leader and writer and performer of 'bothy ballads', accompanying himelf on duet concertina. He made over 40 records for the Beltona label during the 1930s.


Ross


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky tams
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 17 Jan 11 - 07:44 PM

I think I must have been very lucky in my choice of teachers (Balfron High School, 1963-67). "Herr" Coupar our head of modern languages commonly greeted each class with "Good morning, loons and queans (quines)", asserting his Aberdeen background in his adopted Stirlingshire home, while at the same time introducing us to German folk ballads and student drinking songs. Nan MacFarlane introduced us to Border Ballads in English classes, Mr Primrose (Latin) started a couple of folk-song groups during lunch-hours and got a few of us started on a path that hasn't ended yet. Mrs Jessiman's music department managed to produce a Gilbert and Sullivan epic nearly every year, and between them all they got me singing "John Grumlie" as introduction to a school production of the play of the same name. Still singing the odd bothy ballad when the occasion arises.

Ross


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 06:04 PM

Thanks for your contribution, Ross.

I can understand most of A PAIR O' NICKY TAMS, but BENNYGOAK mystifies me. Would anyone care to translate it?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: BobKnight
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 08:20 PM

Ross Campbell: The version you posted has the wrong words in verse two, second line. It NOT the horsemans's grippen word." I've seen this in a few examples of lyrics for "Nicky Tams." It should be, "the horseman's grip and word."

The horsemen had a secret society - a bit like the masons, and had a special handshake, "grip" and a secret word, like the horse-whisperers. This was supposed to calm down any horse and give the horseman control over the animal. My father was a horseman, but would never tell me what the word was - but it WAS a secret after all. :)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: Effsee
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 12:05 AM

Aye Bob, a bit like the masons...the way I heard it was it was all mystique!
The horseman would take the horses head and tuck it under his oxter, and whisper sweet nothongs in the horses ear...for effect.
It was all to do with the scent of the man, not anything that he said to the horse!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: BobKnight
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 08:03 AM

Of course - like conjuring tricks - the appearance of magic, which is all the "audience," see.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 12:12 AM

Bob -
"grip and word" makes sense, I passed on the whole song as I found it. As you point out, other sites may have done the same without saying where they got stuff from.

Jim - I used to work with a few people from that part of the world, so maybe it's all a bit clearer to me. Still wouldn't be able to provide a direct transliteration, but if I get the chance I'll try to provide a partial glossary.

Ross


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: BobKnight
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 06:15 AM

It's actually given as "grippen word," on the website of The Elphinstone Institute, at Aberdeen University. They should know better.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 08:17 AM

Indeed they should, Bob? What do they think it means, I wonder? The only meaning given in my complete OED for 'grippen' is obsolete, to clench [the fist]; Chambers doesn't give it at all, unless, by extrapolated extension, meaning suffering from flu ~~ neither of which makes much sense to me. Even mondegreens should have some referent, surely?

Whereas "grip & word", which I have always heard, makes perfect sense.

~M~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: BobKnight
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 09:01 AM

The context of the verse and line tell us it's "grip and word," as well. :)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: GUEST,Auldtimer
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 12:04 PM

I use this tune quite a lot but also like use " The Back 'O Reres hill ". This is a much slower tune and like the singer "Peter D Wright" who uses a lot of KKnap KKnees in his version this can open the song up to many other illiterations and bothy style broad speak.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 26 Jan 11 - 12:14 PM

When I searched for "grippen word" in Google Books, I got no hits.

When I searched for "grip and word" I got over 600 hits, mostly having to do with Freemasonry.

I did not see any that had to do with horsemen, but I didn't look as diligently as one might.

Even if "grip and word" was only meant as a metaphor, it is a good metaphor for secret knowledge or practice, so I believe it is correct.

Someone should inform The Elphinstone Institute.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: GUEST,a scots exile
Date: 20 Nov 12 - 06:03 AM

so many errors in the above !


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 01:01 PM

Hello all. For the line "I'm courting bonny Anny noo, Rab Tamson's kitchie dame.", when I sang (in a very amateur way, ie with the aid of a glass of Newcastle Brown) in the 1960s, this line was sung as "I'm courting bonny Annie noo, tho damsel ticht she be.", meaning she was scarcely a fresh young girl. I have no idea whose version this was, but my godfather, who was from Dundee, understood all the words I sang, and was amused by them.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: Joe_F
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 06:26 PM

Guest,guest: Ewan MacColl agrees with you.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nicky Tams
From: GUEST,kenny
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 05:42 AM

The version supplied by Ross Campbell above - with the single correction from Bob Knight - is as I've always heard it sung by North-East of Scotland singers.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 16 July 2:42 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.