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Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?

19 May 99 - 01:19 PM (#79853)
Subject: GEORDIE - who was Sir Charlie Hay?
From: Ian HP

In the Scottish version of Geordie (GEORDIE (3) in the database) the subject is accused of killing Sir Charlie Hay. Who was Sir Charlie Hay?

25 Jul 02 - 12:41 PM (#754456)
Subject: RE: Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?
From: Jiggers

I too would like to know the history that underlies the lyrics of this song. Let me explain ...

I recently heard an American girl sing this song in a pub in Oxford, UK (The Half-Moon). She told me that she'd got it from a Silly Sisters (Maddy Prior and June Tabor) CD. I bought the CD on the basis of this song and was not disappointed.

I am now learning the song myself so I can perform it next time I am at a session. I'd love to know more about the events that it is describing. I have lived in Newcastle and also in Scotland so am particularly drawn to it.

25 Jul 02 - 02:57 PM (#754522)
Subject: RE: Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?
From: Malcolm Douglas

Child #209. That particular version was contributed by Robert Burns (1792) to The Scots Musical Museum. Maddy Prior and June Tabor anglicised the text considerably. Sir Charles Hay is mentioned in only three of the texts given by Child in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads; in only one of these is the murder blamed specifically on Geordie (in one, Hay has been hanged by the court earlier), and Child doesn't attempt to identify him. There have been people of that name, but this one may just be fictional. There is some background information and a list of links to other sets here and elsewhere, and to some broadside examples, in this earlier thread: Tune Add & Lyr Add: Geordie

That list was made a couple of years ago, and doesn't include past discussions here in the Forum of both the Scottish and English forms of the song, which tell rather different stories. Geordie (or Georgy) has been found quite often in tradition in the USA, too; mostly in the English form, in which the hero is a deer thief (though still of aristocratic blood) and is hanged.

25 Jul 02 - 06:44 PM (#754636)
Subject: RE: Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?
From: GUEST,Jiggers

Thanks for the info, I understood the term Gerodie to refer to the good people of Newcastle which is fairly close to Scotland (Geordies are Scots with their brains kicked out - or should that be oot). Therefore for me this song is about a England paying Scotland to avoid a war over Northumberland. The people mentioned represent the nations and not individuals. Maybe I got it all wrong but you can look at it that way and the lyrics still work well. I think its a bit like references in Irish songs to the 'loved one across the water' meaning Ireland itself and not a particular female !


25 Jul 02 - 09:37 PM (#754712)
Subject: RE: Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?
From: Malcolm Douglas

Geordie in this case has no relation at all to the term as used (later) of people living in a particular part of the North East of England; it's just a name, like Gordon, or George, or whatever, and it's a mistake to read meanings into it that don't exist. Same goes for a lot of Irish songs, for that matter; because some of them are metaphorical, that doesn't mean that they all are. In fact, most are not, and mean just exactly what they say.

25 Jul 02 - 10:56 PM (#754735)
Subject: RE: Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?
From: Melani

Malcolm, thanks once again for the cool links in the previous thread. I recently learned the Burns version (which I like much better than the other) and tried looking up George Gordon in the only relevent reference I had lying around the house, which is "Mary, Queen of Scots" by Antonia Fraser. There was quite a bit in a chapter titled "The Fall of Huntly". The whole bunch of them were presented as a powerful and fairly obstreperous family. I couldn't find any mention of Sir Charlie Hay, but I'm guessing if we do enough research on the reign of James V or James VI, we might come up with something. The Scottish nobles of that period were forever doing each other in in complex feuds.

26 Jul 02 - 08:23 AM (#754867)
Subject: RE: Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?
From: Jiggers


I liked the metaphor but I can live without it. It's a shame as it added an extra dimension !


26 Jul 02 - 09:36 AM (#754911)
Subject: RE: Geordie song - who's Charlie Hay?
From: Malcolm Douglas

There are two traditional sets from the Ozarks, recorded in the 1960s, at The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection, which I think weren't available when I made the original list. They belong to the English rather than Scottish branch, but you may find them interesting:

Georgie As sung by Rhonda Hayes, Irving, Texas on October 18, 1969.

Georgie As sung by Joan O'Bryant, Wichita, Kansas. Summer, 1963.