> Cyril Tawney > Songs > The Ragged Beggarman
> Lal & Norma Waterson > Songs > The Beggar Man
> June Tabor > Songs > The Auld Beggarman

The Beggar Man / The Auld Beggarman / The Jolly Beggar

[ Roud 118 ; Child 279 ; Ballad Index C279 ; trad.]

Maggie Murphy (née Chambers; 1924-2006) and ner niece Sarah Chambers of Tempo, Co. Fermanagh sang The Auld Beggarman on July 18, 1952 to Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle. This BBC recording was later included on the anthology The Child Ballads 2 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 5; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968) and in 1996 on Murphy's Veteran CD Linkin' O'er the Lea as its title track. Maggie Murphy also sang Linkin' O'er the Lea to Keith Summers at her home in Killaculla, Tempo, Co. Fermanagh on August 1, 1980. This recording was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology First I'm Going to Sing You a Ditty (The Voice of the People Series Volume 7).

Cyril Tawney sang The Ragged Beggarman in 1969 on his album of traditional ballads from Devon and Cornwall, The Outlandish Knight. He commented in his sleeve notes:

Collected by Baring-Gould between 1889-90 from three Devon singers, Will Setter of Two Bridges, J. Gerrard of Collyhole, Chagford, and James Parsons of Lewdown. The tune is Will Setter's. There are two recognised forms of this ballad, namely The Jolly Beggar and The Gaberlunzie Man, of which the former is the older. Even in this form, however, the beggar frequently turns out to be a rich lord in disguise. Which leaves us with the interesting question: Have the Devonshire singers ‘lost’ those last few stanzas of preserved an even older form of the ballad?

The Clutha sang The Gaberlunzie Man in 1974 on their Topic album Scots Ballads, Songs & Dance Tunes.

Lal and Norma Waterson and Lal's daughter Maria Knight sang The Beggar Man in 1977 on their album A True Hearted Girl. This track was also included on the 1992 CD reissue of For Pence and Spicy Ale and in 2003 on the Watersons' anthology The Definitive Collection.

Bob Hudson notes:

A variant of Child Ballad No. 279, often called The Gaberlunzie-Man, or The Jolly Beggar. Tradition has it that it was written by King James V of Scotland, and indeed, there were a number of ballads describing his romantic conquests while roaming the countryside in disguise. It was first printed in Thomas Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany (1724). In 1952, folklorist Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle recorded two Irish women, Maggie and Sarah Chambers, singing this song (in Tempo, County Fermanagh). Both their tune and lyric are close to the one sung here, leaving one to suspect that the Irish version may have been the source for the Watersons. Variant text: Kinsley, Oxford Book of Ballads, No. 132.

Lizzie Higgins sang The Beggar Man at the National Folk Music Festival, Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, on April 12, 1988. This recording by Doc Rowe was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology It Fell on a Day, a Bonny Summer Day (The Voice of the People Series Volume 17).

Elizabeth Stewart & Tom McKean sang The Jolly Beggar at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2004 and Gordon Easton sang The Beggar Man at the same place in May 2006. These recordings were included on the festival CDs Here's a Health to the Company and Some Rants o' Fun (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volumes 1&3).

June Tabor sang The Auld Beggarman on her 2007 Topic album Apples. She commented in her liner notes:

Chile No. 279, often called The Gaberlunzie Man, first printed version in the Tea Table Miscellany 1724; this version collected from Maggie and Sarah Chambers of Tempo, Co. Fermanagh in the 1950s. A song “beloved by travellers and other unsettled people, and by girls who live in remote places” (Sam Henry)

Does the girl see through the beggar's disguise, or is she just desperate to escape the slavery of her lonely farmstead home?

Lyrics

Lal and Norma Waterson sing The Beggar Man June Tabor sings The Auld Beggarman

An old beggar man come over the lea,
Many is the fine tale he tellt me.
“Goodwife, for your charity,
Will you lodge a lame poor man?”

As I was a-linking o'er the lea,
The finest weel that I ever did see
Looking for his charity,
“Would you lodge a lame poor man?”

For the night being wet and it being cold
She took pity on the poor old soul,
She took pity on the poor old soul
And she bade him to sit down.

Chorus (after every other verse):
With his tooren ooren an tan ay
Right an ooren fal la doo a day
Right an ooren ooren ay
With his tooren ooren aye doe
Chorus (after every other verse):
With his tooran nooran nan tan nee
Right ton nooran fol the doo-a-dee
Toraan nooran noraan nee
With his tooran nooran-i-do

He sat himself by the chimney nook
Wi' all his bags about his crook,
All his bags about his crook,
And so merrily he did sing.

He sat himself in the chimbley neuk
And the bonny young daughter gave him the look.
With all his bags behind the crook
Right merrily he did sing.

Now he grew canty and she was fain,
But little did her mother ken
Just what the two of them were saying
As they sat sae thrag.

“Well, if I was black as I was white
As the snow that falls on yon fell-dyke,
Dress meself some beggar-like
And along with you I'd gang.”

“O if I was black as I am white
Like the snow on yon fell-dyke,
I'd dress myself so beggar-like
And away with you I'd gang.”

“Lassie, lassie, you're over young,
You hannae got the cant o' the begging tongue,
Hannae got the cant o' the begging tongue,
So along ye cannae gang.”

“O lassie, lassie, you're far too young,
And you haven't got the lilt of the begging tongue,
You haven't got the lilt of the begging tongue,
So with you cannot gang.”

“But I'll bend my back and beck my knee,
And I'll put a black patch on my e'e,
And for a beggar they'll take me,
So along wi' you I'll gang.”

“I'll burden my back and I'll bend my knee,
I'll draw a black patch o'er my e'e,
And for a beggar they'll take me,
And away with you I'll gang.”

All the doors being locked quite tight,
The old woman rose in the middle of the night,
The old woman rose in the middle of the night
To find the old man gone.

For all that the doors were locked quite tight,
The old woman rose in the middle of the night,
The old woman rose in the middle of the night
For to find the old man gone.

Well, she ran to the cupboard, likewise to the chest,
All things there and nothing missed.
Clasped her hands, saying, “God be blessed,
I've lodged an honest old man.”

She's run to the cupboard, likewise to the chest,
All things there and nothing missed.
Clapping her hands and the dear be blessed,
Wasn't he an honest old man?

The breakfast was ready and the table was laid
And the old woman went for to look for the maid:
The sheets were cold and the bed was made,
She's away wi' the lame poor man.

When the breakfast was ready and the table laid
The old woman went for to waken the maid:
The bed was there but the maid was gone,
Away with the lame poor man.

Seven long years have passed and gone,
This same old beggar come back again.
“Goodwife, for your charity,
Will you lodge a lame poor man?”

Now seven years were passed and gone,
And this old beggar came back again
Looking for his charity,
“Will you lodge a lame poor man?”

“Well, I never lodged any but the one,
He with me only daughter's gone,
He with me only daughter's gone,
And I chose you to believe.”

“I never lodged any but the one,
And with him my one daughter did gang,
And I chose you to be the very one
AndI'll have you to be gone.”

“If it's your daughter ye want to see,
She's got two bairnies on her knee,
Got two bairnies on her knee
And another one comin' round.

“If it's your daughter you want to see,
She has two bairnies on her knee,
She has two bairnies on her knee
And a third one coming round.

“Yonder she sits, yonder she stands,
The finest lady in all Scotland.
She has gold at her command
Since she went wi' the lame poor man.”

“For yonder she sits, yonder she stands,
The fairest lady in all Scotland.
She has servants at her command
Since she went with the lame poor man.”

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription of Lal and Norma Waterson's singing.