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Are Ye Sleepin’ Maggie?

[ Roud 4897 ; Ballad Index SaKo152A ; Bodleian Roud 4897 ; DT AREUSLEP ; Mudcat 24665 , 59687 ; Robert Tannahill]

Ewan MacColl sang The American Stranger on his and Isla Cameron’s 1958 Riverside album English and Scottish Love Songs and on their 1960 Topic album Still I Love Him. A.L. Lloyd noted:

This version of an old song called Sleepy Maggie was made by Robert Tannahill (1774-1810), the Paisley bard. Apprenticed to the cotton weaving trade at the age of nine, Tannahill is said to have spent more time cobbling verses than watching his loom. Country singers in south-west Scotland rank him as one of the most gifted song-writers in that great army of working-class bards who followed in the wake of Robert Burns.

Jeannie Robertson sang O Are Ye Sleepin’, Maggie? on her album The Cuckoo’s Nest and Other Scottish Folk Songs (Prestige 1963; Transatlantic 1967).

The Tannahill Weavers sang Are Ye Sleeping Maggie as the title track of their 1976 Plant Life album Are Ye Sleeping Maggie.

Ian Manuel sang Are Ye Sleepin’, Maggie? on his 1977 Topic album The Dales of Caledonia: Scots Traditional Songs.

Ray Fisher sang Are Ye Sleepin’, Maggie? in 1982 on her Folk-Legacy album Willie’s Lady. She commented in the accompanying booklet:

A song from the Tannahill collection. Marvellous build-up of atmosphere with powerful emotive words which combine with a wonderful tune to produce the finest of our Scottish ‘night-visiting’ songs. I heard Jeannie Robertson sing it a few times, but I didn’t learn it directly from her. I confess that I had to consult a book with a glossary to get a full understanding of the text.

Hector Gilchrist sang Are Ye Sleepin Maggie? in 2007 on his WildGoose CD Ingleneuk. He noted:

A lively arrangement by Vicki [Swan] and Jonny [Dyer], of the poem by Paisley born poet [Robert Tannahill], based on a tune set by the Tannahill Weavers. I believe I may have slept through a few lectures at the Old Paisley Tech. in the late 50s!

Kirsty Law sang Are Ye Sleepin’ Maggie? on her 2014 album Shift. She noted:

From the pen of Robert Tannahill of Paisley, this song has some brilliantly evocative Scots language that is a pleasure to sing. It’s told through the eyes of a young man, going to visit his girlfriend in the night through the horrendous weather, and trying not to wake her father.

The Furrow Collective sang Are Ye Sleeping, Maggie? in 2023 on their Hudson album We Know by the Moon.


Ray Fisher sings Are Ye Sleepin’, Maggie?

O, mirk and rainy is the nicht,
There’s no’ a star in a’ the cairey.
Lightning gleams across the sky
And winds they blow wi’ winters fury.

Chorus (after each verse):
O, are ye sleeping, Maggie?
O, are ye sleeping, Maggie?
Let me in, for loud the linn
Is roarin’ ower the warlock’s craigie.

Fearfu’ saughs the boortree bank,
The rifted wood roars wild and dreary.
Loud the iron yett does clank,
And cries o’ howlets mak’ me eerie.

Abune ma breath, I daurnae speak,
For fear I rouse your wakeful daddy.
Cauld’s the blast upon my cheek,
O rise, o rise my bonnie lassie.

Well, she’s ope’d the door; she’s let him in.
He’s cuist aside his dreepin’ plaidie.
Ye can blaw your worst, ye winds and rain,
Since, Maggie, noo I’m here aside ye.

O, noo that you’re waukened, Maggie,
O, noo that you’re waukened, Maggie,
What care I for howlet’s cry,
For roarin’ linn or warlock’s craigie?