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Brose and Butter

[ Roud 8552 , 12585 ; trad]

David Herd: Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc., Second Volume

Ossian sang Brose and Butter in 1977 on their eponymous Springthyme album Ossian, and Ossian's Billy Ross sang it in 1996 on the Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 1. Ossian noted on their album:

The first is a nonsense song—essentially Lowland Scots ‘mouth music’, equivalent to the Highland Gaelic port a beul that was used as dance music in the absence of instruments. The song has a particular interest as it was one of the first songs collected by Robert Burns in around 1785 and is in Burns’ Merry Muses of Caledonia. The song is followed by two Irish jigs.

Eddi Reader sang Brose and Butter in 2003 on her Rough Trade CD The Songs of Robert Burns. She noted:

I started out to translate this, but I would rather, if you are interested, that you might go searching for yourself. My face got redder the more I tried to explain. I found this song in a hook of bawdy verse. Robert was partial to a bit of a rude singsong and replaced [in] a lot of his own songs words with words your mother wouldn't sing, but your grannie might. I think this was an old one he collected so I don't know how much of it is Burns's original verse. I remember hearing this played by the band Ossian when I went to folk clubs in and around Irvine in 1979. Good luck with the translation.

Corrina Hewat played the slip jig Brose and Butter in 2003 on her Foot Stompin' CD My Favourite Place. She and Kathryn Tickell sang it in 2006 on their Park CD The Sky Didn't Fall. They noted:

The tune Brose and Butter was reputedly a favourite air of Charles II in his exile, which dates it to around 1640 at the latest. It is well known on both sides of the Border, and in Northumberland is known as The Peacock followed the Hen.

As to the words…they are often attributed to Burns, but several versions of this rather bawdy song (we missed out some of the more shocking bits—sorry!) can be found in various manuscripts and publications of the late 1700s. Our rendition is definitely a product of the aural tradition.

Janet Russell sang Gie My Love Brose in 2008 in their Harbourtown album Love Songs and Fighting Talk.

Lyrics

Ossian sing Brose and Butter

Oh Johnny got brose, brose,
Johnny got brose and butter;
Oh Johnny got brose, brose,
An aa the lave wanted their supper.

Jenny was up in the loft,
And Johnny wad fain have been at her;
There came a strong wind frae the west,
Aa the windows made clatter.

Oh in a goose is guid meat,
A hen is a boss and a bother;
In pie there’s muckle deceit,
There’s nothing like brose and butter.

Oh Johnny got brose, brose,
Johnny got brose and butter:
Oh Johnny got brose, brose,
An aa the lave wanted their supper.

Billy Ross sings Brose and Butter

Chorus (after each verse):
O gie my love brose, brose
O gie my love brose and butter;
An’ hie my love brose, brose
Yestreen he wanted his supper.

Jenny wis up i' the laft,
Jockie wad fain a been at her;
There cam a win’ out o the wast
Made a' the windows to clatter.

A dow’s a dainty dish;
A goose is hollow within;
A sight wad mak you blush,
But a’ the fun's to fin'.

My daddie sent me to ae hill
To pow my minnie some heather;
An drive it in your fill,
Ye’re welcome to the leather.

A mouse is a merry wee beast,
The modewurck wants the een;
And O, for a touch o the thing
I had in my nieve yestreen.

The lark she lo'es the grass,
The hen she lo'es the stibble:
And hey, for the gar'ner lad,
To gully awa wi his dibble!

Eddi Reader sings Brose and Butter

Chorus (after each verse):
Gie my love brose, brose
Gie my love brose and butter
Aye gie my love brose
Yestreen he wanted his supper

Jenny was up at the laft
Johnny was glad to be at her
A wind came oot o’ the west
Made all the windows to clatter

A dow is a dainty dish
The goose is hollow within
The sight would make you blush
But a' the fun is to finishing

My daddie sent me to the mill
To pull my minnie some heather
And drive it intae yur fill
Yur welcome tae the leather

A mouse is a merry wee beast
The moodiewark wants the een
And oh for a touch o the thing
I had in my nieve yestreen oh

The lark she loves the grass
The hen she loves the stubble
And hey for the gardner lad
Tae gully away wi’ his dibble

Corrina Hewat and Kathryn Tickell sing Brose and Butter

Chorus (after each verse):
Gie my love brose, brose,
Gie tny love brose and butter.
O gie my love brose, brose,
Yestreen he wanted his supper.

Jenny sits up i' the laft,
Johnny wis glad tae be at her.
A wind cam oot o' the west,
Made a' the windows to clatter.

We were a' fou yestreen
The nicht shall be its brither
And hey for the rolling pin
Tae nail twa weans thegither.

The doo is a dainty dish,
The goose is a' hollow within:
The sicht it wad mak' ye blush
But a' the fun is in finishing.