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Katy Cruel / Leaboy's Lassie / Lichtbob's Lassie

[ Roud 1645 ; G/D 4:725 ; Ballad Index SBoA050 ; trad.]

Sandy Paton sang Katy Cruel on his 1959 Elektra LP The Many Sides of Sandy Paton. Sandy and Caroline Paton sang it also in 1960 on their Topic EP of American songs and ballads sung as lullabies, Hush Little Baby. The latter album's liner notes commented:

Like Tittery Nan, this song is extremely rarely found among traditional singers. However, since Eloise Linscott first published it in Folk Songs of Old New England in 1939, it has become widely popular among students and revival folk singers on America. Miss Linscott hat the song from Lucy Allen of West Newton, Massachusetts. Its text seems to be made of fragments from other songs, including the well-known Irish song I Know Where I'm Going [Roud 5701]. The refrain “O That I Was Where I Would Be,” etc. was quoted in J.B. Ker's Archaeology of Popular Phrases, published in Andover, Hants, in 1840.

Gordeanna McCulloch sang the song's Scottish variant The Lichtbob's Lassie in 1965 on the Topic anthology New Voices from Scotland. This track was also included in 1997 on the Fellside CD reissue of her 1978 Topic album, Sheath and Knife. The liner notes commented:

This song is usually thought to be sung by a girl following a soldier lover and the first verses fit this idea. Sometimes, however, the title is given as Lea Boy's Lassie, i.e. herdsman's, and the latter part of the song seems more in keeping with a rural setting. There is no confusion about the tune as it is the well-known I Know Where I'm Going. Other tunes are sometimes used.

Cilla Fisher sang Leaboy's Lassie in 1976 on her and Artie Trezise's Trailer album Balcanquhal.

Pat Ryan sang Leaboy's Lassie in 1977 as the title track of her Folk Heritage album Leaboy's Lassie.

Cordelia's Dad sang Katy Cruel in 1995 on their CD Comet. The Demon Barbers learned this song from Cordelia's Dad and sang in it 2002 on their CD Uncut.

Elspeth Cowie sang The Leaboy's Lassie in 1998 on the CD Scottish Love Songs.

Aileen Carr, Annie Grace, Maureen Jelks and Karine Polwart sang The Lichtbob's Lassie at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in January 2001 as part of the Celtic Connections festival. The concert was released a year later on the Greentrax festival CD Scots Women.

Linda Thompson sang Katy Cruel in 2007 on her Rounder CD Versatile Heart.

Ewan McLennan sang Lichtbob's Lassie in 2012 on his Fellside CD The Last Bird to Sing. He noted:

There are many close relatives of this Scottish song in the English language tradition, both in Britain and across the Atlantic. The narrative here seems to have woven together two versions, one telling the experience of a woman following infantrymen (Lichtbobs) and the second a woman who follows an itinerant farmer (Leaboy's Lassie). To me there's an air of melancholy in the words and in her plight. The beautiful, lilting tune is traditional Scottish and has been used in many other songs. I thought it seemed nice set as almost a lullaby.

Lady Maisery sang Katy Cruel in 2013 on their CD Mayday. They noted:

A welcome character that unites many of the themes on this album is Katy Cruel, a woman who has faced adversity and hostility in her time, but has a powerful sense of her own identity. We were inspired by Karen Dalton's gritty delivery of this song, and added some verses from other versions along with a new refrain by Rowan [Rheingans]. We never find out why Katy is outcast from society but she remains defiant and assured, and committed to following her own heart.

This video shows Lady Maisery at the Acoustic Sessions at Stanley Halls on March 27, 2018:

Salt House sang Katy Cruel in 2013 on their CD Lay Your Dark Low.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang Katy Cruel on their 2015 CD Declaration. They noted:

Inspired by versions from both Karen Dalton and Linda Thompson, Katy Cruel is widely known as an American folk song but is believed to have have Scottish origins and contains fragments of Irish traditional songs. It is said that the American version dates back to the colonial period and was sung by marching soldiers during the American War of Independence. First collected from Miss Lucy Allen and published by Eloise Linscott in Folk Songs of Old New England (1939), Miss Allen described Katy Cruel being sung: “As evening came, the children were put to bed upstairs, and around the great fireplace the men sang the haunting song with deep emotion.” Despite being an outcast, Katy is a wonderfully inspiring picture of a defiant and self-assured woman who refuses to conform to social expectations to be with the man she loves.

Richard Thompson sang The Light Bob's Lassie in 2019 on Topic's 80th year anthology, Vision & Revision.


Lady Maisery sing Katy Cruel Ewan McLennan sing Lichtbob's Lassie

When first I came to town,
They called me the rowing jewel,
Now they've changed their tune,
They call me Katy Cruel.

Chorus (after each verse):
Day-a doo-tin da dee day

First when I cam' to the toon
They ca'd me young and bonnie
Noo I've changed my name
They ca' me the lichtbob's lassie.

When first I came to town,
They brought me drinks a-plenty,
Now they've changed their tune,
They bring me the bottles empty.

First when I cam' to the toon
They ca'd me prood and sonsie
Noo I've changed my name
They ca' me the lichtbob's honey.

Oh that I was what I would be,
Then I would be I be what I am not,
But am I where I must be,
What I would be I cannot.

Through the woods I'll go,
Through the boggy mire,
Straightway down the road
And to my hearts desire.

Feather beds are soft
And painted rooms are bonnie
But I would leave them a'
And jog along wi' my Johnny.

Oh that I was what I would be,
Then I would be I be what I am not,
But am I where I must be,
What I would be I cannot.

I know who I am,
I know who's going with me.
I know who I love
But Lord knows if I'll marry.

Oh that I was what I would be,
Then I would be I be what I am not,
But am I where I must be,
What I would be I cannot.

I'll dye my petticoats red,
Face them with the yellow,
And I'll tell all the lads
My own heart I will follow.

Ill die my pettycoat red
And tie it wi' a yellow
I'l tell the dyster lads
That the lichtbob I'm tae follow

Oh my back's bee sair
Shearin' Craigie's corn
I winnae see him the nicht
But I'll see him the morn

For this Saturday nicht
Syne I'll see my dearie
He'll come whistlin' in
When I'm so tired and weary


See also the Mudcat Café thread Katy Cruel History/Info???