> Folk Music > Songs > McGinty’s Meal and Ale

McGinty’s Meal and Ale

[ Roud 2518 ; G/D 3:630 ; Ballad Index DBuch72 ; George Bruce Thomson]

Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger: Travellers’ Songs From England and Scotland

Davie Stewart sang McGinty’s Meal and Ale to Alan Lomax in the latter’s London apartment in December 1957. This recording was included in 2002 on Stewart’s Rounder anthology Go On, Sing Another Song and in 2011 as the title track of the anthology of Scottish recordings by Alan Lomax from the 1950s, Whaur the Pig Gaed on the Spree. Another recording made by Bill Leader in Scotland in 1967 was included in the following year on the Topic album The Travelling Stewarts. This album’s sleeve notes commented:

Davy Stewart reckons this was one of the first songs he learned, and he has sung it from Aberdeen’s Castlegate to Glasgow’s Stow Street market—and everywhere else he has been. Gavin Greig gives the song in Folk-Song of the North-East. It was written by George Bruce Thomson of New Deer, Aberdeenshire, and, like Bogie’s Bonnie Belle, is still popular.

The Campbell Family from Aberdeen sang McGinty’s Meal-an’Ale in 1965 on their Topic album The Singing Campbells. Peter Hall and Arthur Argo noted:

An earlier folk-song revival in Buchan at the turn of the century produced a number of local song-writers including George Bruce Thomson, the author of this song. It is a tribute to his feeling for the idiom that it was in circulation even before Gavin Greig printed it in the Buchan Observer. Today, many slight variants, possibly the result of these early orally learned versions, are in common currency and one of these was recorded and subsequently published by the bothy-style entertainer, Willie Kemp, who is often mistakenly described as the author. The tune Thomson used is a variant of the reel Roxburgh Castle “adapted (and ruined)” as he jokingly put it to Greig.

John Mearns sang McGinty’s Meal and Ale in ca. 1964-5 on his EP John Mearns Sings Another Five Scottish Folk-Songs.

Five Hand Reel sang McGinty’s Meal and Ale in 1976 as part of the Both Sides of the Forth medley on their eponymous first album, Five Hand Reel.

Charlie Allan sang McGinty’s Meal and Ale on his 1979 cassette of bothy ballads, Blue Grey Coo.

Ray Fisher sang McGinty’s Meal and Ale, accompanied by John Kirkpatrick on button accordion, in 1991 on her Saydisc CD Traditional Songs of Scotland. She noted:

According to Chambers Scots Dictionary, the phrase ‘meal-and-ale’ was a mixture of oatmeal, ale, sugar and whisky, which was prepared when all the grain crop was cut. This tongue-twister of a song, written by George Bruce Thomson to a tune attributed to one Willie Kemp, tells of the goings-on at the celebrations following the harvest at the farm of Mr  MacGinty of Balmannocks. His pig has escaped from the sty and made its way into the house where it comes across a specially prepared bowl of ‘Toddy’ (a mixture of whisky, sugar and warm water) which it speedily consumes. The song documents the ensuing chaos. There are so many dialect words contained in this bothy ballad that one might be forgiven for thinking that Mr Chambers used the song as a basis for his Scots Dictionary!

Hector Riddell sang McGinty’s Meal and Ale, in 2016 on the DVD celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the TMSA, 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book.


Ray Fisher sings McGinty’s Meal and Ale

This is nae a sang o’ love, nor yet a sang o’ money, faith,
It’s naethin’ very pitiful, it’s naethin’ very funny.
But there’s Hieland Scotch and Lowland Scotch and butterscotch and honey,
If there’s nane o’ them for a’ there’s a mixture o’ the three.

And there’s nae a word o’ beef, brose, sowens, sauty bannocks,
Na, nor pancake, peas, eggs, for them wi’ dainty stomachs,
But it’s a’ aboot a meal and ale that happened at Balmunnocks,
Aye, McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.

They were howling in the kitchen like a caravan o’ tinkies,
Aye, some were playing ping-pong and tiddly widdly winkies.
For up the howe an’ doon the howe, ye never saw such jinkies
As McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.

Noo McGinty’s pig had broken loose and wannert thro’ the lobby
Whaur he open shivved the pantry door, cam’ upon the toddy,
And he took kindly tae the stuff like ony human boddy
At McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.

Noo Miss McGinty she ran ben the hoose, the wey wis dark and crookit.
She gaed heelster gowdie ower the pig for it she never lookit,
An’ then she let oot a skirl that wad hae paralysed a teuchit,
At McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.

Now Johnny Murphy he ran efter her and ower the pig was leapin’,
Whan he trampit in an ashet that was sittin’ fu’ o’ dreepine.
Then he fell doon and peel’t his croon and couldnae haud fae greetin’
At McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.

Noo the pantry shelf cam ricklin’ doon and he was lyin’ kirnin’
Among saft soap, pease meal, corn floor and yirnin’.
Like a gollach amang trickle but McGinty’s wife was girnin’
At the soss upon her pantry fleer and wadna let him be.


Now they a’ cam runnin’ tae the door and what that it wis tuggit,
Aye it held the faster aye the mair they ruggit.
Till McGinty roared, “Bring an axe, I wada be humbuggit!”
No, nor lockit in his ain hoose and that he’d let them see.

So his wife cam trailin’ wi’ an axe and thro the bar wis hackit,
Aye, open flew the door at aince so ticht as they were packit,
That a’ the crew cam rummlin’ oot like tatties fae a bucket
At McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.

For they had spurtles, they had tattie chappers, faith, they werena jokin’
And they swore they’d gar the pig claw whaur it wis never yockin’.
But by this time the pig wis fu’ and didna care a dockin
At McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.

Noo there’s eelie pigs, jeelie pigs, pigs for haudin’ butter,
But this pig was roarin’ fu’ and rollin’ in the gutter,
Till McGinty and his foreman wheeched him oot upon a shutter
Fae McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.


Now Miss McGinty took the thing tae heart and hidit in a closet,
And they rubbit Johnny Murhpy’s heid wi’ turpentine and rosit.
Syne they harl’t him wi’ meal and ale ye really was supposit
That he had had sleepit in a mason’s trough and risen tae the spree.

Noo it’s weary on the barley bree and weary fa’ the weather,
Aye, keetherin’ mang dubs and drink, they gnag nae weel thegither.
But, withoot a doot, McGinty’s pig is wishing for anither
Of McGinty’s meal and ale whaur the pig gaed on the spree.