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Tail Toddle

[ Roud 11275 ; G/D 8:1716 ; Ballad Index GrD81716 ; DT TAILTODL ; Mudcat 117836 ; trad.]

Hamish Henderson sang Tail Toddle to Alan Lomax on 6 March 1951 at the Hotel Meurice in London. This recording can be found in the Alan Lomax Archive, and it is probably also the version on the ca 1955 anthology The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: Scotland

John Strachan sang Tail Toddle to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson in Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on 16 July 1951. This was included in 2002 on his Rounder anthology Songs From Aberdeenshire.

The Clutha sang Tail Toddle in 1971 on their Argo album Scotia! and Gordeanna McCulloch sang it solo in 1997 on her Greentrax album In Freenship’s Name. She noted:

Those who know me will not be surprised at the inclusion of another example of bawdry. The surprise may lie in the particular example, as this is not one I normally sing. Fred suggested that I might include it and I can’t claim that I took much persuading. Like Tam Bowie it is another explicit expression of a woman’s sexuality, but constructed in such a way that, if sung at speed, the meaning could be missed. Very useful, I’m sure, in certain company—but since the company I keep tends to revel in these little gems as much as I do, I have chosen to sing it at a speed which does not mask the meaning.

Ewan MacColl sang Tail Toddle in 1962 on his Folkways album Popular Scottish Songs. The album’s booklet noted:

Robert Burns included this small gem in his collection of Scots bawdry, The Merry Muses of Caledonia. Scott-Douglas, that indefatigable bowdleriser of good verse, attributes it to the bard himself. But, as usual, he produces no evidence to back his assertion.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Tail Toddle on the 1963 Decca album Edinburgh Folk Festival Vol. 1. This track was also included in 1975 on the seminal Island/Transatlantic anthology Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock. A 1965 recording from the Hullaballoo TV Show was included in 2003 on the Dave Swarbrick anthology Swarb!. The first album’s sleeve notes commented:

Tail Toddle is a bit of Scottish nonsense that has grown into mouth music on the lips of many traditional singers. The nature of the words is such that it is not surprising that one version found its way into the famous collection of Burns’ bawdy verse, The Merry Muses of Caledonia.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sings it here and the words are followed by a spirited instrumental passage played in the style that, together with the group’s fine singing, has made Ian Campbell a force to be reckoned with all over the folk scene.

Gordon McIntyre and Danny Spooner sang Tail Toddle in 1978 on their Larrikin album Revived and Relieved!.

Janet Russell and Christine Kydd sang Tail Toddle in 1994 on their Greentrax CD Dancin’ Chantin’. and Sisters Unlimited (including Janet Russell) sang it in 1995 on their Fellside CD No Bed of Roses.

Sangsters sang Tail Toddle in 2000 on their Greentrax CD Sharp and Sweet.

Tony Cuffe recorded Tail Toddle in 2000. This was released in 2003 on his posthumous Greentrax CD Sae Will We Yet. Stuart Eydmann noted:

An example of Lowland Scots mouth music with bawdy words collected and revised by Robert Burns. This track is taken from an unreleased demonstration recording by the US pan-Celtic band The Windbags with which Tony played for a number of years.

Mick West sang a medley of Wee Willie Gray (Scots Musical Museum, no. 514), The Carles o’ Dysart (Scots Musical Museum, no. 392) and Tail Toddle on his 2009 Greentrax CD Sark o’ Snaw. The album’s booklet noted:

Burns has been credited with this song. It was a great favourite of the late Hamish Henderson, and uses the tune The Chevalier’s Muster-Roll.

Alistair Ogilvy sang Tail Toddle on the TMSA Young Trad Tour 2011.


Ewan MacColl sings Tail Toddle

Chorus (twice after each verse):
O Tail toddle, tail toddle;
Tammie gars my tail toddle;
But an’ ben, wi diddle doddle,
Tammie gars my tail toddle.

When I’m deid I’m oot o’ date;
When I’m seik I’m fu’ o’ trouble;
When I’m weel I strap aboot,
An’ Tammie gars my tail toddle.

Jessie Jack she gied a plack,
Helen Wallace gied a boddle;
Quo’ the bride, “It’s ower little
For tae mend a broken doddle.”

Our guid-wife held ower to Fife,
For to buy a coal-riddle;
Sang or she cam’ back again,
O Tammie garred my tail toddle.

Tony Cuffe sings Tail Toddle

Tail toddle, tail toddle
Tammie gat ma tail toddle;
But an ben wi deeddle doddle,
Tammie gat ma tail toddle.

When I’m deid I’m oot o date;
When I’m seek I’m fou o trouble;
When I’m weel I stap aboot,
And Tammie gats ma tail toddle.

Jeannie Mack she gaed a plack,
Helen Wallace gaed a boddle;
Quo the bride, it’s ower little,
For tae mend a broken doddle.

Oor guid wife she gaed tae Fife,
For tae buy a coal riddle;
Lang or she cam back again,
Tammie gat ma tail toddle.