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The Berryfields of Blair

[ Roud 2154 ; Ballad Index K339 ; Belle Stewart]

There are several recordings of Belle Stewart singing her song The Berryfields of Blair:

  1. A recording made by Peter Kennedy in Blairgowrie was included in 1994 on the Saydisc anthology Songs of the Travelling People.
  2. Fred Kent recorded Belle Stewart in Blairgowrie, Perthshire in May 1976 for her 1977 Topic album of Scots traditional songs and ballads, Queen Among the Heather. This track was also included on the 2018 Greentrax anthology Scotland’s Voices.
  3. Belle Stewart sang it at a concert in The Angus Hotel, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, on 13 August 1967 that was recorded by Bill Leader and released in 1968 on the Topic album Festival at Blairgowrie. This track was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology of working men and women in song, There Is a Man Upon the Farm (The Voice of the People Volume 20).
  4. She sang it in 1985 on the Steward Family’s Lismor album The Stewarts of Blair.
  5. She sang it on 1 March 1986 at Ewan MacColl 70th Birthday Symposium at GLC County Hall, South Bank, London, first broadcast by the BBC on 15 March 1986. This recording was included in 1995 on Ewan MacColl’s Cooking Vinyl album Folk on 2.

Jim and Susie Malcolm sang The Berryfields o’ Blair on their 2019 CD The Berries. Jim Malcolm noted:

Written by Belle Stewart in 1947.

I spent summers picking berries as a schoolboy, so this song has always brought back memories of long days among the raspberry canes.

Fiona Hunter sang The Berryfields of Blair on her 2024 album Atween the Salt Sea and the Sand. The voice in the first verse seems to be a different singer, though. Is it Belle or Sheila Stewart?


Jim and Susie Malcolm sing The Berryfields o’ Blair

When berry time comes roond each year
Blair’s population’s swellin,
There’s every kind o picker there
And every kind o dwellin.
There’s tents and huts and caravans,
There’s bothies and there’s bivvies
And shelters made wi tattie-bags
And dug-outs made wi divvies.

There’s corner-boys fae Glesgae,
Kettle-boilers fae Lochee,
There’s miners fae the pits o Fife,
Mill-workers fae Dundee,
And fisherfowk fae Peterheid
And tramps fae everywhere,
Aa lookin fir a livin aff
The berryfields o Blair.

There’s travellers fae the Western Isles,
Fae Arran, Mull and Skye;
Fae Harris, Lewis and Kyles o Bute,
They come their luck to try,
Fae Inverness and Aberdeen,
Fae Stornoway and Wick
Aa flock to Blair at the berry time,
The straws and rasps to pick.

There’s some wha earn a pound or twa,
Some cannae earn their keep,
There’s some wid pick fae morn till nicht,
And some wid raither sleep.
There’s some wha hae tae pick or stairve,
And some wha dinna care
There’s comedy and tragedy
Played on thefields o Blair.

There’s faimilies pickin for one purse,
And some wha pick alane,
There’s men wha share and share alike
Wi wives wha’s no their ane.
There’s gladness and there’s sadness tae,
There’s happy herts and sare,
For there’s some wha bless and some wha curse
The berryfields o Blair.

Before I put my pen awa,
It’s this I’d like to say:
You’ll travel far afore you’ll meet
A kinder lot than they;
For I’ve mixed wi them in field in pub
And while I’ve breath to spare,
I’ll bless the hand that led me tae
The berryfields o Blair.