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The Russian Jew

[ Roud 13562 ; G/D 8:1902 ; Ballad Index GrD81902 ; Mudcat 172454 ; trad.]

Elizabeth Stewart sang The Russian Jew in 2004 on her Elphinstone Institute CD Binnorie. She also sang it at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2011, which was issued in the following year on the festival CD The Little Ball of Yarn (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 8). Thomas A. McKean noted on her album:

This is an unusual title for rural Aberdeenshire, to say the least, and a very misleading one. The song derives from a macaronic music-hall song of the late nineteenth century, Ciamar a tha sibh an diugh?, which pokes gentle fun at the constable of Highland origin, at one time ubiquitous in central belt police forces, by parodying his English and his relaxed, confident attitude with troublemakers. The original song ends each verse with, “Says I, ‘Ciamar a tha sibh an diugh?’”, meaning “Says I, ‘How are you today?’” in Scottish Gaelic. In the North-East Traveller version, this line has been transformed into “Says I, ‘Come a Russian Jew’”, or “Says, ‘Here come a Russian Jew’”, closely mimicking the sounds of the original. The first audio recording of Lucy singing The Russian Jew was made in 1960 by American folklorist Kenneth Goldstein, who told me about hearing it for the first time from Elizabeth, her sister Jane and their aunt Lucy: “They had maybe never even seen a Jew before, and here am I, a Russian Jew from New York, recording this song from Aberdeenshire Travellers!”

G/D 8:1902 has a different tune and only one verse; for the full song, this time set in Glasgow, see the Kidson Collection, vol. 5, no. 189, Mitchell Library, Glasgow.


Elizabeth Stewart sings The Russian Jew

Oh ma freens kens weel I’m a ceevil chap
I belang tae the Aiberdeen force
An although I’m nae jist affa stoot
I’m as strong as ony horse.

Chorus (after each verse):
An I look sae weel fae heid tae heel
In ma bonnie coat o blue
An the kids aa cry fin I pass by
Oh here comes a Russian Jew.

Oh the queen she cam tae Aiberdeen
An she swore upon her soul
That I wisna like a man at aa
Bit a great lang telegraph pole.

If I see a man lyin beastly fu
I dinna say, Hoo dae ye do?
But I gie tae him a gey roch shack
An I says, Come a Russian Jew.

There wis a row got up ae nicht
An I wis there very quick
I took a man in ilka han
An I landed them in the nick.

An each o them got forty days
An they lookit rather blue
Oh each o them got forty days
Says I, Come a Russian Jew.