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Whistle O'er the Lave O't

[ Roud 506 ; G/D 7:1414 ; Ballad Index GrD71414 ; Bodleian Roud 506 ; trad.]

Jimmy McBeath sang Whistle Ow'r the Lave O't in a 952 recording on the anthology Bothy Ballads (Scottish Tradition Volume 1; Tangent 1971; Greentrax 1993). The album's booklet commented:

In his Scottish Songs, Whitelaw says: “The popular tune called Whistle O'er the Lave O't was composed about 1720 by John Bruce, a musician living in Dumfries. The old words are unfit for publication.” Whitelaw was probably wrong on both counts. Although Burns is the source of the Bruce attribution, it seems likely that the tune (first published by Bremner in 1759) is actually very much older, and the words—which Jimmy McBeath sings here—are perfectly innocent old Scots bawdry. It is amusing to note that this one of the songs styled ‘malignant songs’ in the 17th century curiosity Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence. Furthermore, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe relates that the Devil was once observed in a Glasgow kirkyard playing Whistle Ow'r the Lave O't on the fiddle. (“Another proof, if any were wanted,” commented J.C. Dick, “that the Devil knows and appreciates good music.”)

The anonymous author of Gaelic Erotica in ΚΡΥΠΤΑΔΙΑ, Vol. X (Paris 1907) has a note which seems pertinent: “A study of the reverence paid to wells have left no doubt on the mind of the writer that it is equivalent to the worship of the natura foeminae. The same may be said of other sources of water…”

Chuir mo mhathair mi do'n allt,
'S mor b'fhearr dhi feinn dol ann,
Bhris mi'm pigidh, 's dort mi an leann,
'S chuir mi an ceann a cheil 'ad.

My mother sent me to the burn,
And it would be better of her to go herself,
I broke the pitcher, and poured out the ale,
And set them at strife.

Billy Ross sang Whistle Ow'r the Lave O't in 1996 on the anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 2.

Emily Smith sang Whistle Ower the Lave o It in 2009 on her and Jamie MacClennan's album of Robert Burns songs, Adoon Winding Nith.

Jo Miller sang Whistle O'er the Lave O't, as collected from Andrew Poleson of Whalsay by Peter Cooke of the School of Scottish Studies, at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2009. This recording was published a year later on the festival anthology There's Bound to Be a Row (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 6).

Lyrics

Jimmy McBeath sings Whistle Ow'r the Lave O't Jo Miller sings Whistle O'er the Lave O't

My mither sent me tae the moss,
For tae gaither peats an dross;
I cowpit the cairt an hanged the horse,
An whistle ow'r the lave o't.

My mither sent me tae the sea,
For tae gaither mussels three;
A sailor lad fell in wi me,
An whistle o'er the lave o't.

My mither sent me tae the well,
Better her had gane hersel';
I fell ower and broke my pail,
An whistle ow'r the lave o't.

Ma mither sent me tae the well,
Better she had gaen hersel;
The bottom o the daffock fell,
So whistle o'er the lave o't.

My mither sent me tae the sea,
For tae gaither mussels three;
A sailor lad fell in wi' me,
An whistle o'er the lave o't.

Ma mither sent me tae the shop,
For tae buy a bar o soap;
I spent the bob and ate the lot,
An whistle o'er the lave o't.

My mither sent me tae the moss,
For tae gaither peats an dross;
I cowpit the cairt an hanged the horse,
An whistle ow'r the lave o't.

Ma mither sent me tae the moss,
For tae gaither peats an dross;
I cowped the cairt an hanged the horse,
An whistle o'er the lave o't.