> Folk Music > Songs > Wholly and Fairly

Wholly and Fairly

[ Roud 5654 ; G/D 3:584 ; Ballad Index GrD3584 , McCST111 ; trad.]

James B. Duncan collected Heely and Fairly on April 7, 1907 in Scotland from Mrs Margaret Gillespie. This version was included in Volume 3 of The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, and in Katherine Campbell's 2009 book Songs from North-East Scotland.

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger collected Hooly and Fairly from Maria Robertson of Aberdeenshire in 1962 and printed it in their 1i77 book Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland. They commented:

The earliest printed text of this amusing song appeared in the second volume of Yair's Charmer (Edinburgh 1751) under the title of The Drucken Wife o' Gallowa'. Under the same title, Oswald published the melody in the tenth book of The Caledonian Pocket Companion (1759). Words and music together appeared under the title Hooly and Fairly in Robert Bremner's Thirty Scots Songs for a Voice and Harpsichord (1757).

Maria Robertson's text, a refashioning of the original piece, is the work of Joanna Baillie (1762-1851) daughter of a Lanarkshire minister of the Gospel. Her biographer, the Reverend William Rogers, wrote that she “had at the very outset of life exhibited a remarkable talent in rhyme-making. She composed verses before she could read.” In addition to writing a number of skilful songs, she served the London Theatre for some forty years as a highly successful dramatist.

Steve Turner sang Wholly and Fairly on his 2016 Tradition Bearers album Spirit of the Game. He noted:

I have known this song and its somewhat arcane humour for forty years. From my days with the Geordie band Canny Fettle in the 70s when I sang a Northumbrian version, it then lay dormant till a couple of years ago when I discovered another version from Aberdeenshire, and took the opportunity to combine the two.

Lyrics

Maria Robertson sings Hooly and Fairly

O, neighbours, what had I ado for to marry?
My wife she drinks possets o' wine of canary—
And cries me her niggardly, dragabout carlie;
O, gin my wife wad drink hooly and fairly.
Hooly and fairly:
O, gin my wife wad drink hooly and fairly.

She dines wi' her kimmers on dainties enoo,
Aye bowin' and smirkin' and dichtin' her mou';
While I sit aside and I'm helpit but sparely;
O, gin my wife wad spend hooly and fairly.
Hooly and fairly:
O, gin my wife wad spend hooly and fairly.

Her's to fairs and to bridals and preachin's and a',
She gangs so licht-hearted and buskit sae braw,
While I sit aside and she gars me gang barely;
O, gin my wife wad spend hooly and fairly, (etc.)

In the kirk sic a commotion she made,
Wi' dabs o' red roses and breist-knots o'erlaid;
The dominie stickit his palm very nearly,
O, gin my wife wad dress hooly and fairly, (etc.)

When, tired wi' her tanters, she lies in her bed,
The wark a' neglected, the hoose ill-upred,
When a' oor guid neighbours are stirring richt early;
O, gin my wife wad sleep timely and fairly, (etc.)

A word o' guid counsel or grace she'll hear none,
She bardies the elders and mocks at Mess John;
While back in his teeth his ain text she flings rarely,
O, gin my wife wad speak hooly and fairly, (etc.)

I wish I were single, I wish I were freed,
I wish I were dighted, I wish I were deid.
Or she in the mould to torment me nae mairly,
O, gin my wife wad speak hooly and fairly,
Hooly and fairly,
Wasting my breath to cry “hooly and fairly”.

Steve Turner sings Wholly and Fairly

Down in yon meadow the couple did tarry
The wife she drank nothing but sack and canary
The husband complained to her friends and her neighbours
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly
Wholly and fairly, wholly and fairly
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly

First she drank whisky and then she drank sherry
And then she has drunken my bonny grey mare
That carries me over the hills and the valleys
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly (etc.)

Would she drink her own things well I wouldn't much care
But she drinks of the things that I cannot well spare
When I'm with my friends it angers me sore
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly (etc.)

My new sunday coat she's laid it in pawn
And my best blue bonnet that was e'er on my head
At church and at market I'm covered right barely
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly (etc.)

When there's any money well she'll keep the purse
If I seek a few pennies she'll scold and she'll curse
She lives like a queen while I'm scrimping so sparely
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly (etc.)

When she comes home well she sets on the lads
And the lasses she calls them both bitches and jades
And myself she calls me a cuckold and carl
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly (etc.)

She comes down the street and she rants and she roars
Has no fear of the neighbours nor minds what the house wants
She sings out a foul song like “Up your arse Charlie”
I wish that my wife would drink wholly and fairly (etc.)

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Garry Gillard for transcribing Steve Turner's lyrics.