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My Bonny Miner Lad

[ Roud 2599 ; Mudcat 41241 ; Mrs. Cosgrove, A.L. Lloyd]

Isla Cameron sang My Bonny Miner Lad on her and Ewan MacColl’s 1958 Riverside album English and Scottish Love Songs and on their 1960 Topic album Still I Love Him. A.L. Lloyd noted:

This song is still sung in some mining areas, sometimes with an additional verse at the start and under the title: Six Jolly Miner Lads. The verse about building a castle appears in many folk songs, especially Irish ones. The song seems commonest in the Scottish coalfields. I have recovered two versions, from an ex-miner, Charles McVey of Dumfriesshire, and a miner’s wife, Mrs. Cosgrove, of Newtongrange, Midlothian. The American specialist in mining lore, George Kerson, had the song from Pennsylvania and from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The former version was sung by an English immigrant from Cumberland; the latter version seems to have been learnt from Mrs. Cosgrove, who spent some years in Glace Bay. At least two different tunes are associated with the song. This one resembles the melody, perhaps Irish in origin, attached to the Newfoundland song She’s Like the Swallow, collected by Maud Karpeles in 1929-30.

Shirley Collins recorded the ballad My Bonny Miner Lad in 1959 for her second LP, False True Lovers, and a second time for her Collector EP English Songs Vol. 2. She noted on her first album:

Anyone who knows the books and records of Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd realises that folk-song making did not cease with the advent of the industrial revolution in Great Britain. The country people re-worked their traditional songs or composed new pieces to tell of their struggles and to celebrate their grimy-handed heroes. Some of those industrial ballads have been in circulation for more than a century, have been varied in the traditional folk manner, and rank with the best of the British song tradition. The oldest and most productive of these industrial folk traditions is that of the miners, of which A.L. Lloyd has made a superlative collection. [Come All Ye Bold Miners, Lawrence and Wishart, 1952 -ed.] One of his informants was the Scots miner’s wife, daughter of several generations of miners, Mrs. Cosgrove of Keltingrove in the Lowlands of Scotland. I had the pleasure on one occasion of hearing Mrs. Cosgrove singing in her own house, as she fixed a midnight snack for her men-folks who were going down on the night shift, and told stories of mining disasters and strikes. I can testify that her style and her point of view are those of a true folk singer. This song has been collected in another form among the coal miners of Nova Scotia.

Pat Ryan sang The Miner’s Lad in 1977 on her Folk Heritage album Leaboy’s Lassie.


Shirley Collins sings My Bonny Miner Lad

Oh bonny’s my lad as he walks down the street,
His cap in his hand sae canny and neat;
His teeth white as ivory, his eyes black as sloes,
I love my miner lad, everyone knows.

When I have money he has his part,
And when I’ve none he has my heart.
He gained it, too, with a free good will,
And I’ll confess I love him still.

I’ll build him a palace of great renown,
No lords nor kings can e’er pull it down,
For the king has his true love, the lord the same,
And I love my miner lad - who can me blame?