Sonntag, 26. Oktober 2014

An Englishman's Exposé of a Scottish Version
of an Irish Drinkin' Ditty

Jock Stewart
   by John Harrison

For those of you who've been to Folk Club Bonn you will probably have heard this song, and if you're a regular visitor you may even know it off by heart! Here is a version sung by Jon accompanied on an English concertina. If you click on the arrow to the right of the loud speaker you can listen to it. Jon is singing here the Irish version of this song which references the river Kildare and refers to a drink of brandy and rum. 

At Folk Club Bonn we sing the Scottish version which refers to the river Tay and the drink of choice is brandy and wine. In Irish version Jock is unequivocally taking his gun dog with him to go out shooting, whereas in the Scottish version there is a slight element of doubt as to whether Jock is taking the dog with him as a gun dog, or whether he is taking the dog with him in order to actually shoot it? Perhaps the dog has bitten somebody, or is infirm and in acute pain and has to be put down? There are so many possible interpretations of this song, which is one of the reasons why it is so fascinating.

Stewart, sometimes spelt Stuart after Mary Queen of Scots chose to spell her surname Stuart instead of Stewart in the sixteenth century. The "Stuart" spelling arose because there was no letter "w" in the French language and Mary Queen of Scots,  became Mary Stuart, following her marriage to the Dauphin of France, later King Francis II. Stewart is the original spelling and arose after members of the Breton family Dapifer, who had come to Britain in 1066 with William the Conquerer later became the High Stewards of Scotland and took their future name from this office.

I personally think that Jock Stewart was a cattle drover, as prior to refrigeration cattle had to be literally "driven" on the hoof from the highlands of Scotland to the main markets in London and the Midlands, along the wide drove roads heading southwards. This would certainly take a brave, canny, formidable and trustworthy man to complete a journey of many weeks with a high likelihood of encountering rustlers on the journey south and robbers eager to steal the money obtained for the cattle and sheep in London on the return leg of the journey.

To add a further twist to the song is the fact that Stewart is a common name in both Scotland and England so Jock Stewart is a sort of a "John Doe" type of name and being a drover would make excellent cover for a French spy to travel throughout England carrying large sums of money without raising suspicion. Futhermore the Royal Stewart tartan is the tartan of the British monarch and so can be worn by anyone.

However, towards the end of the song in calling for a round of "Brandy and wine" rather than the more customary, for a Scotsman, tipple of a "half and a half" (a dram of whisky chased with half a pint of "heavy" beer), he may have betrayed his French origins and exposed himself!


click here to get the "Folk Song a Day" rendition:

Montag, 13. Oktober 2014

Detlefs Bilder vom Folk Club 51 am 3. Oktober 2014



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