The Barnyards of Delgaty

As I cam in by Turra market
Turra market for to fee
I fell in wi a farmer chiel
The Barnyards o Delgaty

Linten adie toorin adie
Linten adie toorin ee
Linten lowrin lowrin lowrin
The Barnyards o Delgaty

He promised me the ae best pair
That eer I set my eyes upon
But when I gaed to the Barnyards
There’s nothing that but skin and bone

The old black horse sat on its rump
The auld white mare lay on her wime
For all that I could hup and crack
They wouldna rise at yoking time

When I gae to the kirk on Sunday
Mony’s the bonny lass I see
Sitting by her faither’s side
Winking owre the pews at me

I can drink and no be drunk
I can fecht and no be slain
I can lie with another man’s lass
And aye be welcome to my ain

Bothies may be found in many parts of Scotland, particularly Angus and Aberdeenshire. They were simple (very simple) farm buildings, built to house unmarried, usually male, farmworkers. These farmworkers were typically taken on for seasonal work, and may have travelled from afar, even from Ireland. Once the men had had enough ‘bothy tv’ (i.e. looking at the fireplace – although many didn’t even have these), they would sing songs (check out this wonderful site). In Aberdeenshire these came to be known as ‘bothy ballads’. Most bothy ballads tended to be about farms, farming, farmworkers, farmworkers on their days off … you get the picture.

The Barnyards of Delgaty is perhaps the most well known bothy ballad. Like most bothy ballads, it is not exactly deep and meaningful. Our protagonist goes to market to buy horses and is ripped off by the horse seller: “There was naethin there but skin and bone. The old black horse sat on its rump; the old white mare lay on her wime [belly]”. For some reason, he then goes on to brag about how attractive he is to the ladies, on account of his prowess at drinking, fighting and shagging (these events may have been included in the original Highland Games, but I’m not sure).

Our version is that given in Ewan MacColl’s Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland (1965). I suspect this a later evolution (is there any other kind?) of a longer original. David Buchan, in A Book of Scottish Ballads (1973), gives a longer, more serious, version, although still with the ‘bragging’ verses, and with a tune similar to the one in MacColl.

It has been suggested that the tune for ‘Barnyards’ was composed by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and was the melody for James Ballantine’s lyric, Linton Lowrie, which survives, in part, in the Barnyards’ chorus. Linton Lowrie, as a complete song, is reliably dated to 1908, so The Barnyards of Delgaty would obviously have to be later. However, ‘classical’ composers have often lifted traditional tunes for their own works, so Mackenzie may well have done the same. We just don’t know.

The Jones Boys play highly accomplished traditional music from Ireland, England, Scotland, Brittany, Sweden, Bulgaria …

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