The Gallant Shearers

Leggi in italiano

The “shearers” of the song are not sheep shearers but seasonal reapers pouring into the Lowlands from the North of Scotland for harvest, grouped by families, or groups of men and women. When a large group of workers was in the pay of only one factor, it was sometimes called a piper to play during the harvest to boost productivity.

George Hemming Mason - The Harvest Moon

The work was tiring though monotonous but the harvest season was also an occasion for courtship as this song reminds us! For women to go to the reap was a way of emancipation from rigid social conventions. With the potato famine, seasonal workers were replaced by the Irish who came mainly from Donegal.

The author is anonymous, even if the text was attributed to Robert Hogg; Gavin Greig is more inclined to place the ballad in an antecedent age, at least at the eighteenth century given the numerous versions and arrangements that have come down to us.

The Tannahill Weaversfrom Alchemy 2000  The Gallant Shearers
The traditionally matched melody is “Johnnie Cope

Heritage

Robin James Hurt from ‘The Tallyman’s Lament, 2008. (paintings by Samuel Palmer -1805 – 1881) (I,  III, II, IV, V)

GALLANT SHEARERS
I
Adam’s vine (1) and heather bells
Come rattlin’ (2)  ower yon high high hills/There’s corn rigs (3) in yonder fields/And autumn brings the shearin’
CHORUS
Bonnie lassie will ye gang

And shear wi’ me the hale day lang(5)
And love will cheer us as we gang
Tae jine (6) yon band o’ shearers
II
And if the thistle it be strang
And pierce your bonnie milk white hand (7)
It’s wi’ my hook  I’ll lay it lang (8)
When we gang tae ( jine) the shearin’
III
And if the weather be ower hot
I’ll cast my gravat(9) and my coat
And shear wi’ ye amang the lot
When we gang tae ( jine) the shearin’
IV
And if the weather it be (over) dry
They’ll say there’s love ‘tween you and I/ We’ll slyly pass each ither by (10)
When we gang tae ( jine) the shearin’
V
And when the shearin’ it is done
And slowly sets the wintry sun (11)
Ye’ll be my ain till life is run
Nae mair tae jine the shearers

NOTES
1) it is usually written “Oh summer days” are the Tannies to say Adam’s wine (a euphemism to say rainwater)
2) Come blooming
3) now “yellow corn”  originally it was  corn rigs ; a cultivation technique that involved working the land in long and narrow strips of raised ground, and was the traditional drainage system of the time: the fields were divided into raised ground banks, so that the excess water flowed lower in the deep side furrows.
4) In Scotland the first harvest is made in August with the festival of Lammas (see”Corn Rigs Are Bonnie“) which continues throughout August (see “Now westlin winds“) considered as the month in which the autumn season begins and finally Harvest moon harvest, the full moon next to the autumn equinox
5) hale day lang = whole day long; men cut ripe wheat with a long sickle and women made sheaves with smaller sickles. The missile sickle was introduced only in 1810, before there were only sickles and the reaping work was carried out mainly by women.
6) jine= join
7) or “your lily milk white hand”
8) Hook, heuk: a reaping-hook; or “I’ll cut them down”
9) Gravat: scarf but in the sense of a neck tie. Corresponds to the Scottish owerlay used in the eighteenth century around the neck as a tie or a wide strip of linen: at the beginning (around 1600) was a kind of pledge that the girlfriends gave to their lover who was leaving for the war, and it was worn to protect themself from the cold and even like a sign of affection. The nobles preferred the Jabot to the neck, that is, a curled lace bib with a high collar. The tie more similar to ours dates back to 800 instead.
10) or we will proudly pass them by
11) or evenin’ sun
12) alternative line
We’ll have some rantin’roarin’ fun
And gang nae more to the shearin’
rantin’ roarin’ they are two adjectives often coupled by Robert Burns and synonyms. Rantin: uproarious

LINKS
http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/59962/4;jsessionid=5195DAE5CA230FF771267AD7EB4F44B1
http://www.ramshornstudio.com/band_o_shearers.htm
http://www.tannahillweavers.com/lyrics/1210lyr4.htm
http://ingeb.org/songs/noosumme.html
http://sangstories.webs.com/bandoshearers.htm

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