Lyrics & Glossary

Bob-Leslie.jpg patreon

THE BARREN FIG (© Bob Leslie 2019)

Click on song title to see lyrics!

01: Up, Carles, Dance!

02: Drover tae Cowboy 

03: Upon a Foreign Shore 

04: Westray Dons 

05: I Thowt I Liked Winter

06: Nothing Else To Do 

07: The Doodlemychat 

08: Already Walking So Tall 

09: Ye’ll Nivver Find a Souter Doun in Hell

10: Lands o the Sioux an the Cree 

11: Hauf the Brains o Me

12: Beira

……………………………………………………………

Glossary of Scots Words Used in The Barren Fig

There are many dialects of Scots – by birth, upbringing and ancestry, I use words from Glaswegian, Ayrshire, Lothian,  and Orcadian forms, but have also picked up terms from Caithness, and Northern Scotland in general.

There has been some mingling of Gaelic or Gaelic-derived terms into Scots, and I’ve also absorbed some Gaelic directly. So, this glossary is a bit of a hotch-potch. The subject matter of the songs tends to make it clear which form of Scots is being used.
Click on the intial letter of the word to take you to that section:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y

……………………………………………………………

Up, Carles Dance

(excerpt from A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle by permission of the publishers, adaptation and additional lyrics © Bob Leslie 2019)

O Scotland wis the barren fig.
Up, carles, up and roond it jig.
Scotland wis the barren fig.
Up, carles, we wid dance!
A miracle, oor only chance.
Up, carles, up and we wid dance!
A miracle, oor only chance.
Up, carles, dance!

Auld Moses took a dry stick and
Straightweys it floo’ered in his hand.
A miracle, oor only chance.
Up, carles, we wid dance!

Pu’ Scotland up, and wha can say
It widna bud and blossom tae.
A miracle, oor only chance.
Up, carles, dance!

Nou, lang past Hugh MacDiarmid’s day
Thon fig’s in fruit, the ba’s in play
An miracles are near at hand
Up, carles, we shall dance!

Jist wan mair footstep tae advance
Up, carles, up, then we shall dance!
Jist wan mair footstep tae advance
Up, carles, dance! Hey!

O Scotland wis the barren fig.
Up, carles, up and roond it jig.
Scotland wis the barren fig.
Up, carles, we wid dance!

But, we shall sing an we shall pley
Thon fig’s in fruit, we’re oan oor wey
An miracles are near at hand
Sae up, carles, we shall dance!

Click here to return to Song List

Drover tae Cowboy

Ah remember auld fireside
Tales o the liftin
O kye tae Lochaber,
Wi the Prince yet oan Skye
Macmurchaidh Riabhaich
Surprised the bold reivers
Left nane bit their watchman
Tae tell hou they died

On the Montana ranges,
Yon story’s repeated
Wi rustlers no reivers,
Aa weel airmt wi guns
When Stuart’s men caught them
A week ago Sunday
At first there wis thirty,
Then there wis none

Fae drover tae cowboy
Fae Hielans tae homesteads
Ah crossed the Great Watter in ‘79
Wi iron wire fences
The railroads an Clearances
Naethin wis left fir a man o ma kind

As a boy Ah wid follae
Ma faither tae Falkirk
The Tryst wis in season
An then in its prime
We’d sleep in oor plaids,
An we’d drink an be merry
An trade wi the Drovers
Fae Berwick an Tyne

Nou Ah sit wi a rifle
At night ‘neath the Rockies
Oan guard wi the beasts
Against wolf pack an lion
Ah sing in the dairkness
Fir silence is lonely
It keeps the kye calm,
An it eases ma mind

When we roond up the herds
We are Scots, Gaels, and Irish
We’re black and we’re Spanish
Shoshone and Crow
In the heat o the summer
An cauld o the winter
The work needs us aa
That’s aa we need tae know

And in early Summer
The mountains are bonnie
Ah hunt the wild deer
An Ah drink fae the spring
Ah’m savin ma siller
Tae send back tae Braemore
An bring ower the lassie
That maks ma hert sing

Click here to return to Song List

Upon a Foreign Shore

An island boy wha went tae war
Wis follaein a dream
O farin tae exotic launds
Sae faur across the sea
An right enough
It wisna bad
Wance training days war o’er
Till he saw things nae man shoud see
Upon a foreign shore

Although his army rank wis low
He lacked nae self-esteem
An strove tae mak his unit prood
The best that it coud be
Wi newfund purpose
Straight and tall
He coudna ask fur more
Till he saw things nae man should see
Upon a foreign shore

At times, tae ready wi his fists
Tho’ wance mair faur fae strife
He hauds oan tae his anger
As tho’ it war his life
An drinks tae draw
The curtain oan
The Hell that cam before
Whan he saw things nae man should see
Upon a foreign shore

Torn remains, hung in a tree
Lit by a fiery flare
Enemy or ally
Sae haurd tae know or care
A bairn that caught a bullet
Jist fur talkin wi the men
An comrades blithe and lively
That he’ll nivver see again

Back tae his isle, he willna go
He fears tae loss control
In front o freends an kindred
And the lass he used tae know
A paper cup
In front o him
He begs his bed an board
An tries tae live wi whit he saw
Upon a foreign shore

Click here to return to Song List

Westray Dons

The Westray Dons are dark and bowld
At sea they hiv nae fear
Fir Philip’s cause, their faithers saild
Fae distant Finisterre
When Draco sent the Spanish fleet
Flee’n o’er the faem
That steady sailors an their sons
wid caa these Isles their haem

Westray Dons, Westray Dons,
Spanish blood an Orkney herts
Cheust keep them sailin on

While tradin in the Shetland ports
wi goods fae Pierowall
twa kegs o oail, Hugh Petrie bowt
an laid them in the howld
Some oors fae shelter, night cam doon
cheust as the wind an sea
in their quahrrel tossd the watter till
the sailors thowt they’d dee

Said Don Petrie,
“Tak the wheel, gudeman
an keep her oan her wey
Wir fate we maan tak in wur hands
if we’ll see land the day”
An then tae calm the stormy waves
he broachd the kegs o oail
that smoothd the seas an let them sail
tae herbour oan Fair Isle
Westray Dons

Don Gilbert widna pey the Earl
aal he claimd wis his due
Sae Patrick he hid taen da laa
tae apprehend the crew
That wi’oot licence fae the Earl
tae Norroway they’d saild
an tae Kirkwall shackld they maan go
tae thole it in his jail

Weel canny wis Don Gilbert
an he bid the earlsmen bide
“‘Tis ower late tae sail the night,
Stey till the mornin tide”
The chin an brandy flow’d sae free
it laid them oan the flair
sae the Westray Dons they stelt their boat
an the Earl cheust tore his hair
Westray Dons

Click here to return to Song List

I Thowt I Liked Winter

(Adapted, with permission, from a poem by Orcadian poet Ingrid Grieve – additional lyrics © Bob Leslie 2019)

Ah’m seek o this wather
Hid’s attry an grey
Hid’s niver stop rainan fae the turn o the days
Ah’m plitteran aboot in the gutter and weet
An I cunna mind last
Ah hid warm and dry feet.

I thowt I liked winter
Bit ah’m changed ma hert
The wind alwis blows fae the cowldest o erts.
There’s ice an there’s sleet there
tae mak yer face sting
I thowt I liked winter
Nou I long fir the spring.

Me lips are aal chappid
me nose is bright reed
I cunna go withoot a kep on me heed
Ah’m glad o me fire
An a gless o good cheer
Tae help me git by the dark days o the year

Cunna wait fir the spring
tae git gan at a pace,
withoot being bent double wae rain in me face
Bit sat at me fire
I hear a faint bleat, at least
I’ve the good fortune that Ah’m no a sheep.

Click here to return to Song List

Nothing Else To Do

There’s a criminal in the courtroom
An he’s guilty as aa Hell
Let’s pu the roof doon oan ‘im
Jist tae show oor strength o will
If the jurors an the judge aa dee
We’ll weep a tear or two
Then we’ll tell the world quite simply
There wis nothin else tae do.

Nothin else tae do
Ye aa saw hou bad he’d bin
Nothin else tae do
An oor consciences are clean
Fir damage that’s collateral
We might weep a tear or two
But if ye’re in the wey o Judgment Dey
There’s nothin else tae do

A laddie broke a windae
An anither sang a song
At 2 o’clock this mornin
Ye ken fine that that wis wrong
Sae we’ll impose a curfew
And we might shoot wan or two
Jist tae set a fine example
Fir there’s nothin else tae do

Nothin else tae do
“Boys will be boys” ye claim
Nothin else tae do
Bit wi’re actin in yer name
Fir damage that’s collateral
We might weep a tear or two
But if ye’re in the wey o Judgment Dey
There’s nothin else tae do

In a country by a desert
Whaur guid folk lived aa their deys
They raised their bairns and worked hard
Noo they’re deid or oan the waves
They kent nothin o the gunmen
Wha were only passin through
Bit we bombed their hames tae ruin
There was nothin else tae do

Nothin else tae do
Sey it three times an it’s real
Nothin else tae do
Hiv we forgotten hou tae feel
Fir damage that’s collateral
We might weep a tear or two
But if ye’re in the wey o Judgment Dey
There’s nothin else tae do

Nothin else tae do
They aa shout it fae their thrones
Nothin else tae do
Heids o bone and herts o stone
Collateral’s a price they’ll pay
Next time it might be you
If ye’re in the wey o Judgment Dey
There’s nothin else tae do

Oh, the Romans made a wasteland
And they caad it peace oan Earth
They set a bargain price oan jist whit
Human life wis worth
Nou the weapon-makars flourish
They’ve learnt that lesson too
Oor leaders sell their sowls tae them
They’ve nothin else tae do

Nothin else tae do
The decisions hiv bin made
Nothin else tae do
Bit launch a new Crusade
Yet damage that’s collateral
Paints ower whit is true
It’s jist anither name fir murder
Bit there’s nothin else tae do

Click here to return to Song List

The Doodlemychat

Whaur’s the doodlemychat, the thingummybob,
the hoojimiflippery, whitsitsname?
Ah thought it wis next tae the kenwhitahmean
Bit that’s no there either, oh, whit’ll Ah dae?

The verra dab fir ivvery need
An perfect tae finish thon thing Ah wis at
O’ aa the doohickeys that ivver Ah hid
there’s nivver a wan like ma doodlemychat

Yer hingy’s divine, a whoosit is fine
Bit they’re nae use at aa
Fir this thing that Ah’m at
Oh, kin ye no see there’s definitely
Indisputable need for a doodlemychat?

Whaur’s the doodlemychat, the thingummybob,
the hoojimiflippery, whitsitsname?
It’s easily seen, it’s blue, or it’s green,
The minute ye see it ye’ll ken whit Ah mean

Whaur’s the doodlemychat, the thingummybob,
the hoojimiflippery, whitsitsname?
Ah thocht it wis next tae the kenwhitahmean
Bit that’s no there either, oh, whit’ll Ah dae?

Click here to return to Song List

Already Walking So Tall

An empty house that’s full of souvenirs
Every scuff and scrape records the passing of the years
But nothing can replay childhood’s yesterday
That bird had to fly once it saw the sky

Wishing I could hear once more again
Those pure unfettered cries of joy or pain
The changes day by day, the laughter as they’d play
For all my smiles of pride, there’s something lost inside

And what I see, a part of me just can’t believe at all
Seemed such a distant day, when they’d just walk away
But they’re already walking so tall …
They’re already walking so tall

And now the hours that once just flew away
Creep in their petty pace from day to day
What I did before, I don’t remember anymore
Guess I’ll just have to learn, now that I’ve time to burn

So each will make a way that is their own
I will sing my songs again and follow where those go
Our paths will cross at times, but nevermore entwined
Quite as they used to be, now that they’re flying free

An empty house that’s full of souvenirs
Every scuff and scrape records the passing of the years
But nothing can replay childhood’s yesterday
That bird had to fly, just like you and I
First time we saw the sky
Once we saw the sky
Yes, we saw the sky

Click here to return to Song List

Ye’ll Nivver Find a Souter Doun in Hell

Oh, the Earl o’ Hell’s guid weskit,
it’s derker than his hert
An’ it’s studdit wi the souls o’ those wha’ve sinned
His sark is rid as Hellfire
an his trews are velvet smert
Bit his feet they gang unhapt wi socks or shin

Fir they’re cloven like a goat’s,
split richt up the seam
An there’s nae infernal cobbler tae be fund
Wha cin mak a perr o’ brogues
that wid ease them whan he walks
Oan the burnin, jaggit stanes o’ his hame grund.

Fir … aa the honest souters that gang shewin aa the world
Are faur tae busy wi their clientele
Tae booze or hure their lives awaa,
as tae their lasts they’re thirlt
Sae ye’ll nivver find a souter doun in Hell

Noo wee Mattie wis complainin that
he nivver goat a rest
As he toilt awa’ fae dawnin tae the dusk
He remarkt, “Oh, whit Ah widnae gie
if only Ah wir blest
Wi gowd enough tae free me fae this task.”

In an instant his wee shoapie
wis fillt wi’ fire an smoke
As an eldritch figure steppt oot o the blaze
Asbestos-bottomed Oxford shoes,
Beelzebub bespoke
“Size 65, wide-fittin, if ye please.”

They priggit ower the price required
fir Matt tae mak the shin
An finally they cam tae an accord
Confirmt by contract, signt in blood,
upoan a virgin’s skin
Which Mattie thocht wis takkin things too faur

Penalties fir late completion
wir o the standard kind
Fir example, if there wir a week’s delay
Then aa the hounds o Hell wid eat
his liver an his lights
“Ah’m hard bit fair,” he heard auld Satan say.

Bit whaur tae find a hide sae big an
strong enough tae thole
Fire an brimstone an the torments down below?
D’y’ ivver mind o yon stuffed elephant
they kept in Kelvingrove?
An wondert whaur that pachyderm did go?

Weel, it made twa lovely uppers
fir the Devil’s dancin gear
Matt reinforced the toecaps wi the tusks
Sae Auld Nick hid horns upoan his feet
as weel as next his ears
An he professed himself as pleased as Punch

Noo Mattie goes oan cruises,
an drives a vintage Rolls
An he’s bought a mansion up oan Hyndland Hill
Tho’ he struck a deal wi Satan,
an selt him baith his soles
Ye’ll still nivver find a souter doun in Hell.

Click here to return to Song List

Lands o the Sioux an the Cree

Fir the laird we wir on ca’
As the work wid come and go
Chon and me fir brave adventure hid a thirst,
Sae we signt the ither day
Wi the man fae Hudson’s Bay
Noo the laird kin go an whistle fir his hairst

Oh, pack thee fiddle, Chon,
Fir wur leavin in the morn
On the greatest exploit we shall ivver see
As the guns fire o’er the Ness
We’ll be sailin fir the Wast
Tae the Lands o the Sioux an the Cree
Tae the Lands o the Sioux an the Cree

It’s nine hunder ‘ear or more
Since wir folk first touch’t these shores
The finest sailors that wid ivver be
Guidit only by the stars
But they nivver sailt sae far
As wur gaan tae go the morn,
thee an me

Tho the watter’s wide and cowld
Chon an me are brave, and bold
Fir the salt o Scapa’s rinnin in wir veins
We kin earn six pound a year
Fir tae buy a ferm back here
Whar we’ll both tak wives
an raise a dose o bairns

Oh, Freya, dry yer eyes
Hid’s worth waitin for the prize
Five year will pass an Ah’ll be comin hame
Then we’ll maerry an buy land
An thoo’ll be prood o thee man
An he’ll nivver hae tae
go tae sea again

Click here to return to Song List

Hauf the Brains o Me

Ah’m a jumped-up proletarian
Tae nane Ah bou the knee
Ah’ve seen the world, raised bairns,
And been tae university
A trade union man for freedom
And a country tae set free
An ye’ll nivver meet a lord
Wha’s sportin hauf the brains o me

Ah, ma mither’s folk were minin stock
ma faither’s went tae sea
an though they worked, were jist as guid
as aristocracy
But they nivver stertit ony wars
or sent young folk tae dee
fir the interests o a lord wha’s sportin
hauf the brains o me

Bit aa the Pomp an Circumstance
Folk dearly loo tae view
Ermined capes and coronets
Their world’s red, white, an blue
It’s as if a dug wid pey its fleas
Fir aa the hairm they do
Bit they keep thir knees a-bendin
Aa thon forelock-tuggin crew

Bit it’s “Royal” this an “Royal” that
whaurever ye may be
Frae concert ha’s tae bridges
an oor laund’s geography
An there’s gowks sae daft as swally that
they’re glued tae their TV
Whaur they’ll nivver see a lord wha’s sportin
hauf the brains o me

Bit whit o human worth when dressed
in honest dignity?
Naethin rivals Independent thocht
an sensibility
Ah’d pit money oan it, in yer life,
ye’ll nivver meet or see
ony birkie cried a lord wha’s sportin
hauf the brains o me.

Click here to return to Song List

Beira

Wance Beira made mountains
An haimert them doon
Wrocht rivers and glens wi a will
Loch Ness an Loch Awe
She made them an aa
Then sat doon tae rest oan her hill

She wis Winter’s blue dame
An she ruled dour an cowld
Frae her seat oan bare Nevis side
Whaur she searched wi her ee
Ower the laund an the sea
Fir somewan tae mak her a bride

Beira, she looks fir her hero
Tae gie her the kiss that caas Spring
Throu the nichts aw sae cowld
Withert an owld
Winter’s Queen waits fir her King

Beira, she looks fir her hero
Tae gie her the kiss that caas Spring
An wid mak her wance mair
A lassie sae fair
Winter’s Queen waits fir her King

Beira the Cailleach
Her herr white as snaw
Herds her deer while
the wind’s makkin mane
Her staff is their guide
Nivver faur frae her side
They’re aa that she hauds as her ain

While she stirs Corryvreckan
She cries tae the stars
An the burns burst their
banks wi her tears
Oan Nevis she stauns
An lays storms ower the laund
While awaitin a chynge in the year

Angus the Bodach
Is cloth’d aa in green
An his spirit is young as the year
As the Bhealltain fires burn
The season will turn
Wi each step tae his luve he draws near

Noo the Bodach he fechts
Throu the holly an broom
An climbs up the wild mountainside
Tae be wi his Queen
An tae him sae she seems
Fir his hert sees the maiden inside

Beira, she smiles at her hero
As he gies her the kiss that caas Spring
An Beira wance mair
Is Queen Bride sae fair
As she lies in the airms o her King

Click here to return to Song List

A:

Aa/Aal – all

Ah – I

Airm – arm

Airt/Ert – direction

Alwis – always

Anither – another

Attry – bitter

Auld – old

Awaa – away

Click here to return to Alphabet

B

Ba/Baw – ball

Bairn – child

Baith – both

Beasts – domestic animals, esp. cattle

Bhealltain – Beltane, Spring festival

Bide – stay, remain

Birkie – fool, boisterous person

Bit – but

Bodach – old man, fertility spirit

Bonnie – pretty, good-looking

Bou – bow

Bowld – bold

Bowt – bought

Burn – stream

Click here to return to Alphabet

C

Ca/Caa – call

Cailleach (pron. KYEach) – old woman, female nature spirit

Cam – came

Canny – clever

Carle – fellow, common man

Cauld/Cowld – cold

Chappid/Chappit – chapped

Chon – John

Cheust – just

Chin – gin

Chynge – change

Corryvreckan  – great whirlpool between the isles of Jura and Scarba in the Hebrides

Cry – call, name

Cunna – can’t

Click here to return to Alphabet

D

Dab – suitable thing

Dee – die

Deid – dead

Dey – day

Derk – dark

Dose o – lot of, many

Doun – down

Dug – dog

Click here to return to Alphabet

E

Ear – year

Ee – eye (pl. “Een”)

Ert/Airt – direction

Click here to return to Alphabet

F

Fae/Frae – from

Faem – foam, sea

Faither – father

Fare – travel

Faur – far

Fecht – fight, struggle

Ferm – farm

Fillt – filled

Fir/Fur – for

Flair – floor

Fleein – flying

Flooer – flower

Follae – follow

Freend – friend

Fund – found

Click here to return to Alphabet

G

Gan/Gaan – going

Gang – go

Gless – glass

Gie (pron. ghee) – give

Git – get

Goat – got

Gowd – gold, money

Gowk – fool, cuckoo

Grund – ground

Gude/Guid – good

Guidit – guided

Gutter – mud

Click here to return to Alphabet

H

Haa – hall

Haem/Hame – home

Haimert – hammered

Hairm – harm

Hairst – harvest

Haud – hold

Hauf – half

Haurd – hard

Heid – head

Herbour – harbour

Herr – hair

Hert – heart

Hielans (pron. HEELinz) – highlands

Hid – it, had

Hiv – have

Hou (pron. “hoo”) – how

Howld – hold (of a boat)

Hunder – hundred

Hure – to lead a wild life

Click here to return to Alphabet

I

Ivver – ever

Click here to return to Alphabet

J

Jaggit – jagged

Jist – just

Click here to return to Alphabet

K

Ken – know

Kep – cap

Kin – can

Kye – cattle

Click here to return to Alphabet

L

Laa – law

Laird – lord, landlord

Laund – land

Loss – lose

Lang – long

Liftin – rustling

Luve – love

Click here to return to Alphabet

M

Ma/Me – my

Maan/Maun – must

Macmurchaidh Riabhaich (pron. macMURRachy REEVach – “ch” as in “Bach”),  name of an 18thC Clan Chieftain. The name means “The freckled son of the Sea-Warrior”.

Maerry/Merry – marry

Mair – more

Mak – make

Makar – maker, poet

Mane – complaint, moan

Mither – mother

Morn (the morn) – tomorrow

Click here to return to Alphabet

N

Nae – no

Naethin – nothing

Nane – none

Nicht – night

Niver/Nivver – never

Norroway/Norrowa – Norway

Nou – now

Click here to return to Alphabet

O

Oail – oil

Oan – on

Ony/Oany – any

Oor – our, hour

Ower – over

Owld – old

Click here to return to Alphabet

P

Perr – pair

Pey – pay

Pit – put

Plaid (pron. PLAY-d) – large piece of woolen cloth that doubles as garment and blanket

Pley – play

Plitteran – splashing

Pound – pound, pounds

Prig – haggle, bargain

Prood – proud

Pu – pull

Click here to return to Alphabet

Q

Quahrrel – quarrel

Click here to return to Alphabet

R

Rainan – raining

Reed/Rid – red

Richt – right

Rinnin – running

Roond – round

Reivers – cattle thieves

Click here to return to Alphabet

S

Sae – so

Sailt – sailed

Sark – shirt

Shewin – shoeing

Shid – should

Shin – shoes

Shoapie – small shop

Siller – money, coins, silver

Smert – smart

Snaw – snow

Souter – cobbler, shoemaker

Sowl – soul

Stane – stone

Stelt – stole

Stert – start

Stey – stay

Straightweys – immediately

Studdit – studded

Click here to return to Alphabet

T

Tae – to

Tak – take

Thee – thee, you, thy, your

Thirlt – bound, enslaved

Tho – though

Thocht – thought

Thole (“th” as in “bath”) – bear, put up with

Thon – that (Scots has 3 indicators: this, that, & thon/yon – the last is used for more remote or abstract items)

Thoo – thou, you

Toilt – toiled

Tryst – annual cattle-traders’ meeting at Falkirk

Click here to return to Alphabet

U

Unhapt – unclothed, unwrapped

Click here to return to Alphabet

V

Verra – very

Click here to return to Alphabet

W

Wae/Wi – with

Wan – one

Wance – once

War – were

Watter (pron. WAHter) – water

Weel – well

Weet – wet

Weskit – waistcoat

Wey – way

Wha (pron hWA or hWAW) – who

Whan – when

Whar/Whaur – where

Whit – what

Windae – window

Wioot – without

Wid – would

Widna/Widnae – wouldn’t

Wir – were

Wir/Oor – our

Wis – was

Wisna – wasn’t

Wrocht – wrought, made

Wur – we’re

Click here to return to Alphabet

Y

Yer – your

Click here to return to Alphabet

Yon – see “Thon”

Click here to return to Alphabet