The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #3165   Message #15353
Posted By: Murray
27-Oct-97 - 09:14 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: The Ball of Kerriemuir / ...Ballynore
Subject: RE: Looking for a Scottish song
This is the notorious Ball o' Kirriemair (as I pronounce it). It's in the database, as The Ball of Kerrymuir I think, or Ballynure, both of which titles are inaccurate. That text though is a bit of a mishmash, with lots of stanzas from all over, old, new, etc. This is a real folksong, but has never been properly studied as such because it is outrageously obscene. A few texts have been published, though, of various levels of expurgation.

E.G.: "The Ball o' Kirriemeer" (begins "Oh the ball, the ball, the ball o' Kirriemeer"), in Kerr's Cornkisters (c. 1950), p. 40 (+ music). 11x2 lines + chorus ("Singin' fa'll dae it this time" etc.). Words collected, and trad. melody arranged and adapted, by RobertWilson. Expurgated.]

The tune is that used for a 19th-century song, "Castles in the Air", which is a variant of the 18th-century "Bonny Jean of Aberdeen". For documentation of the Ball, its historical basis, and some verses, see James Barke's essay "Pornography and Bawdry in Literature and Society" prefixed to "The Merry Muses of Caledonia" (1959 & later; 1964, 32 ff.). Cf. G. Legman, "Horn Book" (1964), 172, quoting a text from a bawdy anthology,"Forbidden Fruit", but with wrong estimate of date, and 423, with early congeners + 2 lines from the beginning of the text. On disc, we have it sung by Arthur Argo, *The Wee Thread o' Blue*, slightly expurgated.

A corrupt text (+ m.) in Vicarion, "Bawdy Ballads" (1957).

A much anglicised text, "The Ball of Kerrymuir", in Green, "Why Was He Born So Beautiful" (1967), 34: 43 stanzas ("Balls to your partner", etc.)Asterisk-expurgated. Includes 2 "Four and twenties", 33 personnel, 5 places, 2 concluding stanzas. St. 1: "Oh the Ball, the Ball of Kerrymuir, Where your wife and my wife, Were a-doing on the floor."

An American copy in Brand, "Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads" (1960): "The Ball of Ballynoor", 8 st. + chorus, rewritten as usual with Brand to suit the editor's public. His version of the chorus is "Who do you last night? Who do you noo? The one who do you last night, He canna do you noo", presumably a lamentable stab at Scots dialect. Another American version ("The Ball of Kirriemuir") in Ed Cray, "The Erotic Muse" (1969), 34 (tune very close). 19x4 lines + cho. St.1: "'Twas the gathering o' the clans, And all the Scots were there, A-skirlin' on their bagpipes, And strokin' pussy hair." Cho.: "Singing, 'Who hae ye, lassie, Who hae ye noo? The ane that had ye last time He canna hae ye noo'." [!] See Cray's notes, 153-5. This is a conflated version made from 2 copies. In the 2nd ed. (1992), we get two separate versions, with tune, and a good note (p. 95ff.). Cray, being a real scholar, hasn't interfered with these texts.

There is another tune, used particularly in the North-East of Scotland [the scene of the orgy], which is the vehicle of the folk version of the ballad "The Battle of Harlaw".

I haven't seen that verse about the goats before; it's very good. It may of course have been composed by your friend himself.As Legman says, "it is very much to be doubted whether any male Scot alive today, above the age of twelve, has not at least once heard 'The Ball o' Kirriemuir' sung, and joined in *at least* on the chorus. It is also a positive fact that numerous cultivated persons in Scotland today would consider their lives incomplete if they did not manage to add at least one" utterly scrofulous stanza to the ever-growing saga. [I've done this myself, I must admit.] Also, the word *firkin* in your quotation would seem to be your friend's playful bowdlerisation of the original forthright *fucking*--although again a respected philologist (Shipley) would derive the latter from the former [not proven, however].