I Ha'e Laid a Herrin' in Sa't
X:1 T:I hae laid a Herrin in saut M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Air S:John Rook music manuscript collection (Waverton, Cumbria, 1840, p. 251) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:G B2d d2g|egd e3|def g2a|b2c' d'3| B2d d2g|egd e2c'|bd'c' c'ba|ged d3|| b>ab c'2c'|d'>c'd' e'3|e2a abc'|bag g2f| B2d d2g|egd e2c'|be'd' c'ba|ged d3||
I HA'E LAID A HERRIN' IN SA'T. AKA - "I hae laid a herrin in saut." Scottish, Jig (6/8 time). A Major (Kerr): G Major (Rook). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Rook): AABB (Kerr). I ha'e laid a herrin' in sa't was a popular humorous courting song from the Aberdeenshire area dating back to at least 1776. It is attributed to James Tytler (1747-1805), a Scottish apothecary and the editor of the second edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. Tytler became the first person in Britain to fly by ascending in a hot air balloon in Edinburgh in 1784. He is both a remarkable and tragic figure whose talents allowed him to achieve successes as a political and religious controversialist, scholar, journalist, poet, song writer, musician, surgeon and printer. However, at the same time he was a social failure, often publicly ridiculed and a social outcast who did much hack work for low pay and rarely if ever emerged from poverty. He was eventually forced to flee Scotland by his creditors and died in Massachusetts.
The melody of "I hae laid a herrin in saut" was traditionally used for the Scottish country dance Flora Macdonald’s Fancy, however around the 1950's the music was changed (by dance collector Mrs. Isobel Cramb) to "Last Measure Prince Charles Danced with Flora MacDonald (The)" and "Wha'll be King but Charlie," as the "I laid a herrin" tune was already used by the RSCDS for the country dance Lord Rosslyn's Fancy. The Jacobite theme of the substituted songs also seemed to match with the dance title. The song appears in Gavin Greig's Scots Minstrelsie, vol. 1 (1893), wherein the words are credited to James Tytler, set to an "Old Melody."
I hae laid a herrin' i' saut,
Lass, gin ye lo'e me, tell me noo;
I hae brew'd a forpit o' maut,
An' I canna come ilka day to woo.
- Mats Melin, A Story to Every Dance: The role of lore in enhancing the Scottish solo dance tradition, 2018, p. 50