Johnny's Grey Breeks (1)

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JOHNNY'S GREY BREEKS [1]. Scottish; Air, March. C Major (Carlin, Hardings, McGlashan): D Major (O'Farrell). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (McGlashan): AABB (Carlin, Hardings, O'Farrell). Breeks = pants ('britches'). The song is quite old, and various writers complain the original lyrics are unfit to print, so that several songs have been written to the tune. This was the original air to which the poet Robert Burns set his song "Bonnie Lass o' Ballochmyle (The)," although it has since been supplanted in some collections by a more modern one by William Jackson. The song perhaps became associated with the soldiers in the 90th Light Infantry, the Perthshire Volunteers, raised in 1794 and who, because the rank and file wore light grey pantaloons with their traditional red coats, were dubbed the "Perthshire Grey Breeks." The version in the Scots Musical Museum (Song XXVI) begins:

When I was in my se'enteenth year,
I was baith blythe and bonnie, O;
The lads loo'd me baith far and near,
But I loo'd nane but Johnny, O.
He gained my heart in twa three weeks,
He spak sae blythe and kindly, O;
And I made him new grey breeks,
That fitted him most finely, O.

See also James Oswald's "Jocky's Gray Breeches," a cognate version, but different enough to be listed separately. See also note for "Scots Recluse (The)."

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 1), 1782; No. 59, p. 21. Carlin (Master Collection), 1984; No. 186, p. 107. Hardings All Round Collection, 1905; No. 22, p. 7. McGlashan (Collection of Scots Measures), 177?; p. 3. O'Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. II), c. 1806; p. 129. Wilson (Companion to the Ball Room), 1816; p. 35.

Recorded sources:




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