Wee German Lairdie

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WEE(, WEE) GERMAN LAIRDIE, THE. AKA – "The German Lairdie," "Wee German Lairdie." Scottish, English; Air (4/4 time). England, Northumberland. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. The title of this song and the content of the lyric refers to the Scottish Jacobite campaigns of the 18th century. However, it is not Jacobite in origin, as the words were written in a later period by Allan Cunningham (1784–1842), set to an older tune. Cunningham contrituted the song to Cromek's Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Songs (1810), where it appears with a note stating that it was one version out of several the editor [Cromek] heard sung. Cunningham later published it himself, but was pleased for some time to let the fiction build that the song was Jacobite in origin. Nigel Gatherer (1987) identified James Hogg as the composer of one air (albeit not the words) for the lyric (borrowed with alterations from Cromek), but acknowledged the song was usually been sung to another tune. Hogg [1] thus printed two tunes with the song, one composed by himself and the other "an old set" which was "the best original one" he could locate. Hogg took the song he took from Cromek's Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Songs (1810), except for three lines obtained from an older collection where it was found in a section of 'Jacobite Ballads, 1715', and with an additional verse at the end. Cazden (et al, 1982) discusses the relationship of this melody to other tunes in the "Boyne Water (1)" family, and notes it is a reverse phrasing from the ususal form. See also the related tunes in this family: "Wha the Deil Hae We Gotten for a King?" "Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation," "Rashes (The)," "Playing amang the Rashes," "Boyne Water (1)." The words go:

Wha the deil hae we gotten for a king but a wee wee German lairdie,
When we gaed oer tae bring him hame he was delvin in his yairdie.
sheuchin kail an layin leeks, wi'oot the hose an but the breeks
And up wi his beggar duds he cleeks, this wee, wee German lairdie

An hes clapt doon in oor guidmans chair, this wee wee German lairdie
And hes brought forth o foreign trash and dibbled them in his yairdie.
He's pu'd the rose o' English loons, and broken the harp o' Irish cloons
But oor thistle taps will jag his thoombs, this wee wee German lairdie.

Come up upon oor hielan hills thou wee bit German lairdie,
And see how the Stewarts lang kail thrives thats dibbled in oor yairdie.
And if a shook ye dare tae pu, or haud the yokin o' a plough
We'se brak yer sceptre ower your mou', thou wee bit German lairdie.

Oor hills are steep, oor glens are deep, nae fittin for a yairdie
oor Norland thistles winna pu' thou wee bit Hreman lairdie.
We've the trenchin blades o' weir wad prune you o your German gear
We'se pass ye neath the claymore's shear thou fecklless German lairdie.

Auld Scotland thou art ca'd a hole for nursin siccan vermin.
But the very dogs o" England's court can bark and howl in German.
Then keep thy dibble in thy ain hand, thy spade but and thy yairdie
Forwha the deil now claims your land but a wee wee German lairdie.

The title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Hogg (Jacobite Relics of Scotland, vol. 1), 1819; No. 51, pp. 83–84. Gatherer (Gatherer's Musical Museum), 1987; p. 30. Chambers (Songs of Scotland Prior to Burns), 1890; p. 47. The Pocket Encyclopedia of Scottish, English and Irish Songs, vol. 1, 1816; pp. 215–216.

Recorded sources:




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