When I was new but sweet sixteen,
In beauty just in bloomin', o
O little, little did I think
At nineteen I'd be greetin',o.
O, hishie ba, for I'm your ma,
But the De’il kens far's your daddy, o
But I'll tak care, an be aware
O' young men in the gloaming, o
For the plooman lads are gey weel lads
They're false and they're deceiving, o
They'll gang awa', they'll sail awa'
And leave their lasses greetin', o
It’s keepit me frae loupin dykes,
Frae balls and frae waddins o
It’s gien me balance tae my stays
They tell me that’s the fashion o
If I'd a kent what I ken noo
And done my mother's biddin', o
I’d nae be here at your fireside
Cryin' "Hishie ba, ma bairnie, o"
Greetin' - weeping
The De'il kens far's yer Daddy - the Devil knows where your Daddy is (see note below)
Gloaming - evening light
gey weel - very well
loupin dykes - leaping stone walls
waddins - weddings
stays (pron "sties") - corset
Some singers use "far's" (where is) and some "fa's" (who is). In the former version, the implication is that the father has abandoned the mother, possibly simply because of having to move on to work at another farm. The latter, however could have more sinister implications, as Irene Watt pointed out in ther 2015 seminar at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. She observed that the mother might be referring to a gang sexual assault.
The video link below gives a slightly different version of the song with an alternative refrain and more colourful language in one of the verse. Jeannie Robertson's version on the Celtic Lullabies album uses a similar refrain to the one Arthur Argo sings in the video.
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