Minnie o Shirva's Cradle Sang

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Da boatie sails an da boatie rowes,
Dey set dir sails an dey hail dir towes,
Hush-a-baa-baa, me peerie lamb,
De faider is comin awa fae fram.

Da sheep dey baa, an da craas dey craa,
Dey flap dir wings an dey flee awa,
Hush-a-baa-baa, me peerie flee,
Aald Daa'll be comin wi shalls ta dee.

Da burnie rins an da burnie rowes
Da lambs dey dance ower da hedder-knowes,
Hush-a-baa-baa, me treasure dear,
Dey'll naebody hurt thee whin Mam is near.

Da laverick lifts an he sings ta aa,
Da Winter comes wi da caald an snaa,
Hush-a-baa-baa, me peerie flooer,
Lang Willie is löin ahint da door.

Da mares dey böl an da kye comes hame,
We lay wis doon ida Gödie's name,
Hush-a-baa-baa, ma peerie ting,
He covers wis aa wi His holy wing.

This was the song which Minnie o Shirva sang when baby sitting. She was a single woman who acted as local midwife. The song is well known throughout Shetland and although this is the version which has become recorded and popularised, it is possibly not the original, as this is thought to be quite an old song, certainly 150 years old or more. It is thanks to Jamesie Laurenson that this lullaby is still in existence. He was one of Fetlar's outstanding personalities and collected a great mass of stories, anecdotes and traditional tunes. I came by it via the very helpful Jane Coutts at the Fetlar Museum Trust and her husband. It appears in 'Songs and Sights of Shetland' compiled by Christine M Guy, published by Shetland Arts Trust and also in the School of Scottish Studies publication 'Tocher' no 52.

Rowes - rows, this refers to the 19th century boats six-oared boats, which could be rowed as well as sailed
Hail dir towes - haul their tows, ie draw in their long lines of baited hooks, up to 5 miles long
Aald Daa - grandfather
Shalls - probably shawl to wrap the baby in, but could also be shells
Burnie - small stream
Hedder-knows - heather hillocks
Laverick - skylark
Caald an snaa - cold and snow
Lang Willie - Willie Winkie, sleep personified
Löin ahint da door - looking, or lurking, behind the door
Böl - fall asleep
Kye - cattle

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