“Queen Mary's Men (New Year's Eve Carol)”

Alternate titles: “Orkney New Year's Eve Carol”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1964 (Montgomery)
Keywords: food carol
Found in: Britain(Scotland)

Description

"This is good New Year's Even-night, We are all Queen Mary's men, And we've come here to claim our right, And that's before Our Lady." The singers travel the town asking for gifts of food. The offer good wishes for the residents

Notes

This song seems to be known mostly in the north of Scotland, where Catholicism held on long after the Reformation, so the refernce to "Our Lady" probably does not indicate an early date.

The reference to "Queen Mary" is not very helpful in dating. Counting backward, queens of Britain named Mary were:

Mary of Teck, wife of George V (1867-1953)

Mary II Stewart, wife of William III (joing monarchy; reigned 1689-1694; born 1662)

Mary of Modena, second wife of James II (1658-1718); if she were meant, this would be an overtly political song, which seems unlikely

Queens Mary of England after 1400 were:

Mary I, queen regnant 1553-1558 (1516-1558)

Queens Mary of Scotland after 1500 were:

Mary Stuart, queen regnant 1542-1567 (1542-1587)

Mary of Guise, wife of James V and mother of Mary Stuart (1515-1560)

Mary of Gueldres, wife of James II (died 1463)

All of these save Mary II were Catholic, but few of them are convincing candidates for the Queen Mary of the song. - RBW

References

  1. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 200, "Queen Mary's Men" (1 text)
  2. DT, MARYMEN
  3. Roud #4584
  4. BI, MSNR200