“Johnnie Sangster”


A harvest song about binding sheaves and Johnnie Sangster the bandster. The first part of the song is apparently sung by Johnnie or one of his companions; the end is sung by a girl who wants to marry Johnnie.

Supplemental text

Johnnie Sangster
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From John Ord, Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads (1995 John Donald edition),
pp. 265-266. No source information given.

O a' the seasons o' the year,
  When we maun work the sairest --
The harvest is the foremost time,
  And yet it is the rarest.
We rise as seen as mornin' licht,
  Nae craters can be blyther,
We buckle on oor finger-steels
  And follod oot the scyther.
    For you, Johnnie, you, Johnnie,
      You, Johnnie Sanster --
    I'll trim the gavel o' my sheaf
      For ye're the gallant bandster.

A moenin' piece to line oor cheek
  Afore that we gae forder,
Wi' clouds o' blue tobacco reek,
  We then set oot in order.
The sheaves are risin' thick and fast,
  And Johnnie he maun bind them;
The busy group, for fear they stick,
  Can scarcely look behind them.
    For you, Johnnie, etc.

I'll gie ye bads that winna slip,
  I'll pleat them well and thraw them,
I'm sure they winna tine the grip,
  Hooever weel ye draw them.
I'll lay my leg oot ower the sheaf,
  And draw the band sae handy.
Wi' ilka strae as straucht's a rash,
  And that will be the dandy.
    For you, Johnnie, etc.

If e'er it chance o be my lot
  To get a gallant bandster,
I'll gar him wear a gentle coat,
  And bring him gowd in handfu's.
But Johnnie he can please himsel',
  I wadna wish him blinket;
Sae aifter he has brewed his ale
  He can sit doon and drink it.
    For you, Johnnie, etc.

A dainty cowie in the byre,
  For butter and for cheeses;
A grumphie, feedin' in the sty,
  Wad keep the hoose in greases;
A bonnie ewie in the bucht
  Wad help to cresh the ladle,
And we'll get ruffs o' cannie woo'
  Wad help to theek the cradle.
    For you, Johnnie, etc.


Ewan MacColl's version of this is sung to a Lydian melody -- the only such I can recall in traditional Scottish music. This is not universal; Ord's melody is generally quite close to MacColl's, but with that Lydian (sharpened) fourth reduced to an ordinary Ionian fourth.

Ord quotes Greig to the effect that this is by one William Scott, but the evidence is thin enough that I don't cite him as author. - RBW


  1. DBuchan 69, "Johnnie Sangster" (1 text, 1 tune in appendix)
  2. Ord, pp. 265-266, "Johnnie Sangster" (1 text)
  3. ST DBuch69 (Full)
  4. Roud #2164
  5. BI, DBuch69


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1908
Keywords: farming work harvest
Found in: Britain(Scotland(Aber))