“Johnny Lad (I)”


Sundry verses about Johnny, biblical themes, King Arthur, and Scottish politics, with refrain "And wi you, and wi you, And wi you, Johnny lad, I'd drink the buckles o my sheen Wi you, Johnny lad."

Supplemental text

Johnny Lad (I)
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

Johnnie Lad
(Nursery Song)

From John Ord, Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads (1995 John Donald edition),
pp. 168-169. No source information given, though it appears to be a
transcript of the version in Logan with the spelling slightly

I bought a wife in Edinburgh
  For ae bawbee,
I got a farthing back again
  To buy tobacco wi';
We'll bore a hole in Aaron's nose,
  And put therein a ring,
And straight we'll lead him to and fro,
  Yea! lead him on a string.

    And wi' you, and wi' you,
      And wi' you, Johnnie lad,
    I'll drink the buckles o' my sheen
      Wi' you, my Johnnie lad.

When auld King Arthur ruled this lad
  He was a thievish king,
He stole three bows o' barley meal
  To mak' a white pudding.
    And wi' you, etc.

The pudding it was sweet and good,
  And weel mixed up wi' plumes,
The lumps o' suet into it
  Were big as baith my thooms.
    And wi' you, etc.

There was a man in Nineveh,
  And he was wondrous wise,
He jumped into a hawthorn hedge
  And scratched out baith his eyes.
    And wi' you, etc.

And when he saw his eyes were out
  He was sair vexed then,
He jumped into anither hedge
  And scratched them in again.
    And wi' you, etc.

Oh, Johnnie's nae a gentleman,
  Nor yet is he a laird,
But I wad follow Johnnie lad,
  Although he was a caird.
    And wi' you, etc.

Oh, Johnnie is a bonnie lad,
  He was ance a lad o' mine,
I never had a better lad,
  And I've had twenty-nine.

    And wi' you, and wi' you,
      And wi' you, Johnnie lad,
    I'll drink the buckles o' my sheen
      Wi' you, my Johnnie lad.


The account of Samson fighting with "cuddie's jaws" is in Judges 15:15-16. There is, of course, no Biblical basis for the statement that he "focht a score of battles wearing crimson flannel drawers." While Samson spent most of his life battling the Philistines (mostly by accident), the clothing hardly fits an Israelite of the time.

The story of the Queen playing "fitba' with the lads on Glesga green" is unhistorical; by the time football/soccer became a major sport, Scotland's queen was a German lady living in England -- who, in any case, had no power to order an arbitrary arrest.

The story of King Arthur buying/stealing barley-meal to make pudding seems to have been imported from a nursery rhyme (known to Halliwell; see Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #207, p. 144, "(When good King Arthur ruled this land)." Roud seems to lump these verses with "In Good Old Colony TImes"; this strikes me as an extreme stretch.

The man of Ninevah (Thessaly, Bablyon) who scratched out his eyes is unbiblical. But it may be the oldest part of the song, and may have originated independently. The lines appear, in rather different form, in _Tom Thumb's Pretty Song Book_ Volume II (c. 1744); others appear in the second edition of _Gammer Gurton's Garland or The Nursery Parnassus_ (c. 1799). These verses can be found in Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #28, p. 40, ["There was a Man so Wise"].

These verses seem to have provoked a great deal of discussion. Katherine Elwes Thomas, who never met a tall tale she didn't blow all out of proportion, connects this to the career of Dr. Henry Sacherevell (died 1724), who for a time was forbidden from preaching, then restored to favour.

It has also been argued that this verse was known to Shakespeare; in _Twelfth Night_, act II, scene III, line 79 (Riverside lineation), Sir Toby sings "There dwelt a man in Babylon, lady, lady." But this is more likely from a broadside known as "The Ballad of Constant Susanna" (BBI ZN2467), which is of course from the deuterocanonical additions to the Book of Daniel (Daniel chapter 13 in Catholic Bibles; it even begins "There was a man living in Babylon"). - RBW

See Opie-Oxford2 11 for the King Arthur lines cited above by RBW. Opie also mentions "There was a man of Nineveh" or Thessaly, etc (Opie-Oxford2 497) as being "similarly embodied" in "Johnny Lad" (I).

Also see Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor, "Johnny Lad" (on Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor, "Two Heids are Better than Yin!," Monitor MF 365 LP (1962)). From the liner notes: "A few years ago, this was probably the most popular song of the folk revival in Scotland. Since then, endless dozens of verses have been added on themes historical, political, satirical, and nonsensical." - BS


  1. Bronson 279, "The Jolly Beggar" (37 versions, but #21 is a fragment of "Johnny Lad")
  2. Logan, pp. 443-445, "Johnny Lad" (1 text)
  3. Ford-Vagabond, pp. 45-47, "Jinkin' You, Jockie Lad" (a fragment of this song is quoted in the notes to that)
  4. Ord, pp. 168-169, "Johnnie Lad" (1 text)
  5. ST Log443 (Full)
  6. Roud #2587
  7. BI, Log443


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1827 (quoted in Kinloch)
Found in: Britain(Scotland)