“Maggie Lauder”


Maggie meets a piper, Rab the Ranter, and encourages him to strike up a tune while she dances. He does, and she praises his work; he says, "It's worth my while to play indeed When I hae sic a dancer." She encourages him to ask for her if he comes again


One can only suspect that more than piping and dancing lies behind this song. This, indeed, may explain its rarity in the older collections; it sounds like a hidden story of something extremely indelicate. (The National Library of Scotland site, in fact, claims that Maggie ended up pregnant. The NLScotland broadsides do not show this, however.)

Habbie Simpson, to whom Rab the Ranter is compared, was a historical person, living in Kilbarchan (near Paisley) in the late sixteenth century; it may be significant that the father of Francis Sempill, Robert Sempill (c. 1595-c. 1665; not to be confused with another Scots poet named Robert Sempill, 1530?-1595), composed Simpson's elegy, _The Life and Death of the Piper of Kilbarchan, or the Epitaph of Habbie Simpson_ (c. 1640).

There is a broadside text (not a song) about Simpson at NLScotland L.C.1270(019), "Habbie Simpson and his Wife," unknown, c. 1845.

I don't know if Maggie and Rab are historical. - RBW

Same tune

  • Cornwallis Burgoyned (broadside of 1781; see Spaeth, _A History of Popular Music in America_, p. 25)
  • The Joyful Widower (Scots Musical Museum, #98)

Cross references


  • Murray, Mu23-y4:002, "Maggie Lauder," J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844
  • NLScotland, S.302.b.2(094), "Maggie Lauder," Simms and McIntyre (Belfast), probably 1825; also APS.3.84.2, "Maggy Lawder," Charles Pigott (London), after 1825 (with many distortions in the lyrics)


  1. Roud #5625
  2. BI, NSMagLau


Author: Francis Sempill? (c. 1616-1682)
Earliest date: 1794 (Ritson); reportedly written 1642
Keywords: music dancing
Found in: Britain(Scotland)