“The Hireman Chiel”


A baron's son disguised as a laborer wins the heart of a young lady. Her parents do not approve, but they escape together and at last the young man reveals his station.

Supplemental text

Hireman Chiel, The
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From John Ord, Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads, pp. 480-486. Collected
1908 from Robert Mellis, West Folds, Huntly.

THERE was a knight, a baron bright,
  A bold baron was he,
And he had only but one son,
  And a comely youth was he.

He brought him up at schools nine,
  So has he at schools ten,
And the boy learned to haud the plough
  Amang his father's men.

But it fell ance upon a day
  The bold baron did say:
"My son, you maun gae court a wife,
  And ane o' high degree.

"Ye hae lands, woods, rents, and bowers,
  Castles and towers three;
Then go, my son, and seek some dame
  To share these gifts wi' thee."

"Yes, I have lands and woods, father,
  Castles and towers three;
But what if she likes my lands and rents
  Far more than she loves me?

"But I will go and seek a wife
  That weel can please my e'e;
And I will fairly try her love
  Before she goes wi' me."

Then he's taen aff his scarlet coat,
  Bedeck'd wi' shinin' gold,
And he's put on the hireman's coat
  To keep him frae the cold.

He's laid past the studded sword
  That he could bravely draw,
And he's gone skippin' down the stair,
  Swift as a bird that flaw.

He took a stick into his hand,
  Which he could bravely wiel',
And he's gone whistling o'er the lan',
  Like ony hireman chiel.

He gaed up yon high, high hill,
  And low in yonder glen,
'Twas there he saw a gay castle
  Wi' turrets nine or ten.

And he's gone on and further on,
  Till to the yett drew he,
And there he saw a lady fair,
  That pleased that young man's e'e.

He went straught to the grieve's chamber,
  And with humilitie
Said, " Hae ye ony kind o' work
  For a hireman chiel like me?"

"What is the wark ye'd tak' in han',
  Or how can we agree?
Can ye plough, sow, and reap the corn,
  And a' for meat and fee?"

"Yes, I can plough, and reap and mow,
  And sow the corn tee,
And I can manage horse and cow,
  And a' for meat and fee."

"If ye can haud the plough richt weel,
  And sow the corn tee,
By faith and troth, my hireman loon,
  We sanna pairt for fee."

He's put his hand in his pocket,
  And ta'en out shillings nine;
Says, "Tak' ye that, my hireman chiel,
  And turn in here and dine."

He acted all he took in hand,
  His master loved him weel;
And the young lady of the land
  Fell in love wi' the hireman chiel.

How oft she tried to drown the flame,
  And oft wept bitterlie;
But still she loved the hireman ohiel,
  So weel's he pleased her e'e.

She has written a broad letter,
  And sealed it wi' her hand,
And dropt it at the stable-door
Where this young man did stand.

"I am in love, my hireman chiel,
  I'm deep in love wi' thee;
And, if ye think me worth your love,
  I' the garden green meet me."

When he read the letter o'er,
  A loud, loud laugh gae he; [1]
Said, "If I manage my business weel,
  I'm sure to get my fee."

At night they met behind a tree,
  Low in the garden green,
To tell the tale among the flowers,
  And view the evenin' scene.

Next morning by the rising sun,
  She, wi' her Maries fair,
Walk'd to the field to see the plough
  And meet the hireman there.

"Good morn, good morn, my lady gay,
  I wonder much at you,
To rise so early in the morn
  While fields are wet wi' dew;
To hear the linnets on the thorn,
  And see the plough-boy plough."

"I wonder much at you, young man,
  I wonder much at you,
That ye no other station have
  Than hold my father's plough."

"I love as weel to rise each morn
  As you can your Maries fair.
I love as weel to hold the plough
  As if I was your father's heir.

"If ye love me as ye protest,
  As I trust weel ye dee, [2]
The morn's nicht at eight o'clook,
  In the guid green-wood meet me."

"Yes, I love you, my hireman chiel,
  And that most tenderlie,
But my maidenhood it feareth me
  So late to meet with thee."

"Tak' ye no dread, my bonnie lass,
  Lat a' your folly be;
If ye come a maiden to the green wood,
  Ye'll return the same for me."

The lady she went home again,
  Wi' a Marie on every hand;
She was so very sick in love,
  Should could not sit or stand. [3]

It was on a dark and dismal night,
  No stars blink'd o'er the lea,
When the lady and her hireman met
  Under the greenwood tree.

He took the lady in his arms,
  Embraced her tenderlie,
And thrice he kissed her rosy lips
  Under the greenwood tree.

"Haud aff your hands, young man," she said,
  "I wonder much at thee;
The man that holds my father's plough
  To lay his hands on me."

"No harm I mean, my winsome dame,
  No impudence at a';
I never laid a hand on you
  Till your libertie I saw.

"But the morning it is coming in,
  The dew is falling down,
An' you must go home again
  Or you'll spoil your satin gown."

"If you are wearied of me so soon,
  Why did you tryst me here?"
"I would not weary with you, my dear,
  Though this night were a year."

When morning beams began to peep
  Among the branches green,
The lovers rose to part, and meet,
  And tell their tale again.

"Ye will go home unto the plough,
  Where often ye hae been;
I'll tak' my mantle folded up
  And walk i' the garden green.

"The baron and my mother dear
  Will wonder what I mean;
They'll think I've been disturbed sair,
  When I am up see seen."

But this passed on, and further on,
  For two months and a day,
Till word cam' to the bold baron,
  And an angry man was he.

The baron swore a solemn oath,
  An angry man was he:
"The morn before I eat or drink,
  High hanged he shall be."

"Farewell, my lovely lady fair,
  A long adieu to thee;
Your father has sworn a solemn oath
  That hanged I shall be."

"O woe's me!" the lady said,
  "Yet do not troubled be;
If e'er they touch the hair on thy head
  They'll get no good of me."

He turned him right and round about,
  And a loud, loud laugh gave he:
"That man never stood in a oourt
  That daur this day hang me."

Her mother spoke from her bower door,
  An angry woman was she:
"What impudence in you to tryst
  Her to the greenwood tree."

He turned him right and round about,
  And a loud, loud laugh gave he:
Says, "If she came a maid to the green, green wood,
  She return'd the same for me.

"If she had not gien her consent,
  She had not gone with me;
Ye may wed your daughter when ye will,
  She's none the worse for me."

He's gone whistling o'er the knowe,
  Swift as the bird that flaw;
The lady stood in her bower door
  And lat the tears downfa'.

But this passed on, and further on,
  Till two months and a day,
When there came a knight, a baron bright,
  To woo this lady gay.

He soon gained the baron's will,
  Likewise the mother gay;
He woo'd and won the lady's love,
  But by a slow degree.

"O weel befa' you, daughter dear,
  And happy may ye be,
To lay your love on that grand knight,
  And let the hireman be."

"O haud your tongue, my father dear,
  And speak not so to me;
For more I love yon hireman chiel
  Than a' the knights I see."

The morn was oome, and tho bells were rung,
  And all to church repair;
And like a rose among the thorns
  Was this lady and her Maries fair.

But as they walked across the field,
  Among the flowers so fair,
Beneath a tree stood on the plain,
  The hireman chiel was there.

"I wish ye joy, my gay madam,
  And aye weel may ye be;
Here's a ring, a pledge o' love,
  That ance I got from thee."

"O wee befa' you, hireman chiel,
  Some ill death may ye dee;
Ye might hae tauld to me your name,
  Your hame, and your countrie."

"If ye love me, my lady fair,
  As ye protest ye dee, [2]
Then turn your love from this grand knight,
  And reach your hand to me."

Then out it spoke the gay, gay baron,
  And an angry man was he:
"If I had known she was belov'd
  She had ne'er been loved by me."

When she was set on high horse-back,
  And ridin' through the glen,
They saw her father followin' fast
  Wi' fifty armed men.

"Do for yourself, my hireman lad,
  And for your safety flee;
My father he will take me back,
  But married I'll never be."

When they gaed up yon high, high hill,
  There, low down i' the glen,
They saw his father's gilded coach,
  Wi' five hundred gentlemen.

"Come back, come back, my hireman chiel,
  Turn back and speak wi' me;
Ye served me fang for my daughter's sake,
  Come back and get your fee."

"Your blessing give us instantly,
  Is all we crave of thee;
Seven years I served you for her sake,
  And now I've got my fee."


[1] "gae": so Ord; I would assume the singer sang "gie"
[2] "dee": i.e. "dae"
[3] "Should": read "She"?

Long description

A baron's son, told by his father to marry, disguises himself as a laborer to find a lady who will marry for love. He sees a beauty at a castle gate, and gets himself hired by the grieve. The lady falls in love (of course), and writes him a letter to arrange a meeting. They meet, declare their love, and arrange to meet again by night, with the young man's assurances not to wrong her honor. They begin meeting every night, and her parents become suspicious. She tells the young man of her father's threats to hang him, and he scoffs at them. But they are overheard and confronted by her mother. The young man departs, telling the mother her daughter is still marriageable. A nobleman courts and wins the young lady, but as they are going to be married the young man reappears and the two lovers escape. The father pursues them to the young man's home. His identity revealed, the young man asks the father's blessing, saying, "Seven years I served for her sake, But now I've got my fee."


That last section ("Seven years I served for her sake, But now I've got my fee") sounds to me very much like an echo of the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Laban (Gen. 29:15-30) -- but I suppose it could be coincidence. - RBW


  1. Ord, pp. 480-486, "The Hireman Chiel" (1 text)
  2. DBuchan 64, "The Hireman Chiel" (1 text, 1 tune in appendix)
  3. ST DBuch64 (Full)
  4. Roud #5624
  5. BI, DBuch64


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1908 (collected by Ord from Robert Mellis)
Found in: Britain(Scotland(Aber))