Malinky: Handsel

August 11, 2020

Digging for Treasure

Listening Post 265. Malinky’s sixth album is a 20th anniversary gift—or handsel—to the award-winning ensemble’s legions of fans and to the Scots-language folk tradition its members faithfully serve. Co-founder Steve Byrne sums up the band’s ethos: “Dig where you stand,” stressing the importance of local song, culture and history to communal and individual confidence. Under that four-word banner is Handsel’s stunning detail: a two-volume, 27-song collection of new studio recordings, tracks from previous albums, live performances and demos. The core band members—Byrne plus Mark Dunlop, Fiona Hunter and Mike Vass—are joined by guest artists representing four generations and a spectrum embracing Lowland Scots, North-East bothy ballad and Ulster song traditions. Malinky’s rich harmonies and instrument arsenal of bouzouki, bodhrán, guitars, whistles and cello are perfect company for songs penned from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. Their stories star assorted bonnie maids and lads, soldiers, foresters, farmers and highwaymen and roam from meadow and harbor to castle and fair—all without the aid of a car or smartphone. A pure delight of a song is The Braes o Broo, told from the viewpoint of a young woman with her eye on a hardworking plowman (video 1). A betrayed bride gets her revenge in the merry-fatal Billy Taylor (video 2), while a luckier couple gets to the church on time in Pad the Road Wi Me, a song played at many a Scottish wedding (video 3). Byrne followed his mantra, digging into the history of Arbroath, his home town on the North Sea, for two songs: The traditional Awa Wi Ma Laddie, describing the city’s brook and mill (video 4); and The Lads o the Lindsay, which he wrote himself, about a rescue boat tragedy etched in local memory (video 5). With deep roots and green shoots of language and melody, Handsel is a gift all can share. (Greentrax)

Malinky: Handsel
Steve Byrne: Vocals, bouzouki, guitar, mouth harp, moothie
Mark Dunlop: Vocals, whistles, bodhrán
Fiona Hunter: Vocals, cello
Mike Vass: Tenor guitar, fiddle, vocals

Guest artists:
Ellie Beaton: Vocals
Len Graham: Vocals
Cameron Nixon: Vocals
Barbara Dymock: Vocals
Hector Riddell: Vocals
Dàibhidh Stiùbhard: Vocals
Euan Burton: Double bass


The Braes o Broo
Lyrics: Traditional, adapted Steve Byrne/Music: Traditional

The plooman laddie’s my delight/The plooman laddie loves me
They say the plooman lad’s wi me/When I’m sure he’s no near me

Get up, get up ye lazy loons/
Get up an waur them aa man
The Braes o Broo are ill tae ploo/They’re roch an reesky aa man

Oh he’s taen up his owsen gowd/It sets him weel tae caa man
He’s laid it ower the owsen bow/Says “Scurry, come awa man!”


What think ye o oor ploomen noo/Their high-cuttin ploos and aa man?
It wasna sae aince in a day/When the wooden pleuchie plooed aa man

What think ye o oor fairmers noo/Wi their binders ane and aa man?
It wasna sae aince in a day/When the plooman shure it aa man


What think ye o oor lasses noo/Wi their bicycles sae braw man?
It wasna sae aince in a day/That widna dee at aa man

What think ye o oor lasses noo/Their parasols and aa man
At kirk or mercat when they gang/Wi aa their ribbons braw man

I’ve learned tae spin wi threid sae fine/Ma plooman lad tae clead man
I’ll weave the hose tae hap his feet/The bonnet for his heid man

It’s I will wash ma plooman’s hose/
I’ll brush his dubby sheen man
I’ll maybe be a plooman’s wife/Ere aa thae days be deen man


Brae = sloping riverbank
Plooman = plowman
Waur = get the better of
Aa = all, every
Ill = hard, difficult
Roch = rough, luxuriant
Owsen = oxen
Gowd = gold
Weel = well
Caa = drive
Noo = now
Sae = so
Aince = once
Ane = one
Ploo, pleuch = plow
Braw = fine, well-dressed
Clead = clothe


Billy Taylor
Lyrics & Music: Traditional
From Malinky’s 2002 album “Three Ravens,” featuring the voice of Karine Polwart 

Billy Taylor was a sailor, he was courtin a fair lady
Instead of Billy gettin married, he was forced untae the sea
But his bride soon followed after under the name of Richard Carr
Snow-white fingers, long and slender, covered ower wi pitch and tar


She’s dressed herself in sailor’s clothing, oh but she was a bonnie young man
Away she sailed upon the ocean, all aboard the Mary Anne
A storm blew up upon the water, she bein there amang the rest
The wind blew off her silver buttons and there appeared her snow-white breast

Fal-da-ral-da-rum-dum- day-dee

“Well, now,” said the captain, “My dear lady, what misfortune brought you here?”
“I’m in search of my true lover whom you have pressed the other year”
“Well,” said the captain, “My dear lady, tell to me the young man’s name”
“Some folk call him Billy Taylor, William Taylor is his name”


“Well, if Billy Taylor’s your dear lover, then he has proved to you untrue/He’s got married tae another and left you here alone to rue
Rise ye early in the mornin’, early at the break of day/And there you’ll spy young Billy Taylor, walkin oot wi his lady gay”


She rose early up next mornin, early at the break of day/And there she spied young Billy Taylor walkin oot wi his lady gay
Gun and pistol she commanded, gun and pistol at her side/And there she shot young Billy Taylor walkin oot wi his new-made bride



Pad the Road Wi Me
Lyrics: Traditional, additional verses Steve Byrne/Music: Mike Vass

Says I, “My dearest Molly, come let us fix the time
/Fan ye and I will mairried be and wedlock us combine
Fan ye and I get mairried, love, richt happy we will be/
For ye are the bonnie lassie that’s tae pad the road wi me”

“Tae pad the road wi you, sir, cauld winter’s comin on
/Besides, my aged parents have ne’er a girl but one
Besides, my aged parents have ne’er a girl but me
/So I’m no the bonnie lassie that’s tae pad the road wi thee”

“Oh never mind cauld winter, love, the spring will follow on/
Come sit ye doon beside me, and I’ll sing you a nice song
I’ll sing you a nice song while I diddle ye on ma knee
/For you’re the bonnie lassie that’s tae pad the road wi me”

“Oh the ither lads that I hae had, they proved of cruel mind/
They beat me and bad used me and proved tae be unkind
They beat me and bad used me and garred me rue the day/
That e’er I gied my love tae them tae pad the road away”

“Oh lassie, dearest lassie, love, I’d never dae ye wrang/
It’s on my honest faither’s life I swear I’ll dae nae hairm

I’ll busk ye braw and fairer so ye could bear the gree
/As the belle o aa the country roon tae pad the road wi me”

So she has donned her hose and shoon and tae the kirk they’ve gane
/And lang, ay lang ere mornin that couple were made ane

And lang, lang ere the mornin, her troubles were set free
/For she’s the bonnie lassie that’s tae pad the road wi me
For she’s the bonnie lassie that’s tae pad the road wi me
/She’s the bonnie lassie that’s tae pad the road wi me

Pad = travel on foot
Richt = right
Fan = when, whenever
Diddle = dandle, dance
Gar = make
Gied= gave
Bear the gree = win the prize
Ane = one


Awa Wi Ma Laddie
Lyrics: Traditional, Mabel Skelton, additional verse Steve Byrne/Music: Traditional

Awa wi ma laddie, it’s awa wi him I’ll gang/Yes awa wi ma laddie, for he’s a nice young man

Noo the stoory mill’s for poverty but the Brothock Mill’s for pey/The Brothock Mill’s a bonnie wee mill, doon by the burnside


I took him doon tae the Brothock Mill tae see them aa gaein in/Rosy cheeks and curly hair, that’s the wey they rin


Mebbes I’ll get mairried yet, an mebbes no ava/Mebbes I’ll get mairried yet, tae ma laddie far awa


Fir Brothock is a braw wee toon, frae Seaton tae the Wyndies/Tae the bonnie lads and lassies there, we’ll aye be shair tae mind yese


Noo the stoory mill’s for poverty but the Brothock Mill’s for pey/The Brothock Mill’s a bonnie wee mill, doon by the burnside


Awa = away
Burnside = brookside
Pey = punishment
No ava = not at all
Braw = fine, excellent


The Lads o the Lindsay
Lyrics & music: Steve Byrne
The lifeboat (rescue boat) RNLB Robert Lindsay capsized off Arbroath on October 27, 1953. Six of the seven crew died in an event that shocked the town and in particular the close-knit fishing community which traditionally supplied crew for the lifeboats. Another six hands were lost on the Islandmagee which the lifeboat went out to try to save. A native of Arbroath, with knowledge of the local area and customs and memories of the aftermath from his late grandmother, Steve thought he might make a go of a song of his own. Some recent members of the Arbroath lifeboat crew are descendants of the men who perished in 1953 – David Bruce, Harry Swankie, William Swankie, Thomas Adams, David Cargill and Charles Cargill. Archibald Smith – “Bakie’s Erch” – was the sole survivor. Steve saw a documentary about the disaster in which a recent Arbroath coxswain said that in bad weather he would not choose two members of the same family to go out on a mission, in case a similar thing happens again. Thankfully, through design improvements, there have been no lifeboat fatalities in the British Isles since 1981.

In the hairst time o fifty-three/We lost six Lichties on the sea
Lifeboat lads fae the fisher way/Gaed doon ae nicht ayont the bay
A bonnie boat jist 3 year auld/The Robert Lindsay she wis called
A gallant crew o seiven men
/Jist ane cam hame again

Oh the Lindsay’s doon/Send the news aroon the toon
The Fit’ll ring wi tears the nicht/For the lads that left the Lindsay

Flares gaed up abune the Tay/Arbroath and Ainster made their way
A sandboat missin fae Dundee/Sailin bound for the port o Leith
Islandmagee had gone astray/They searchit roond till break o day
Try as they micht nae trace wis foond/Aff Crail aa hands gaed doon


Noo their brave search had been in vain/So the Robert Lindsay heidit hame
The wild winds they cam lashin on/They tried tae mak it through the storm
They were telt tae bide oot ower the bar/Fae Arbroath’s shore a few hunner yards
But the scowie nicht began tae lour/Waves broke and cowped them ower


The alarm wis raised an oot they gaed/They searchit fir the Lindsay brave
Cries o help in wind an rain/Bit come the morn twas aa in vain
Bakie’s Erch wis pu’d alive/For in the dark he’d grabbed a line
They couldna find the rest that nicht/Till the breakin o the licht
Next morn the boat lay on the rocks/Strapped tae the wheel wis Bruce the cox
Brave Adams on the Links wis found
/Wi young Cargill he cam aground

Twa loons were gettin merrit suin/They widna see their bleckenin
And Swankies, fae the fisher way/
Aa lost that fatefu day


We bade fareweel ae rainy day/The toonsfowk sent them on their way
Wives and dochters left forlorn/Aye, the haill toon it cam oot tae mourn
Up by the Abbey they did gang/Their toorie bunnets mairched alang
Flooers upon flooers were lain/As the Lindsay lads cam hame


And noo the day the lads ging oot there still/Battlin brave wi Neptune’s will
Descendants o the Lindsay crew/Riskin their lives oot on the blue
And noo they’ll no tak mair than ane/Fan twa lads bear the names the same
For hell forfend they ging doon again/Mind on the Lindsay’s men


Hairst = harvest
Fae = from
Lichtie = light, residents of Arbroath are called “Red Lichties,” from the lamp that shone in the harbor to aid shipping
The Fit’ll ring… = The Foot of the Town (the area where many “fisher folk” lived and had shops) will ring
Nicht = night
Ayont = beyond
Abune = above
Aff = off
Cowped over = capsized
Pu’d = pulled



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