Scotlands Songs

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Greenwood Side (The Cruel Mother)

吀爀愀挀欀 ㄀㠀
(唀渀欀渀漀眀渀 愀氀戀甀洀 ⠀㈀㌀开 ㄀开㈀ ㄀  ㄀ 开 )
-4:53

This is a fine version of the ballad better known as ‘The Cruel Mother’.


She’s leaned her back against an oak

All alone and alone-y o,

She’s pushed and she’s pushed till her back’s near broke

Down in the bonnie Greenwoodsidie, o.


She’s leaned her head below a thorn

All alone and alone-y o,

The two bonniest babes that ever were born,

Down in the bonnie Greenwoodsidie, o.


Now she’s gane tae her faither’s castle haa

She was the smallest maiden of them aa.


She’s looked over her faither’s castle waa

She’s spied two bonnie babes playing with their baa.


Now babes o babes gin ye were mine

I’d dress you in the ribbons sae fine.


Now babes o babes gin ye were mine

I’d gie you breid and I’d gie you wine.


Now cruel mither when we were thine

You never proved tae us sae fine.


Now cruel mither when we were thine

Around our necks you pulled the twine


Oh babes, oh babes, now tell to me

The ill fate that’ll come tae me.


It’s seven years a bird in the wood

And seven years a fish in the flood.


And seven years ringin o the bell

And seven years to bide in hell


O welcome, welcome bird in the wood

Welcome, welcome the fish in the flood.


And welcome, welcome the ringin o the bell

But God keep me frae the fires o hell.


Hear it performed by Christine Kydd.


Other versions begin with verses that explain why the new mother is so ashamed she kills her twin babies.


There was a king’s daughter lived in the north

And she has courted her father’s clerk


She courted him a year and a day

Till her appearance did her betray


After killing the babies she goes home, but their ghosts come to reproach her and tell her how she will suffer for her crime.