Sparey: Willie Wastle dwalt on Tweed

Friday 26 May 2017
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Carolyn Sparey: Willie Wastle dwalt on Tweed

This setting of Robert Burns' jocular poem 'Willie Wastle dwalt on Tweed' has been set by Carolyn Sparey

Scoring: SATB choir and piano

Difficulty level: *** (out of *****)

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Signpost to Linkumdoddie

Photograph © Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Notes on the piece

Composed for the Old Well Singers, Moffat, Scotland.

Coinciding with the Burns 'Homecoming' celebrations in 2009, Carolyn Sparey composed two contrasting poems written for choir and piano – the first a touching love poem, Craigieburn Wood and the second Willie Wastle Dwalt on Tweed, which is rollicking, amusing and somewhat rude.

First performed as part of a concert in the Moffat Town Hall on 29th April 29th 2009, both songs have also been sung by Stirling University Choir on a number of occasions.

They are also provoking interest by other choirs both in Scotland, elesewhere in the UK and in the USA.

About the text
Alternative title

Sic a Wife as Willie's Wife (Kinsley, 373)
see pages from an 1800 chapbook in the G. Ross Roy Collection of Burnsiana and Scottish Literature, University of South Carolina, USA

Signpost to Linkumdoddie

Photograph © Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Linkumdoddie: home of Willie Wastle and his lovely wife

Linkumdoddie is no imaginary place, as is commonly supposed. The son of the minister of Broughton, Mr J R Cosens, Advocate, writing to The Scotsman, on 4th October 1889, thus identifies it:

Five and a half miles above Broughton, on the road to Tweedsmuir and Moffat*, there is a hill burn, which joins the Tweed, called the Logan Water, and on the bank of the Tweed, nearly opposite to the spot where the waters meet, stood a thatched cottage known as Linkumdoddie. The place is still marked by three trees, but the cottage disappeared forty years ago.

An old inhabitant of this district told me that he minds his grandfather speaking to him about a Gideon Thomson, a weaver, who at the end of last century lived at Linkumdoddie. This man was what in those days was called a customer weaver, and seems to have been a character.

My informant says he himself remembers the cottage, and is sure that his grandfather always spoke of the place by the name of Linkumdoddie.

The Poetical Works of Robert Burns, ed. J. Logie Robertson (London, 1904) p. 593

* presumably the current A701

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The text

Willie Wastle dwalt on Tweed,
the spot they ca'd it Linkumdoddie;
Willie was a wabster guid,
could stown a clue wi' onie body:
He had a wife was dour and din,
O Tinkler Maidgie was her mither!
Sic a wife as Willie had,
I wadna gie a button for her!

She has an e'e (she has but ane),
the cat has twa the very colour;
five rusty teeth, forbye a stump,
a clapper tongue wad deave a miller:
a whiskin beard about her mou',
her nose and chin they threaten ither:
Sic a wife as Willie had,
I wadna gie a button for her!

She's bow-hough'd, she's hein-shin'd,
ae limpin leg a hand-breed shorter;
she's twisted right, she's twisted left,
to balance fair in ilka quarter:
she has a lump upon her breast,
the twin o' that upon her shouther;
Sic a wife as Willie had,
I wadna gie a button for her!

Auld baudrons by the ingle sits,
an' wi' her loof her face a-washin;
but Willie's wife is nae sae trig,
she dights her grunzie wi' a hushion;
her walie nieves like midden-creels,
her face wad fyle the Logan Water;
Sic a wife as Willie had,
I wadna gie a button for her!

Text: Robert Burns (1792)
Music: Carolyn Sparey

 

English translation

Willie Wastle lived by the Tweed,
In a place called Linkumdoddie.
Willie was a good weaver;
He could pack a ball of thread with any body.
He had a wife who was sullen and dark-skinned,
Tinker [gypsy] Maidgie was her mother!
Such a wife as Willie had,
I would not give a button for her.

She has an eye [she has only one],
The cat has two the same colour,
Five rusty teeth, as well as a stump,
Gossips so loud it would deafen a miller;
A whiskery beard around her mouth,
Her nose and chin nearly meet:
Such a wife as Willie had,
I would not give a button for her.

She's bow-legged, she's hem-shin'd,¹
With one limping leg a hand-breadth shorter;
She's twisted right, she's twisted left,
To balance out in each corner;
She has a hump upon her breast,
Just like the one on her shoulder;
Such a wife as Willie had,
I would not give a button for her.

An old cat sits by the fireplace,
Washing her face with her paw;
But Willie's wife isn't so well turned out,
She wipes her face with a footless stocking;²
Her large fists are like creel baskets for compost or fish,
Her face would dirty the Logan Water:
Such a wife as Willie had,
I would not give a button for her.

 

¹ hem is the outer part of a millstone
² used over arms or legs in cold weather

Reviews

"This is a wonderful addition to the heritage of Scottish song in this the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth. To have new melodies is extremely refreshing and something of which Burns would have undoubtedly approved."

William Williamson, Conductor of the Old Moffat Singers

 
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