Mermaids, Sailor Ross and a Toast to Men and Maids

In 1974 Alan J Bruford visited Kirk, South Ronaldsay with his tape recorder. John was an archivist who worked for the School of Scottish Studies, set up to preserve Scottish/Gaelic heritage. He recorded songs and stories from John Dass of South Ronaldsay, and his brother-in-law Flottarian Norman Norquay (born 1903).  They sang “A Health to Every Man and Maid”, “Will I the Lum”, “A Shilling and a Clean Shirt” and “The Dark-Eyed Sailor”. Norman had heard “The Dark-Eyed Sailor” from John Sabiston of Flotta and the toasting song “A Health to Every Man and Maid” was written by a Hay man of Flotta.  Norman also recounted his sightings of a mermaid off the coast of Flotta, and a strange dog at the Head.

In previous years Alan had visited other Orcadians to collect their songs. In 1967 at Dounby, Sandwick, Ethel Findlater and Elsie Johnston sang “Andrew Ross” a ballad about a sailor from Flotta.  In 1971 he visited the village of Toab on Mainland Orkney and Auld Peter sang “The Painful Plough” which Peter had learnt from a Flottarian teacher and minister.

To listen to these recordings type Flotta into the search box of the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches website.

‘a collaborative project which has been set up to preserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online several thousand hours of Gaelic and Scots recordings. This website contains a wealth of material such as folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, traditions, stories and other information. The material has been collected from all over Scotland and beyond from the 1930s onwards.’

“A Health to Every Man and Maid” Was the composer James Hay the poet?

 John Dass & Norman Norquoy, “A Health to Every Man and Maid”, School of Scottish Studies
SA1974.70.A10, Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches

James Hay’s Tune Book

Submitted by David Palmquist:

This tune-book belonged to my grandfather’s grandfather, for 45 years the Society school teacher on the island of Flotta in Orkney, for the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. Its flyleaf is inscribed “James Hay’s Tune Book, October 14, 1843”.

The Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge was founded in 1709 to promote the Presbyterian faith amongst a mainly Gaelic speaking population in the Highlands and Islands. Schooling was heavily biased towards teaching of the Bible but also included the usual subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as the more practical subject matter of household and agricultural enterprises.

SSPCK school’s were often known as ‘Charity Schools’ because they provided free education

I hope those interested in religious music of this era will enjoy seeing, transcribing and playing it.

Click on the link below to access:

Tune Book