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The Keach (Keech) in the Creel

  • (Trad - Child #281)

    (Version 1)
            Ricky doo dum day, doo dum day
            Ricky dicky doo dum day

    A fair maid she went up the street
    Some white fish for to buy
    An' a bonnie clerk's fell in love wi' her
    An' he's followed her by an' by

    Oh where live you my bonnie lass
    I pray you tell me true
    An' though the nicht be e'er sae dark
    I will come an' visit you

    Ma faither locks the door at nicht
    Ma mither keeps the key
    An' though ye were nae such a rovin' blade
    Ye canna win in tae me

    But the clerk he had a young brither
    An' a wily wight was he
    And he has made a lang ladder
    Wi' thirty steps an' three

    He's made a cleek bit and a creel
    And the creel's put on a pin
    (creel - wickerwork basket)
    An' he's awa' tae the chimney top
    An' he's letten the bonnie clerk in

    Noo the auld wife couldnae sleep that nicht
    Though late, late was the hoor
    I'll lay ma life, Says the silly auld wife
    There's a man in oor dochter's boo'er
    (silly - simple; bower - bedroom)

    Rise up, rise up, my guidman
    And see if this be true
    If you're wantin' risin', rise yersel'
    I wish the auld chiel had you
    (auld chiel - devil)

    Then up she rose and doon she goes
    And into the creel she flew
    An' the clerk's brither at the chimney top
    He foond that the creel was fu'

    He's hauled her up, he's hauled her doon
    He's gi'en her a richt doon fa'
    Till every rib in the auld wife's side
    Played nick nack on the wa'

    Oh help me noo my auld guidman
    Oh help me noo ma doo
    For him that you wished me wi' this nicht
    I think he's gotten me noo

    Gin auld nick has catched ye noo
    I wish he haud ye fest
    For atween you and your ae dochter
    I never get ony rest

    (as sung by Cilla Fisher & Artie Trezise)


    The Keach (Keech) in the Creel

    (Version 2)

    With my too-ri-ah fol-a-diddle-dah
    My too-ri-ah ri-fol-a-diddle-dan-too-ni-doh

    As I roved out on a moonlit night, excitement for to find
    I met on the way with a pretty little girl and I asked her to be mine
    How can I get to your father's house, how can I get to your bed
    My father locks the door at night, and the keys lie under his head
    The keys lie under his head

    If you get a ladder thirty foot, thirty foot and three
    And place it up to the chimney top, come down in the creel to me
    So I got me a ladder thirty foot, thirty foot and three
    And placed it up to the chimney top, and down in the creel came me
    Down in the creel came me

    But the old one, she'd been still awake, when something that was said
    I'll lay me life, said the silly old wife, there's a man in my daughter's bed
    The old man he got out of bed to see if it was true
    But she pushed me down with her lily-white arms and under the coverlet blue
    Under the coverlet blue

    Where are you going, father dear, where are you going so late
    You disturbed me of my evening prayers and oh, but they were sweet
    The devil take you, silly old wife, and an ill death may you die
    For your daughter's lying with a book in her arms, praying for you and I
    She's praying for you and I

    But the old one, she is still awake, when something else was said
    You can say what you want, you silly old fool, there's a man in my daughter's bed
    No rest, no peace could the old one get till she got up to see
    But her foot gave a shot to the chamber pot, and into the creel fell she
    Into the creel fell she

    Rise up, rise up and help me, husband dear, rise up and help me now
    For the one that you have wished me to, I fear he's got me now
    What I hope he's got, I hope he keeps and never lets it go
    For between yourself and your daughter dear it's time for the cock to crow
    It's time for the cock to crow

    (as sung by Rossavielle, to a different tune)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen


  • [1692:] A gentleman of good reputation and credit ... confessed to me, with regret, that in the heat of his youth he had been guilty of the sin of fornication with a gentlewoman of that holy sect [the Presbyterians]. He says, that being with her in a garret, and she hearing some body coming up stairs, she said to him, 'Ah, here's my aunt. I must devise a trick to divert her.' Upon which, she fell a whining and howling aloud, as these people used to do at their most private devotions. 'Oh, to believe, to believe! Oh, to have experience!' said she. And by that means she diverted her aunt's further approaching, who instantly retired, commending her niece's zeal and devotion. ('Jacob Curate', 'The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence')

  • [1961:] The first printed version of this ballad did not appear until early in the nineteenth century although the theme has been part of European literature since the middle ages. Professor Child concludes his notes on the ballad with a peculiarly prim comment: "No one looks for decorum in pieces of this description but a passage in this ballad, which need not be particularized, is brutal and shameless almost beyond description." These are harsh words for a scholar whose stock-in-trade was stories dealing with mayhem in all its forms and it is difficult to imagine what prompted them. It is, of course, possible that Child was shocked by the use of the word "keach" on which considerable play is made in the song. Used as a noun the word denotes bustle or fluster, when used as a verb, however, it can mean "lift" or "hoist" or alternatively it can mean to void excrement. The ballad is widespread throughout N. E. Scotland and was a favourite in the bothies where it was generally known as The Wee Toon Clerk. (Notes Ewan MacColl, 'Bothy Ballads of Scotland')

  • [1977:] Popular since the mid-19th century in Scotland, although the story is considerably older. (Notes Jean Redpath, 'Ballad Folk')

  • [1979:] It is surely a measure of an almost total revolution in taste that whereas nobody nowadays would think twice about including this comic, mildly bawdy ballad in any folklore publication at all, Professor G. L. Kittredge excluded it in 1904 from his one volume condensation of Child's opus. As the other ballads omitted included The Wylie Wife of the Hie Toun Hie, Kempy Kay, and The Trooper and the Maid, the omission was presumably on the grounds of indelicacy. Kittredge had of course taken his cue from Child himself, who chose to fling around words like 'pernicious', 'unpleasant' and 'shameless' when referring to these ballads. He was especially hard on the poor Keach In the Creel, declaring that one stanza was 'brutal and shameless almost beyond example'. This is presumably the one in which

    ... every rib o' the auld wife's back
    Played nick-nack on the wa'

    With these criteria we would need to bowdlerize a good half of classical literature. The Keach In the Creel - the title means the commotion in the creel, or a spot of bother with the old basket - is one of several comic ballads which are versifications of folktales. There is a fabliau of the late fourteenth century, Du chevalier a la Corbeille, which has a very similar plot. Sometimes it is the girl's father or husband who blunders his way into the basket. In nearly all cases, understandably, the victim opines that it is "the de'il's wark". (Hamish Henderson, notes 'The Muckle Sangs')

  • [1980:] Anyone who has heard a version of the classic ballad The Keach In the Creel will feel a tug of recollection at [reading 'Jacob Curate', see above], for part of it is strikingly similar. (Hamish Henderson in Cowan 87)

  • [1980:] The device of hoisting a lover in a basket to reach his inamorata - or rather its appearance in literature - dates back to the fourteenth century. However, the ballad version of the tale does not appear to have been printed before the early nineteenth century, perhaps because of its uninhibited gusto. (Palmer, Ballads 223)

Quelle: Scotland (version 1) / Australia (version 2)

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