View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

The Day We Went to Rothesay O

This song is about a holiday trip on a steamer, down the River Clyde to the island of Bute. It is full of jokes and references to how people lived and had fun over 100 years ago.

Wan Hogmanay at the Glasgow Fair, there was me masel and several mair,
We aa went off tae hae a tear and spend the day in Rothesay o.
We wandered doon the Broomielaw, through wind and rain and sleet and snaw,
And at forty meenits aifter twa we got the length o Rothesay o.


Durrum a doo a durrum a day, durrum a doo a daddy o,
Durrum a doo a durrum a day, the day we went tae Rothesay o.

 A sodger lad caa'd Ruglen Will, whaus regiment lies at Barrenhill,
Went off wi a tanner tae buy a gill at a public hoose in Rothesay o.
He said, “By God, I’d like tae sing.” I said, “Ye’ll nae dae sic a thing.”
He said, “Clear the flair and mak a ring and ah’ll fecht yez aa in Rothesay o.”

 In search o lodgins we did slide, tae find a place where we could bide,
There was eighty fowr o us inside a single end in Rothesay o.
We aa lay doon tae tak oor ease, when somebody happened for tae sneeze,
And he waukened half a million fleas that et us alive in Rothesay o.

Some were bees, and some were bugs, and some had feet like dyers’ clugs,
And they sat on the bed and they cockit their lugs, and they cried, “Hurrah for Rothesay o.”
Ah said, “Ah think we should elope.” So we went and jined the Band of Hope,
Ah, but the polis widny let us stop another oor in Rothesay o.

Hogmanay is 31 December, but the Glasgow Fair happens in the last two weeks of July.

A 'tear' is a good time, a ‘tanner’ is sixpence in ‘old money’ and a ‘gill’ is a very large glass of whisky.

A ‘single end’ is a flat with only one room.

‘Dyers clugs’ are wooden clogs worn by the workers who dyed cloth.

To join the ‘Band of Hope’ religious organisation, you had to swear you would never drink alcohol any more.

The pleasure steamers carried people to Rothesay from the Broomielaw in the middle of Glasgow. They went down the River Clyde to Rothesay and other places, and this was called going ‘Doon the Watter’ (down the water).

To hear a song about marching down the Broomielaw, go to 'Wha Saw the 42nd?'.

There are at least two other sets of words to this tune about going to Rothesay for a day.

The tune and chorus idea come from a much older song called ‘The Tinklers’ Waddin’, which is also about wild fun and games. This song was written by William Watt, born in 1792.

The tune went over to the USA, where it was used for a religious song called ‘Jordan Am a Hard Road to Travel’, recorded by banjo player and singer Uncle Dave Macon of Tennessee in the 1930s.

'The Day We Went to Rothesay O', performed by Ewan McVicar.
From 'Traditional Scottish Songs and Music', Gallus Recordings.