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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Mary Mack

30th January 2020

A video is currently available on Youtube which gives a wonderful rendition of the folk song Mary Mack performed by Scottish folk group The Byrnes before an audience at Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium. The song Mary Mack is in Scots – though there are also a number of variations doing the rounds, some more Anglicised than others. In this film the group stop and explain in French to the audience the differences between the meanings of same-sounding words in English and Scots – such as mak and Mack, mairry and merry- and how much of a tongue-twister the song increasingly becomes as it goes along. The main singer explains in French what is meant by ‘Mary Mack’s mither’s makkin Mary Mack mairry me’ and how this works in Scots. Eventually the French and Dutch-speaking audience joins in the chorus, watch the film below: 


The words of Mary Mack are as follows:

There's a nice wee lass an her name is Mary Mack

Mak nae mistake, she's the miss I'm gaun tae tak

There's a lot o ither chaps wha would get up on her track

But I'm thinkin they'll hae tae get up early.


Mary Mack's faither's makin Mary Mack mairy me

My faither's makin me mairy Mary Mack

An I'm gaun tae mairy Mary tae get mairrit an tak care o me

We'll aw be makin merry when I mairy Mary Mack


This wee lass she haes a lot of brass

She haes a lot of gas, her faither thinks I'm class

An I'd be a silly ass tae let the matter pass

For her faither thinks she suits me fairly.


Noo Mary an her mither gang an awful lot thegither

In fact you niver see the wan, or the wan withoot the ither

An the fellows often wonder if its Mary or her mither

Or the baith o them thegether that I'm courtin.


Noo the weddin day's on Wednesday an everythin's arranged

Her name will soon be changed tae mine, unless her mind be changed

An we're makin the arrangements, faith, I'm just aboot deranged

For mairriage is an awfu undertakin.


It's sure tae be a grand affair an grander than a fair

A coach an pair for rich an poor an every pair that's there

We'll dine upon the finest fare, I'm sure tae get ma share

If I don't we'll aw be very much mistaken.


Another song in Scots – the world famous Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns – was sung last Friday (26 January 2020) in the European Parliament  with members standing up and joining hands. Scottish MEPs were later in tears outside the European Parliament and hugging each other as a piper played Flower of Scotland.