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GUEST,murray on saltspring Lyr Req/Add: Brian O'Lynn & Tam o' the Linn (82* d) Lyr Add: TOM O' LIN / THOMAS O' LINN / TOM A LIN 29 Nov 05

Here's the entry in my Musa Proterva [anthology of Scots bawdry]L\:



1. Tom o' Lin and his wife and his good mither [= mother-in-law]
They gaed a' to the midden the gither;
Some shat thick and some shat thin —
'I'se for a spoon,' quo' Tom o' Lin.

2. Tom o' Lin's daughter she stood on the stair:
'O', quo' she, 'father, am I nae fair —
There's mony ane married wi' a far dinner skin.' [darker]
'The Deel tire ye out,' quo' Tom o' Lin.

3. Tom o' Lin's daughter she stood on the brig:
'O', quo' she, 'father am I nae trig?'
The brig it brake and she fell in —
'Your tochergude's paid,' quo' Tom o' Lin.

From Thos. Crawford, Love, Labour and Liberty (1976), 19-20, from the St Clair MS. (1781-5) [p. 248, no. (168)]; tune in Kinsley, # 350. Versions of sts. 2 & 3 are in Sharpe, Ballad Book (1823; repr. 1880), p. 44, no. xvi; Scott (ibid., 137-8) has a note on this, with a chorus, as sung by Drummond of Strageth. See also JEFDSS 33, 137-41.

This, and not the ballad of Tam Lin (Child 39), is probably the same song whose tune is mentioned in The Complaynt of Scotland (1549); and the Opies (Ox. Dict. N. R. 413, under "Tommy o' Lin") are probably correct in identifying not only that but the "ballett of Thomalyn" licensed in 1558, with this song. There may well be a connection, however—tenuous at best—and I would conjecture that the song hero took his name (in parody, perhaps) from the hero of the ballad. Other versions vary the name: Brian O'Lynn, etc.



1. Thomas o' Linn was a Scotsman born;
His head was clippit, his beard was shorn;
His breiks were borrowed, his coatie was thin;
And an antique fallow was Thomas o' Linn.

2. His bridle was made of ell's skin tails,
And bits o' it were fu' o' horse nails;
His saddle was made o' a moudiewort's skin;
And an antique fallow was Thomas o' Linn.

3. Thomas o' Linn gaed through the moss,
Seeking a stable to stable his horse;
The potty was deep, and the yaadie fell in,
"Ye're stabled for ance", quo' Thomas o' Linn.

4. Thomas o' Linn and his gude-mither,
They baith fell into the fire thegither;
And them that was neathmaist they gat a het skin:—
"Ye're het eneuch now", says Thomas o' Linn.

5. Thomas o' Linn gaed doun the gate,
Wi' twenty puddings on a plate:
Ilka pudding had a pin, —
"There's walth o' wud here", quo Thomas o' Linn.

6. Thomas o' Linn, he had seven bairns,
They a' gaed to the midden in ane anithers' arms;
Some they drate thick, and some they drate thin, —
"There's dirt aneuch now", quo Thomas o' Linn.

From Kinloch's MS., Burlesque and Jocular Ballads and Songs (Edinburgh, 1827-9), pp. 46-7. Stanza 6 is the connector with version A; drate (present tense drite) is a synonym of shat, "voided excrement". With this stanza cf. a single quatrain collected by Vance Randolph (Arkansas, 1951) in Roll Me In Your Arms, 155:

Bryan O'Linn and his wife and her mother,
They all went out a-shittin' together;
Some shit thick and some shit thin—
Wipe it up with a spoon, says Bryan O'Linn.

The editor, Legman, gives this as a variant or additional stanza to the song, which is only fragmentary, called "John Briney Linn", from another single stanza, collected 1935:

John Briney Linn, his wife an' her mother,
They all went out a-shittin' together;
Some of 'em shit needles an' others shit pins—
It's pretty sharp shittin', says John Briney Linn.

2.1 ell's skin probably = eel's skin; 3.3 potty is a hole cut in a moss from which peats have been dug. SND (s.v. pot, sec. I.8; vol. VII, 210) quotes the Aberdeen Journal, 22 Jan. 1776: "In the Parish of Udny one James Henderson conveying a young Girl home, on his Return mistook his Way, and wandering into a Moss, fell into one of the Pots." ibid., yaadie = yaud (Old Sc. yald), "an
old mare, broken-down horse".

This version resembles that in The Pinder of Wakefield (1632):

A Song

Tom a Lin was a Welch man borne, [text Swelch]
His head was pold, his beard was shorne,
His clothes were ragged, his shirt was thin,
Whoever saw any like Tom a Lin.

Tom a Lin had no more Wiues but one,
Hee had a blacke Daughter her name was Ioane, [text B Ioan]
She was the slipperst of all her Kin [text flippers; =wantonest]
For wantonnesse, say's Tom a Lin.

Tom a Lins wife went ouer a bridge,
The bridge was narrow and shee fell in:
I have lost a good Slut, quoth Tom a Lin,
Who ever saw any like Tom a Lin.

Then Tom a Lin would a wooing ride,
With a good Point Norton by his side,
His Scabbard was made of a fat Eeles skin,
It's a flaunting blade, quoth Tom a Lin.

Tom a Lin had a good balde Mare,
Her heeles were glad, her back was bare,
Her belly set out, her belly set in,
Tis a fleering Iade, quoth Tom a Lin.

Tom a Lin had no boots to weare,
But a good pide Calues skin hornes and haire,
He buckled them on fast to his shin, [text skin]
Come let vs ride, quoth Tom a Lin.

Tom a Lin riding over a bridge,
The bridge was narrow and he fell in,
His foot it slipt, his heeles vp tript,
This is ill lucke quoth Tom a Lin.

Tom a Lin hee got vp againe,
Hee spyed a bonny Lasse walking then,
O I am Iocky wilt thou bee Gin,
Are not wee well married, quoth Tom a Lin?

Tom a Lin hee danct vp the Hall,
Ginny came after ragges and all.
Shee scrapt the scabs all from her skin:
Wee'l haue them fry'd in butter, quoth Tom a Lin.

—The Pinder of Wakefield, ed. E. A. Horsman, Liverpool U. P., 1956, pp. 73-5, emended (by Horsman) as indicated. Ed. notes (p. 93): for other versions see Ritson's North Country Chorister (Durham, 1802), sig. A2, Halliwell's Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales (London, 1849), p. 271. A variant of stanza 4 is sung by Morus in The Longer Thou Livest, Moore Foole Thou Art (?1568), sig. A2.

See also JFSS no. 33 (VIII.3), 1929, 137-141, where A, G. Gilchrist gives a traditional Bucks version, Christie's tune (Trad. Ballad Airs, I.192), and text from The North-Country Chorister, 1802; the evidence seems to point to its being originally an English satire on the rude Gael.

Legman's annotation to the Randolph texts should be consulted (pp. 156-7)

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