Mudcat Café message #3956762 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165063   Message #3956762
Posted By: Richie
15-Oct-18 - 12:07 PM
Thread Name: Origins: James Madison Carpenter- Child Ballads 5
Subject: Origins: James Madison Carpenter- Child Ballads 5

Robertson sang My Son David a number of times between 1952 and 1968 when she stopped performing. In Herschel Gower's interview, "Jeannie Robertson: Portrait of a Traditional Singer," Scottish Studies, 12 (1968) a murder motive of sibling jealously is given:

HG There's another ballad-"My Son David"-that you are often asked to sing, and in your version David says:
O I'm gang awa' in a bottomless boat
And I'll never return again....
Now what exactly do you think he meant when he told his mother that?

JR Well, it's very plain to be seen what he meant. If he was gang awa' in a bottomless boat-well, he was gang to droon himsel'. He wad never come back. He was gang to destroy his ain sel'.

HG And what do you think the two brothers fell out about?

JR The thing was that David was oldest and he was heir to everything, and the other brother was a very selfish, jealous brother. He wanted for nothin', he had everything too. But he didnae want that. He wanted to be the master, you see, o' the castle or fat ever it was. And he wanted to kill his brother and become master. So his mother likit David even better than fat she likit the other one. So when he tried to kill his brother, well, of course, it was a natural thing for David to fight to defend his sel'. So he killed his brother.

HG So this is a story of killing instead of being killed?

JR But David fought him in a fair fight and killed him.

HG That explains your version.

JR We hadnae enough o' the ballad, actually, to tell the whole story.

This simple explanation of motive is not contradicted by the brother's destruction of the "bush that never a tree." It's often some small incident which triggers a fight that leads to murder. The various "incest" theories seem to be wild speculation.

Do you agree?