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SING A SANG AT LEAST

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THE BERRY FIELDS O BLAIR
Belle Stewart

When berry time comes roond each year
Blair's population's swellin,
There's every kind o picker there
And every kind o dwellin.
There's tents and huts and caravans,
There's bothies and there's bivvies
And shelters made wi tattie-bags
And dug-outs made wi divvies.

There's corner-boys fae Glesgae,
Kettle-boilers fae Lochee,
There's miners fae the pits o Fife,
Mill-workers fae Dundee,
And fisherfowk fae Peterheid
And tramps fae everywhere,
Aa lookin fir a livin aff
The berry fields o Blair.

There's travellers fae the Western Isles,
Fae Arran, Mull and Skye;
Fae Harris, Lewis and Kyles o Bute,
They come their luck to try,
Fae Inverness and Aberdeen,
Fae Stornoway and Wick
Aa flock to Blair at the berry time,
The straws and rasps to pick.

There's some wha earn a pound or twa,
Some cannae earn their keep,
There's some wid pick fae morn till nicht,
And some wid raither sleep.
There's some wha hae tae pick or stairve,
And some wha dinna care
There's comedy and tragedy
Played on the fields o Blair.

There's faimilies pickin for one purse,
And some wha pick alane,
There's men wha share and share alike
Wi wives wha's no their ane.
There's gladness and there's sadness tae,
There's happy herts and sare,
For there's some wha bless and some wha curse
The berry fields o Blair.

Before I put my pen awa,
It's this I would like to say:
You'll travel far afore you'll meet
A kinder lot than they;
For I've mixed wi them in field in pub
And while I've breath to spare,
I'll bless the hand that led me tae
The berry fields o Blair.

Belle StewartFootnote:  The outstanding traveller, traditional singer and songwriter Belle Stewart wrote this song in 1947 for the family Hogmanay party at the request  of her brother Donald.  She composed a Hogmanay song every year thereafter. Belle Stewart was born in a bow tent pitched on the bank of the River Tay at Caputh, near Dunkeld, on 18 July 1906. On the day of her birth, her father Donald (Dan) MacGregor was pearl fishing in the Tay and found a beautiful, large pearl, just before word came of Belle’s birth. He declared that he had two pearls in the one day. A passing American couple bought the Tay pearl for £5, a large sum at the time, but Dan still had the finest of the two pearls, Unfortunately Dan died when Belle was only nine month old, and her mother settled in Blairgowrie. From her Perthshire base Belle travelled extensively in both Scotland and Ireland. In 1925 she married piper Alex Stewart. After they were ‘discovered’ as carriers of traditional song and music, The Stewarts of Blair, became well-known performers on the folk scene and performed all over Europe and the United States. In recognition of her contribution to folk music, Belle Stewart was awarded the British Empire Medal. Aged 91 she died in the cottage hospital in Blairgowrie on 4 September 1997. In an obituary the folklorist Dr Hamish Henderson wrote in The School of Scottish Studies publication, ‘Tocher’ in 1998 –

‘Belle’s clan is undoubtedly the custodian of an amazing treasure-house of Scottish and Irish folk music. The way of life which engendered and preserved this astonishing cultural phenomenon is nowhere better recorded than in Belle’s own song ‘The Berry Fields o Blair’.