Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Caller Herrin'

Scottish Song By Carolina Nairne

Caller Herrin' is a Scottish song, the music by Nathaniel Gow (1763-1831), and the words by Carolina Nairne (1766-1845).

Caller herrin' means fresh herring. It was the traditional cry of fishwives, who carried in creels of freshly caught herring which they sold from door to door.

Gow, a violinist and bandleader of Edinburgh, incorporated this cry, and also the bells of St Andrew's Church, into his composition, written in about 1798. It became one of his best-known tunes.

Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne, was a songwriter, using the pseudonym "Mrs Bogan of Bogan". Attending balls in country houses of Perthshire, she heard the music of Nathaniel Gow, and wrote the words for "Caller Herrin'".

Related Scottish Country Dances

Caller Herrin'

Caller Herrin' By Carolina Nairne

Wha'll buy my caller herrin'?
They're bonnie fish and halesome farin';
Wha'll buy my caller herrin',
New drawn frae the Forth?

When ye were sleepin' on your pillows,
Dream'd ye aught o' our puir fellows,
Darkling as they fac'd the billows,
A' to fill the woven willows?
Buy my caller herrin',
New drawn frae the Forth.


Wha'll buy my caller herrin'?
They're no brought here without brave darin';
Buy my caller herrin',
Haul'd through wind and rain.


WhaIl buy my caller herrin'?
Oh, ye may ca' them vulgar farin'
Wives and mithers, maist despairin',
Ca' them lives o' men.


When the creel o' herrin' passes,
Ladies-clad in silks and laces,
Gather in their braw pelisses,
Cast their heads and screw their faces,


Caller herrin's no got lightlie:
Ye can trip the spring fu' tightlie;
Spite o' tauntin', flauntin', flingin',
Gow had set you a' a-singing


Neebour wives, now tent my tellin';
When the bonnie fish ye're sellin',
At ae word be in yere dealin' -
Truth will stand when a' thin's failin',


Caller Herrin' Song Video

Caller Herrin' Song - Information Video
Caller Herrin
Caller Herrin c. 1908

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Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Caller Herrin' article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright Christie, Manson and Woods [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.

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