Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Jenny's Bawbee

Scottish Song

Jenny's Bawbee is a Scottish song telling the story of the various men who try to woo Jenny and her bawbee.

A bawbee was a Scottish halfpenny. The word means a debased copper coin, valued at six pence Scots (equal at the time to an English half-penny), issued from around 1542, the reign of James V of Scotland to the reign of William II of Scotland.

This song is a comment on the nature of love, telling the story of a succession of upper-class men who all want to marry Jenny, mainly for her Bawbee. Jenny is not so easily fooled by these gentlemen who wish to marry her and instead, Jenny falls for the very last man in this line of suitors, Johnny, who wins her affection despite being poor in material terms because he is rich in other respects.

The dance Jenny's Bawbee appears in at least 3 different forms, most notably as Jenny's Baubee in Thomas Wilson's 19th century publication "The Treasures of Terpsichore" (an alphabetical listing of country dances and their figures).
Thomas Wilson was dancing master to the King's Theatre. Despairing the state of country dancing, the author fears "it [will] be perverted into a chaos of riot and confusion".
Wilson produced other manuals on country dancing with detailed text, tables, and diagrams to explain the figures.

There is also a Scottish country dance called Jenny's Bawbee.


Jenny's Bawbee 1

The following fragment, to the favourite old reel tune of "Jenny's Bawbee," is all that has come down to us of the original song. It is given in Herd's collection, 2nd edition, 1776.

And a' that e'er my Jenny had,
My Jenny had, my Jenny had;
And a' that e'er my Jenny had,
Was ae bawbee.

There's your plack, and my plack
And your plack, and my plack,
And my plack, and your plack,
And Jenny's bawbee.

We'll put it in the pint-stoup,
The pint-stoup, the pint-stoup,
We'll put it in the pint-stoup,
And birle 't a' three.


Jenny's Bawbee 2

This composition by Sir Alexander Boswell, Bart. of Auchinleck, was excellently adapted to the old tune. It was originally published by the author in 1803, and afterwards presented to George Thomson for insertion in his collection of Scottish Melodies. The last stanza did not appear in the early copies of the song. Whether or not added by the author himself has not been ascertained. Sir Alexander (1775-1822) was the eldest son of the well-known biographer of Dr. Johnson.

I met four chaps yon birks amang,
Wi' hinging lugs and faces lang:
I spiered at neebour Bauldy Strang,
Wha's they I see?
Quo' he, ilk cream-faced pawky chiel,
Thought he was cunning as the deil,
And here they cam', awa' to steal
Jenny's bawbee.

The first, a Captain to his trade,
Wi' skull ill-lined, but back weel-clad,
March'd round the barn, and by the shed,
And papped on his knee:
Quo' he, "My goddess, nymph, and queen,
Your beauty's dazzled baith my een!"
But deil a beauty he had seen
But-Jenny's bawbee.

A Lawyer neist, wi' blatherin gab,
Wha speeches wove like ony wab,
In ilk ane's corn aye took a dab,
And a' for a fee.
Accounts he owed through a' the toun,
And tradesmen's tongues nae mair couid drown,
But now he thocht to clout his goun
Wi' Jenny's bawbee.

A Norland Laird neist trotted up,
Wi' bawsand nag and siller whip,
Cried, "There's my beast, lad, haud the grup,
Or tie 't till a tree:
What's gowd to me?-I've walth o' lan'!
Bestow on ane o' worth your han'!"-
He thocht to pay what he was awn
Wi' Jenny's bawbee.

Drest up just like the knave o'clubs,
A thing came neist, (but life has rubs,)
Foul were the roads, and fu' the dubs,
And jaupit a' was he.
He danced up, squinting through a glass,
And grinn'd, "I' faith, a bonnie lass!"
He thought to win, wi' front o' brass,
Jenny's bawbee.

She bade the Laird gae kame his wig.
The Sodger no to strut sae big,
The Lawyer no to be a prig,
The Fool he cried, "Tehee!
I kenn'd that I could never fail!"
But she preen'd the dishclout to his tail,
And soused him in the water-pail,
And kept her bawbee.

Then Johnnie cam', a lad o' sense,
Although he had na mony pence;
And took young Jenny to the spence,
Wi' her to crack a wee.
Now Johnnie was a clever chiel;
And here his suit he press'd sae weel,
That Jenny's heart grew saft as jeel,
And she birled her bawbee.


Jenny's Bawbee 3

This is another set of verses to the old tune of "Jenny's Bawbee," and is directed to be sung slow. It is said to be the composition of a clergyman in Galloway, and was first printed in Robert Chambers' collection of "Scottish Songs," Edinburgh, 1827.

When gloamin o'er the welkin steals,
And brings the ploughman frae the fiel's,
Oh, Jenny's cot, amang the shiels,
Is aye the hame to me.
To meet wi' her my heart is fain,
And parting gi'es me meikle pain;
A queen and throne I would disdain
For Jenny's ae bawbee.

Tho' braws she has na mony feck,
Nae riches to command respec',
Her rosy lip and lily neck
Mair pleasure gi'e to me.
I see her beauties, prize them a',
Wi' heart as pure as new-blawn snaw;
I'd prize her cot before a ha',
Wi' Jenny's ae bawbee.

Nae daisy, wi' its lovely form,
Nor dew-drap shining frae the corn,
Nor echo frae the distant horn,
Is half sae sweet to me!
And if the lassie were my ain,
For her I'd toil through wind and rain,
And gowd and siller I would gain
Wi' Jenny's ae bawbee.


Jenny's Bawbee Song Video

Jenny's Bawbee Song - YouTube Video

Jenny's Bawbee, Treasures Of Terpsichore Image
The Treasures Of Terpsichore (1816)


The Online Scots Dictionary Translate Scots To English.
Dance Information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original Jenny's Bawbee article on Wikisource.
Text from this original Bawbee article on Wikipedia.
Image Copyright Thomas Wilson, dancing master [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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