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Chokit On A Tattie – Children's Songs and Rhymes

Chokit On A Tattie - Children's Songs and Rhymes
Greentrax CDTRAX9022

This exhilarating addition to the Scottish Tradition Series raids the archives of The School of Scottish Studies for children's songs and rhymes recorded between 1952 and 1981. The 54-minute CD is immaculately presented and produced. It includes a short but informative introduction from project editor Ewan McVicar; full text and notes on the material; further reading and listening; and a glossary for those that need it. Did you know that a bubbly jock is a turkey, or that a theevil is a porridge stirrer?

The sequence of the 23 tracks follows the child's development. First the adults sing or rhyme to accompany rocking, dandling, playing with the infant's face, hands and feet. Then the kids mostly take over: lore learnt from each other to accompany games (counting out, skipping, bouncing a ball, chasing, catching, clapping and so on) or for general entertainment. But there are recordings of Scots emigrants in Australia, to show that adults remember the material they learnt in the playground.

The album is crammed with zesty pleasures. Those recorded include Lucy Stewart (singing 'There Was A Farmer's Dochter'); Jean Redpath's mum; Ray Fisher ('I've A Laddie In America'); and Jeannie Robertson. Recorders include Hamish Henderson, Kenneth Goldstein, William Montgomery, Arthur Argo, Emily Lyle and Lynn Hendry.

The kids themselves - Iona and Peter Opie called them the greatest of savage tribes, and the only one which shows no sign of dying out - were recorded in Strichen in Aberdeenshire, Campbeltown, Hilltown in Dundee, and Glenrothes. They turn songs into rhymes, and rhymes into new songs. They preserve or change - whatever pleases them, whatever works, whatever serves the game. And maybe the words prepare them: as teenage years get nearer, the lyrics bring in boyfriends, girlfriends, kissing, sickness, violence, death and other scary stuff. Choking on a tattie is just one thing to look out for, but at least after your funeral you get to fly down from heaven to rejoin your mum and finish your tattie soup.

This is folk music and the folk process in fascinating miniature. I hope such things can still be heard in the playground.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 69 of The Living Tradition magazine.