Nicky Tams

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Title - Nicky Tams
Contributors - John MacDonald
Reporters - Hamish Henderson

Summary - A comic bothy song in which a ploughman celebrates his nicky tams [leather thongs tied around the knees]. He first wears these as a baillie loon [helper to the cattleman], then as third horseman. They are not only very useful at work, but also admired by the woman he is courting, though he is unco sweir [very reluctant] to take them off in church when she asks him to. He considers other possible professions, but will never forget the happy days when he wore his nicky tams.

Track Duration (h:m:s) - 00:02:13
Date Recorded - 1954.05
Language - Scots
Genre - Song
Collection - School of Scottish Studies

Track ID - 47714
Original Tape ID - SA1954.034
Original Track ID - SA1954.34.A4
Audio Quality - Fair
Audio Format - R2R

Classification - R1875;

Recording Location:
  County - Midlothian
  Parish - Edinburgh
  Village - Edinburgh

Item Notes - 6 verses of 4 lines; last line of first verse not sung. Melodeon accompaniment. Recorded at 4th People's Festival Cèilidh. Composed by the famous bothy balladeer G. S. Morris.
Nicky tams were leather thongs (or sometimes pieces of cord) tied below the farm worker's knee in order to keep the trouser legs from trailing in the mud (and allegedly to prevent rats and mice from crawling up the legs). The name derives from 'nicky' as an allusion to 'knickerbockers' (which were fashionable at the time) and 'tams' from 'taum', meaning 'cord'.
'Scotland Sings' (E. MacColl, 1953) p. 96
'101 Scottish Songs' (N. Buchan, 1962) pp. 48-49
'Kerr's Buchan Bothy Ballads' vol. 2 (G. S. Morris & J. S. Kerr, 1957) pp. 2-3
'Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland' (E. MacColl & P. Seeger, 1977) pp. 316-318

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