A Pair o Nicky Tams

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Title - A Pair o Nicky Tams
Contributors - Andrew Robbie
Reporters - Prof. Kenneth Goldstein

Summary - A comic bothy song in which a ploughman celebrates his nickie-tams [leather thongs tied around the knees]. He wears these during his first position, as baillie loon [helper to the cattleman], then as third horseman. They even work well as improvised breast-straps [part of a horseman's harness]. 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 nickie-tams.

Track Duration (h:m:s) - 00:02:09
Date Recorded - 1959.12.26
Language - Scots
Genre - Song
Collection - School of Scottish Studies

Track ID - 55300
Original Tape ID - SA1960.142
Original Track ID - SA1960.142.B3
Audio Quality - Fair
Audio Format - R2R

Classification - R1875;

Item Notes - 7 verses of 4 lines. A song by the famous bothy balladeer G. S. Morris (1876-1958).
'Nickie-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 'nickie' as an allusion to 'knickerbockers' (which were fashionable at the time) and 'taum' meaning 'a 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
'The Scottish National Dictionary' (available online [[]], accessed 7 August 2009)

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