1. Maggie's Song

From the recording Maggie's Song

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A ballad in honor of my great grandmother, who emigrated from Dundee, Scotland to the US in the late 1880s. Based on family lore, genealogical research and a bit of artistic license.


From our hearth six angels flew; before Mama joined them, too;
Cancer took the womb that bore her thirteen souls
Helen was the first they lost; only three months at her breast;
Little Robbie’s death six months before her own

It was eighteen seventy; five babes never reached age three
I was eleven years when mama died
So I helped sweet Papa dear with my younger siblings there
Ann was eight years old, and Alexander five
We were schooled until age ten, then to the mills were sent;
Power looms put us in the factories
Spin the yarn or jute and weave into bags for grain or feed
Seemed a destiny we could never leave

Five years after Mama died, as I stayed by Papa’s side
Jessie, May and Jane moved in with brother James
Sister Jessie planned to take a steamer to Americay
For her beau was waiting there to join their names

—— [Modulate] ——

One day Jessie wrote to tell of the land they’d come to dwell
There the rivers flow, but nowhere near the shore
And the women all can sing, even dance the Highland Fling
I should join her, leaving Scotland evermore

I worked fifteen hours a day so my steerage I could save
And summoned fearlessness to go alone
Take my leave of old Dundee, farewell to the cold North Sea
And this poor loom weaver’s life I’d been bestowed
When my passage I did earn, I vowed to ne’er return
I arrived in time for Jessie’s wedding day
Many years spent side by side; with hers, I raised my child
For my own dear husband chose to go astray

Though I’d cut the ties that bind leaving kith and kin behind
Jessie took her youngest daughter to Dundee
Where they visited the graves of our mama and her babes
And now Papa, who joined their eternal sleep