William Hutchison (a’ Tip)                   SA1971.270.11

NIcky Tams is a popular Scots ‘bothy ballad’ which Willie probably learned during his service among the Bevin Boys in a coal mine in Fife (Roud index no. 1875).
Willie got confused at one point and made a rude comment about his singing when he finished, but this was late at night during a cheerful ceilidh in Andrew Poleson’s home on September 28, 1971. Rose Williamson, a relative of Willie points out that his confusion in verses four and five result from his mixing up two verses.  They are given as she remembers them at the bottom of this post.

Noo when I was scarcely twelve years auld, I left the pairish skweel. 
Ma faither fee’d me tae the Mains tae chaw his milk an meal. 
I first pit on ma narra breeks tae hap ma spindel trams, 
Buckled aroond my knappin knees, a pair o Nicky Tams. 

Oh first I gaed on for baillie loon, syne I gaed on for third, 
Syne, of course, I had tae get the horseman’s grip an word, 
A loaf o breed tae be ma piece, a bottle for drinkin drams, 
But ye canna ging thro the caffhause door ‘ithout your Nicky Tams.  

I’m coortin bonnie Annie noo, Rob Tamson’s kitchie deem, 
She is fower-and-forty an I’m just seventeen, 
She claps a muckle piece tae me, wi different kinds o jam, 
But ilka nicht she says to me, “I admire your Nicky Tams”. 

Oh I startit oot ae Sunday, da Kirkie for tae gang, 
I hed my Bible in ma pooch, likewise my book o’ Psalms, 
……. ?                              in the middle o the Psalms, 
When Annie roared, “Ye muckle gowk, tak aff your Nicky Tams!”

O’ unco sweir, I took them aff, the lassie for to please,
Aye ma breeks dey lirkit up aroon aboot ma claes.
When a muckle wasp crawled up ma leg in the middle o’ da Psalms,
So never again will I enter da Kirk athoot ma Nicky Tams.

I’ve often thocht I’d like tae be a bobby on the Force, 
Maybe I’ll get on the cars, an’ drive a pair o horse. 
Bit fativer it’s ma lot tae be, the Bobbies or the trams,    [whatever]
I’ll ne’er forget the happy days I wore me Nicky Tams.   

– – – – – – – – –
Suggested revision for verses 4 and 5.

Oh I started oot ae Sunday, da Kirkie for tae gang,
My jacket it was unca ticht, ma Breeks were nane ower lang.
I hed ma Bible in ma pooch, likwise ma book o’ psalms,
When Annie roared, “Ye muckle gowk. Tak aff your Nicky Tams!”

An so I geed an took dem aff, da lassie for tae please,
But aye ma breeks dey lirkit up around about me knees.
A muckle wasp crawled up ma leg in da middle o’ da psalms,
So never again will I enter da Kirk athoot ma Nicky Tams.