DESCRIPTION: Symon Brodie is honest, stupid, old and confused; "I'll awa to the north-countree And see my ain dear Symon Brodie!" He lost his cow and couldn't find her but she "came hame and her tail behind her" His bonny wife used a dish towel to bind her hair.
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (Herd, according to Hecht-Herd)
KEYWORDS: clothes humorous nonballad animal wife hair
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (3 citations):
GreigDuncan8 1658, "Simon Brodie" (1 text plus a single verse on p. 396, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Hans Hecht, editor, Songs From David Herd's Manuscripts (Edinburgh, 1904), #54 pp. 173,303, "Symon Brodie" [Not yet indexed as Hecht-Herd 54]
Alexander Rodger, editor, Whistle-Binkie, Second Series (Glasgow, 1842), pp. 75-76, "Simon Brodie"
cf. "Little Bo-Peep" (theme: animal returns by itself, with its tail "behind")
NOTES: GreigDuncan8 has Simon lose a dove that also returns "into the doocot an' her tail behind her."
The Whistle-Binkie text adds a description of Simon Brodie. It includes adjectives like plump, cheerful, shrewd and, maybe, crack-brained. Physically, he is "in height an ell but an' a span [an ell is 45" and a span is 9"], An' twice as braid" with thin, grey hair.
James Hogg, Tales of the Wars of Montrose, (Philadelphia, 1836 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. II, pp. 28-79, wrote "A Few Remarkable Adventures of Sir Simon Brodie." He begins, "As I have been at great pains in drawing together all possible records and traditions during the troubled reign of Charles the First, and being aware that I have many of those relating to Scotland to which no other person ever had access, I must relate some incidents in the life of one extraordinary character so well known to traditionary lore, that I have but to name him to interest every Scotchman and woman in his heroic adventures. The hero I mean is Sir Simon Brodie, of Castle-Garl, whose romantic exploits well deserve to be kept in record."
The adventure runs from July 7 to September 16, 1644. Montrose, escaping to the Highlands of Scotland after the battle of Marston-moor, enlists loyalist Brodie, whom he has not met before, to raise a force to fight the Covenanters near Sterling. Brodie, though "enthusiastically, madly loyal," manifested "a singular vacancy and indecision of character. Indeed, he appeared ... to be rather what the Scots call a half-daft man." But, "he was a man like Leviathan, made without fear." He repeatedly enters a battle outnumbered, is taken prisoner, believes he has captured his captors, but is rescued or escapes without ever understanding the situation.
Montrose, to keep Brodie out of the way, sends him after Argyle, who escapes to sea. Brodie gets aboard Argyle's ship, the Faith, imagines he has taken all prisoner [again], and is thrown overboard to be rescued by a seal he takes for a mermaid. Put ashore at Inch-Colm -- a place reputed to be haunted -- he takes prisoner what claims to be the Covenanter ghost; this time his prisoner escapes. He is captured again by Covenanters he thinks are corpses; they consider him "altogether a fool ... and not one word that he says can be relied on. Think of his stories of taking 1200 men prisoners with his own hand; his pursuit and seizure of Argyle; and last of all, his being brought to our retreat hanging at the tail of a mermaid." He escapes to join Montrose again, and later escapes at Philliphaugh; ... "from that unfortunate day he never met Montrose again. He was exempted from Cromwell's act of grace, and wore out an old age of honest poverty among his friends in Aberdeenshire, his lands being confiscated to the State."
For more on Montrose, Argyle, and the Covenanters see "The Battle of Philiphaugh" [Child 202], "The Bonnie House o Airlie" [Child 199], "Bonnie John Seton" [Child 198], "The Haughs o' Cromdale" and "The Battle of Alford." - BS
It will perhaps demonstrate the power of folklore to create (and abolish) characters that I checked ten histories -- five of Scotland, two of Great Britain, two of the Stuart era, and one specifically about Charles I -- without finding mention of Brodie. - RBW
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