John o' Arnha's Adventures

DESCRIPTION: John, the singer, compares his honest self to Robin Hood and Rob Roy, who pilfered and destroyed. He describes his daring feats since leaving "the botching trade." "Not only men, but monsters too ... scampered off when I cried 'Boo! I'm John o' Arnha'!"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: c.1824 (Bowick)
LONG DESCRIPTION: John, the singer, compares his honest self to Robin Hood and Rob Roy, who pilfered and destroyed. He describes his daring feats since leaving "the botching trade" [mending clothes]. He broiled potatoes in Etna's flames, boiled whale blubber in Davis Straits, rode dragons and "chased red meteors round the moon. He slew ten thousand scores of crocodiles and snakes, "held a griffin by the mane, and galloped through the air" Finally he defeated warlocks, witches, ghosts, and "the Kelpie" at "the Pon'age Pool" "Not only men, but monsters too ... scampered off when I cried 'Boo! I'm John o' Arnha'!"
KEYWORDS: bragging fight travel supernatural talltale monster ghost
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (2 citations):
GreigDuncan8 1702, "Jock o' Arnha'" (1 text fragment, 1 tune fragment)
ADDITIONAL: James Bowick, John Lee, and Others, Montrose Characters: Past and Present (Montrose, 1880 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 115-117, "John o' Arnha's Adventures"

Roud #13522
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot" (tune, per Bowick)
NOTES: "John O' Arnha'" is a long poem by George Beattie (1786-1823). See George Beattie, John O' Arna': A Tale to Which are Added The Murderit Mynstrell and Other Poems (1857,London, 9th Edition digitized by Google) pp. 7-51. According to Bowick [p. 113] the first version was published in Montrose Review in 1815 and expanded by Beattie after that. "Subsequent to the publication of the poem of "John o' Arnha'," the following song - which is a good summary of John's stories -- also appeared in the columns of the [Montrose] Review, and was a long favourite at the convivial companies of the period" (source: Bowick, p. 115). While we don't have an author for the song it was apparently among a collection from the Montrose Review published by the Montrose Review editor, John Bowick, in 1824.
Bowick, pp. 113-114: "The hero of the tale was John Finlay, one of the Burgh Officers, who, coming from Arnhall, a locality near Edzell, received the sobriquet of 'John o' Arnha'.' John had a wonderful opinion of his own importance, and, when speaking of himself, was in the custom of seriously relating extraordinary tales of his own prowess and hair-breadth escapes in foreign lands, though it was known that he rarely, if ever, crossed the boundaries of Forfarshire. John's eccentricity and unbelievable tales suggested to Mr Beattie the composition of his racy and comical story."
Beattie, in his preface -- pp. xiv-xv -- gives some background information: "The Hero himself is drawn from a living original in this neighborhood, already well known to fame. As to the second personage, the Water Kelpie, whose only ambition is, and has been, for centuries past, to wollow in the Ponage Pool, and take the benighted and well-worn traveller off the hands of the treacherous Spunkie, to plunge him in a watery grave, -- good breeding, or court etiquette, could not be expected to emananet from such a quarter. As to the 'grewsome' appearance of the Ghosts, poor fellows, no blame attaches to them -- it was none of their doings.... the Ponage Pool, on the North-esk ... [is] the well-known rendezvous of the Water Kelpie ... [an object] of terror to the superstitious, and of more than ordinary interest to those who may at times take delight in amusing their minds with the traditionary legends of this part of the country."
The GreigDuncan8 four-word fragment - "Brave Jock o' Arnha!" - compares to the last line of the fourth verse of Bowick. GreigDuncan's six-note tune fragment are at least close to the last line of the tune of "Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot."
GreigDuncan8: "Remembered by Archibald Knowles as a song of his father's and very old. It was a story of impossible feats." - BS
Last updated in version 2.5
File: GrD81702

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.