DESCRIPTION: "The aul' year's deen an' the new's begun, Besoothan, besoothan, An' noo the beggars they have come." The beggars ask "charity to the peer" and, "In meal an' money gin ye be scant, We'll kiss yer lasses or we want"
EARLIEST DATE: 1906 (Greig/Duncan3)
KEYWORDS: request money food begging nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Greig/Duncan3 642, "Besuthian" (5 texts, 1 tune)
cf. "Ye Gae But to Your Beef-Stan'" (subject)
cf. "Queen Mary's Men (New Year's Eve Carol)" (subject)
The Thiggin' Song
NOTES [282 words]: Greig/Duncan3 quoting an 1889 letter to the editor in the Banffshire Journal: "I have collected the following verses [Greig/Duncan3 642D], which were sung fifty years ago by the young men of our Strath when going the round of our district collecting meal and money for the poor and distressed about the New Year...."
Greig/Duncan3 quoting a letter in the Aberdeen Free Press in 1906: "'Besuthian' in the refrain of this old song appears to me as a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon word 'Theowian' -- to serve; and the verb 'Be' as a prefix -- Be-theowian - meaning, be serving."
Greig/Duncan3 has a map on p. xxxv, of "places mentioned in songs in volume 3" showing the song number as well as place name; Bairnsdale (642) is at coordinate (h4,v8) on that map [roughly 23 miles NNW of Aberdeen]. - BS
Some internet sources seem to connect this with "Queen Mary's Men (New Year's Eve Carol)." This seems a slight stretch, though they may well have served the same purpose.
I flatly don't buy the "Theowian" derivation. That Old English word didn't make it into Middle English, and is highly unlikely to have been known in Scotland. I might buy a derivation from Middle English "thew," "custom" -- "be sooth (true) to custom." But even that strikes me as an improbably long survival for a word of unknown meaning. I frankly suspect it is a proper noun, but I don't know what.
For some reason that I absolutely cannot explain, the word that comes to mind is "Valerian" -- though whether this is the Roman Emperor, or the plant, or a product of my diseased imagination I do not know. I mention it only in case it inspires someone else who has a better idea than I do.
"Thigging" is begging. - RBW
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