When First I Came To Caledonia

2015
02.06

Jon simply says, “Norma Waterson totally owns this song for me, but it’s gotta be done.”

You’ll find Norma’s version on that first Waterson:Carthy album and you can read all about that at Mainly Norfolk. You’ll note that it’s from Cape Breton and there are some useful notes concerning locations and bits and pieces. There seems to be a lingering question about brochans, which I always thought were some sort of oat cake, but I can’t claim particular expertise on the subject and would appreciate confirmation or otherwise. Start here on Mudcat and the thread suggests shoes rather than cakes, although I have an idea that both are right, it’s just that I think cakes or rolls or food is what’s being requested. There are various links off, but I was also immediately aware of the verse floating in from Peggy Gordon, which we had back on 9th January, although it’s now a cask of brandy rather than just a glass. Mind you it does all seems bit grim, grimy and depressing made all the more mournful by the concertina. Whilst I particularly like Martin’s guitar on Norma’s version, I really like the way Jon delivers this one. I’m right there under a leaden pall of a sky with the relentless wind cutting like a knife.
You can buy the February digital album now from all good download stores:

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29 Responses to “When First I Came To Caledonia”

  1. mike says:

    Brochan (brachen, brochen) is a gruel (oatmeal dish) usually with some addition of other ingredients, e.g. honey. It is occasionally used to denote porridge.

    Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_Brochan#ixzz1D8OCytdQ

  2. Michael Pollock says:

    I think the confusion is with brògan = shoes. They sound a bit alike.

  3. muzza (s.e.England) says:

    Just a bit of a modification and this wonderful verse gives me the words to include in my Valentine card this year…She doesn’t stand a chance……….
    If I had a quill from a snowgoose
    And I had paper snowy white
    And I had ink of a rosy morning
    A true love letter to you I’d write

  4. Simon Dewsbury says:

    Muzza -excellent, might pinch that one from you! But I think I’ll not let on about the cask of brandy verse.

  5. John Wigley says:

    I’m definately pinching it!

  6. Terry McDonald says:

    Much as I like Norma’s version, I think Martin Simpson’s is better

  7. David Baxter says:

    My mother (a native Gaelic speaker) says brochan is thin porridge. There is a well-known song “Brochan lom”. Another use of the word by my mother – she used to say my room was “a right brochan” i.e. a mess!

  8. mike says:

    I thought that “Brochan lom” was thin porridge, so “brochan” is simply porridge and “lom” is thin, but maybe “Brochan lom” is very very thin porridge. I like the expression “a right brochan”.

  9. mike says:

    If I had a quill from a snowgoose
    And I had paper snowy white
    And I had ink of a rosy morning
    My poetry wouldn’t be shite

  10. AndyS says:

    Burach is the Gaelic for mess rather than brochan.

    On an unrelated note, the itunes podcast doesn’t appear to have been available since the 2nd, anyone else finding this or is it just me?

  11. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    @Mike…….you old romantic you!
    Ref “Brochans”…….perhaps a ‘mondegreen’ for “brokens” …as in cheap biscuits to go with the fine cup of tea the young lady makes…It’s a good old song anyway

  12. Rachel says:

    No songs on the RSS feed since Wednesday. 🙁 Hope they are coming soon!

  13. Simon says:

    I had an idea rattling around the back of my brain that brochan became a name for a cake or roll of some sort as it was vaguely shoe sized or shaped. That may be utter rubbish of course and not the first time something rattling around my head proved to be so. Any takers?

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    Hellooo everybody! Teddenegger is back, after multitudinous vet bills forbade replacement of crashed pc! Now on swishy new Toshiba laptop! So belaTed Happy New Year to y’all, & glad to see you are all still debating the important stuff of AFSAD life… like ‘brochan!’ I’m really playing catch-up this time, but today’s offering very nice. Not having heard any other version of this song, Jon’s gets the thumbs up!

  15. Reinhard says:

    Hej Jane, welcome back in Caledonia!

  16. Michael Pollock says:

    Andy S: You’re quite right that burach = mess, shambles, etc. Colin Mark’s dictionary also gives idiomatic uses of ‘brochan’ as referring to a mess – just as David B.’s mother used it to describe a messy room.

  17. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Clear the decks lads….Jane’s back…she’s sorted out trouble at t’mill!

  18. Jane Bird says:

    A delightfully bright-but-yearning tune, isn’t it!

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    I do like this song – great tune.

    Here’s a nursery rhyme called ‘Brochan Lom’ about weak or thin porridge. It’s an example of Gaelic mouth music. (How appropriATE to porridge!) You can listen to it at this link:

    http://www.ambaile.org.uk/en/item/item_audio.jsp?item_id=24493

    Song Lyrics:

    Brochan lom, tana lom, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan lom, tana lom, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan lom, tana lom, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan lom ‘s e tana lom ‘s e brochan lom na sùghain

    Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan lom ‘s e tana lom ‘s e brochan lom na sùghain

    Thugaibh aran dha na gillean leis a’ bhrochan sùghain
    Thugaibh aran dha na gillean leis a’ bhrochan sùghain
    Thugaibh aran dha na gillean leis a’ bhrochan sùghain
    Brochan lom ‘s e tana lom ‘s e brochan lom na sùghain

    Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain
    Brochan lom ‘s e tana lom ‘s e brochan lom na sùghain.

    (Taken from the CD ‘Cluich Còmhla – Òrain is Rannan’, produced by the Highland Council, to accompany the Play@Home series of booklets.)

    Mudcat is ahead of me again though with a detailed thread on this song, part of which reads:

    A rough translation (which invites correction frae those whae hae mair Gaelic!) is as follows:

    1) Thin porridge, sparse & thin, thin & watery porridge.
    Thin porridge, it is sparse & thin, it is thin & watery porridge.
    2) Give bread to the lads with the watery porridge.
    Thin porridge, it is sparse & thin, it is thin & watery porridge.
    3) This is the thing to get from the blackmith’s daughter.
    Thin porridge, it is sparse & thin, it is thin & watery porridge.

    To my ears, it is reminiscent of ‘Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold,’ which someone also picked up on Mudcat.

  20. Jane Ramsden says:

    The UK porridge market is currently valued at £171 million! Hardly surprising then that there are actually World Porridge-Making Championships held annually in Carrbridge, to see who will claim the highly-coveted ‘Golden Spurtle’. I jest not! Last year’s winner was John Boa, a Gaelic singer from Strathglass:

    http://www.goldenspurtle.com/

    The seed marketing & crop development company Senova (you guessed – it specialises in oats!) even has an oat called Brochan:

    http://www.senova.uk.com/#/brochan/4538960880

    Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs! Not a lot of people know that…

  21. Jane Ramsden says:

    There is also a saying, ‘ Never bless brochan,’ i. e. that brochan is not worth saying grace over, since such basic food should come as a right. (This phrase comes from a glossary pertaining to the 1878 dialect of Cumberland, but originally from Antrim & Down.)

  22. Mark says:

    Nice one Jon, I love this, I’m a bit of a sucker for the Peggy Gordon-style “grim grimy and depressing” tales of heartbreak. Not sure why!

    Here’s Chris Wood and Andy Cutting’s lovely version, if anyone’s interested:

  23. Jane Ramsden says:

    I like Chris Wood and Andy Cutting, but Jon’s version has the edge for me. Think it needs more yearning and less flat sad rendition to my heart and mind.

  24. Daina says:

    Well sung as usual – not a lot more to say, but there is a mine of information available on “Mainly Norfolk”.

    Muzza I much prefer your little poem to any others on offer, and there is no way I could even pronounce Jane’s rhyme.

  25. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    @Diana…………Crikey….you have reminded me…I have a deluge of Valentine cards to make!

  26. Diana says:

    Well Muzza only 6 more days and if you are making loads you had better get started this instant.

  27. Diana says:

    Still at it Muzza only 6 days to go.

  28. Diana says:

    Jon sings it well.

    Muzza guess you are busy at this time of the year.

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