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Glenbuchat Heritage

9  The Grassicks of Sleeptown
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9 The Grassicks of Sleeptown

Grassicks of Sleepytown

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Sleepytown

When Alex Glennie sent me a copy of ‘The Ballad of Sleepytown’, I thought I was being sent a piece of 1960’s American folk music. In fact the full title is ‘The Ballad of the Grassicks of Sleepytown’ This led to further exploration of both the Grassicks and Sleepytown.

From ‘The Old Roads of Scotland’.
“Just west of Bennachie there were two "king's highways" and a road running up onto Bennachie itself. At Leslie just north of here there was a road running from the old parish of Rathmuriel - the fair here used to be held at night and a "Sleepytown" still exists as a place name. It probably intersected a long-distance route to Huntly and the north that ran past Wardhouse castle.”

"The farm was officially named Christ's Kirk, with Sleepytoon appearing as the title after 1870”. Just near the farm is the site of an old Church called Christ's Kirk and there was an annual fair called Christ's Fair. This was also known as Sleepy Fair as it was held at night.

The Ballads
The ballad ‘Sleepytoun’ is attributed to William Clark ('Poet Clark'), who was a farm servant at Sleepytoon, near Insch, in the 1850s. The farmer Adam Mitchell, named in the song, was farmer at Sleepytoon, originally called Christ's Kirk, from the 1840s to 1858.

Sleepytoon

‘Sleepytoon’ is the name of a bothy ballade of the mid 1800’s A bothy ballad in which the singer recounts his experience working for Adam Mitchell of Sleepytoon Farm. Mitchell is strict with the men, refusing to allow them to leave the farm, on penalty of a fine; the men ignore him and go out to court young women. The season is drawing to a close and the men will take to Alford to drink and tell of their experience.

The ‘cornkister’ or bothy song was composed by Willie Clark, 'poet Clark', a farm servant on the farm of Sleepytoon near Kennethmont, south of Huntly, sometime c.1854. In Victorian and Edwardian days farm servants in the North-East were housed in 'bothies' (stone outhouses, where they had their sleeping and feeding quarters), and these served as fertile incubators of the ploughman's folksong. Many of such songs provide vivid and often scurrilous descriptions of the old-style bothy life.

Sleepytoon

It happened at last Whitsuntide
I tired o' ma place
So I gaed up tae Ainsty fee
Ma fortune for tae chase

Chorus:
And sing iry iddiday addy
And sing iry iddiday an.

I met wi' Adam Mitchell
And tae fee we did presume
He's a fairmer up Kinethmont way
At a place ca'd Sleepytoon

"If ye and I agree" said he
"I promise ye fair play,
For I never gar ma servants work
mair nor ten 'oors a day"

"Ye'll work well when the day is fine
In rain ye shall work none.
A regular diet ye shall hae
And wages when they're won."

"If a' be true ye tell tae me
I think the place might suit"
Says I, "I'll gang wi' you
although ye are an ugly brute."

So I agreed tae fee wi' him
An' thocht masel well kent
Until I got tae Sleepytoon
And there I did repent

The order was tae yoke at five
And work while we could see
"Oh no! you're not in order Sir,
Defied ye maun be"

"Will ye defy what I command,
Ye scoundrel that ye are?
Ten 'oors a day did we agree
Deny it if ye daur."

Next order was tae bed at nine
And never leave the toon
And ilka time we left it
We'd be fined half a croon

But we took little heed o' that
And oftimes took the pass
Sometimes tae buy tobacco
And sometimes tae court a lass

The ither lads were often fined
But never lost the hairt
And I maself was fined a croon
For riding in the cairt

And noo the term is nearly done
And soon we shall be free
And wi' that wary fairmer
I never more will fee.

And noo the term is over
And oor wages we hae won
So we'll awa' tae Rhynie mere
And hae oorselves some fun

Maybe we'll see old Adam,
Suppin' at his brose.
I'll gie him a len' o' ma hankie
For tae dicht his snotty nose

There is another Sleepytown Ballad written by George Morris (1876-1958).

Sleepytoon in the Morning

1: Come aa ye lads that follow the ploo,
A story true I'll tell tae you,
O some o the ongyangs we gyang through,
At Sleepytoon in the mornin.

2: At five oor foreman jumps like a shot,
And cries, "Lord sakes, what a sleepy heided lot;
Are ye aa gaun tae lie there till ye rot,
At Sleepytoon in the mornin?"

3: Syne at half past five we follow wir nose,
Ower tae the kitchen tae chaw wir brose;
Fairm servants seldom need a dose,
O castor ile in the mornin.

4: Oor foreman lays his brose cup by,
Syne ben the hoose he gaes a cry;
He's hardly time his pints tae tie,
Till he's oot til his horse in the mornin.

5: Oor bailie's sober, thin an sma,
Sideweys he's hardly seen ava;
But he'll pu neeps wi ony twa,
That ever raise in the mornin.

6: I ken but Birkie is oor loon,
His waltams cost him hauf a croun;
His briks are that ticht, he's fly tae set doun,
For tearin his briks in the mornin.

7: We hae a great muckle kitchie-deem,
I'll swear she's gey near auchteen steen;
The auld cat kittled in ane o her sheen,
Afore she got up ae mornin.

8: The fairmer's name is Geordie Broon,
He's weel respeckit roun and roun;
But I canna say the same for Mrs Broon,
Wi her scowlin face in the mornin.

9: She's a hungry hun, the fairmer's wife,
Ae ee says Forfar, the ither says Fife;
She's a face like a decanter and a nose like a knife,
That wad hash Swedish neeps in the mornin.

10: But oor misses she is nae sae bad,
It's jist aboot time she had a lad;
I've been thinkin masel o spierin her dad,
For his dother some fine mornin.

11: I've been writing this stroud on the corn kist,
I'm the orra loon an I'll seen be missed;
An if I dinna want a wallop fae the foreman's fist,
It's 'ta ta' til some ither mornin.

The Grassicks of Sleepytown

The Ballads above were probably written in the mid 1800’s when the farm was owned by Adam Mitchell

The Grassicks, James Junior and Senior were in the farm in 1943 and it was there that James senior died. It is not known how long they had then farm


Alexander Grassick
Birth: 13 Jun 1825 in Coull of Ledmacoy, Strathdon,
Death: 10 Dec 1876 in Parkvilla, Strathdon,
Father: James Grassick b: 4 Jun 1796 in Lost, Strathdon
Mother: Jean Forbes b: 27 Jan 1794 in Auldahuie, Strathdon,
Marriage 1
Margaret Glennie b: 16 Apr 1830 in Heughhead, Strathdon
Married: 16 Apr 1858 in Cottown, Strathdon,
Children
Jane Grassick b: 7 Jan 1859 in Strathdon,
James Grassick b: 9 Oct 1860 in Strathdon,
Margaret Glennie Grassick b: 4 Nov 1862 in Strathdon,
John Grassick b: 25 Oct 1864 in Park Villa, Strathdon,
Mary Jane Grassick b: 19 Aug 1866 in Strathdon,
Alexander Grassick b: 2 Aug 1868 in Strathdon,
Isabella Ann Grassick b: 5 Aug 1870 in Strathdon,
William Glennie Grassick b: 20 Sep 1872 in Strathdon,
Charles Wattie Grassick b: 17 Aug 1875 in Parkvilla, Strathdon,
Census: 1851 North Allans, New Machar,
Census: 1861 Parkvilla, Strathdon,
Census: 1871 Parkvilla, Strathdon,


James Grassick
Birth: 9 Oct 1860 in Strathdon,
Death: 9 Jun 1943 in Sleepytown, Kinnethmont,
Father: Alexander Grassick b: 13 Jun 1825 in Coull of Ledmacoy, Strathdon,
Mother: Margaret Glennie b: 16 Apr 1830 in Heughhead, Strathdon
Marriage 1
Ann McRobert b: 9 Feb 1869 in Strathdon,
Married: 1895 in Strathdon,
Children.
James Alexander Grassick b: 1895 in Strathdon,
Mary Ann Grassick b: 1904
John McRobert Grassick b: 1906
Census: 1861 Parkvilla, Strathdon,
Census: 1871 Parkvilla, Strathdon,
Census: 1881 Roughpark, Strathdon,
Census: 1901 Roughpark, Strathdon,


James Alexander Grassick
Birth: 1895 in Strathdon,
Death: AFT 1943 in probably Kennethmont,
Father: James Grassick b: 9 Oct 1860 in Strathdon,
Mother: Ann McRobert b: 9 Feb 1869 in Strathdon,
Census: 1901 Roughpark, Strathdon,
Residence: 1943 Sleepytown, Kinnethmont,





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