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BESSIE MILLER

Written & arranged by Aaron Jones

 

Musicians

Aaron Jones (Vocals, Guitar)

Rachel Walker (Vocals)

Duncan Lyall (Double Bass)

 

Aaron’s inspiration:

When we heard the delightful story of Orkney’s Bessie Miller and her entrepreneurial endeavours in monetising the naivety and superstition of local fishermen, we knew we had to include her in this project! Bessie was first mentioned as an inspiration for the character ‘Norna of the Fitful Head’ in Sir Walter Scott’s ’The Pirate’.

 

She never claimed to be a witch or to have any special ability but she convinced sailors that in order to return safely from the sea they would need pay her sixpence and in return she would give them a cup of tea, say a prayer for them and allegedly fart, in either a ‘cloot’ or directly into their hands, to ensure safe passage! Fair winds indeed…

LYRICS

Near Stromness in Orkney in 1814,

A young Bessie Miller lived down by the sea.

And sailors and fishermen both young and old,

Paid her for safe passage and fair winds I’m told.

 

She deals with the devils himself some would say,

But she kneels before God at the end of the day.

“I am not a witch!” you must all understand,

“But I’ll pray for safe passage for a coin in my hand.” 

 

So, pay her the sixpence and join her for tea,

And ask her to pray for safe passage for thee,

As long as the Primrose, it grows in the sand,

Good fortune will bring us back safely to land.

 

On your way to set sail you must always take heed,

For if minister or young lassie you see.

Turn about and go home, there no fishing today.

Bad luck will befall those who see them they say.

 

Take silver to bury you deep for good luck,

And before you set sail put a coin in your sock.

A single horseshoe on the mast head they say,

Will keep the bad spirits and witches at bay.

 

And whistling into the wind there’s no doubt,

Will deaden the breeze or bring wild storms about.

So quickly to Bessie’s and pay her her fee,

There’s no need to fear the auld man of the sea.

 

So, haste ye to Bessie when leaving dry land,

And she’ll place a fair wind in the palm your hand.

No witchcraft or sorcery, just sixpence and tea,

And safely to shore you’ll return from the sea