Author Archives: Tatum Shane

Main Piece: The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand

The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes

Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond

Where me and my true love will ne-er meet again 

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.


O you’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road

And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye

For me and my true love will ne-er meet again

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

Background: The informant sang this Scottish folk melody in her high school choir. Every year at graduation, the chorus would perform this song in honor of the graduating seniors, it was a tradition. When she graduated, the most emotional part of the ceremony was hearing the students she had to leave sing to her just after receiving her diploma. 

Context: I asked the informant to tell me her favorite song. Instead of giving me her favorite, she gave me the most meaningful and explained to me why The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand holds so much significance. 

Thoughts: The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand is a Scottish folk song about two soldiers who were held in captivity when by the Brits in 1945. One soldier escapes imprisonment and travels back to Scotland, and the other is executed, but his spirit returns to Scotland on a different path. The traditional understanding of this song is important to the culture and history of Scotland. However, the way that my friend interprets the song has less to do with the narrative in the lyrics, and more to do with the feelings and associations that surface when she hears the chorus. The literal meaning is irrelevant to her life but speaks to how one folk artifact can hold spark many different sentiments depending on the context in which it is learned. 

*see  Douglas, Ronald Macdonald. Scottish Lore and Folklore. Crown Publishers: New York: 1982 for more information on the origin of this text.  

Main Piece: “Just because there is a goalie in the net, does not mean that you can’t score a goal”

Background: This is a saying that the informant learned from her friends at summer camp when she was in grade school. She attended a co-ed summer camp and as a way to keep themselves entertained, the kids would have crushes and say they were dating just because they held hands on the way to the dining hall one night. Because they were at summer camp and playing sports, the kids would say this proverb as a way to indicate that even if your crush had was in a relationship with some else, it did not mean you were out of luck or didn’t have a shot. 

Context: the informant still uses this proverb in her 20s, but the intention behind the saying has changed. When at summer camp, the campers did not realize in their youth that ‘homewrecking’ is socially unacceptable. They saw were so immersed in the competitive culture of camp that a sports metaphor for the romantic and social elements of life there seemed fitting. Now, the informant uses this phrase as more of a mocking joke. She will say it to one of her friends if they see a cute guy, but he happens to be in a relationship. She does not expect her friend to take the saying seriously or act on the meaning. It is interesting how the significance of this proverb has shifted from adolescence to adulthood. At camp, the kids were genuinely encouraging fighting for their crush, even if it meant hurting someone else; now, we can tease our friends in the same context, but with different intentions.

Thoughts: I have heard this saying outside of the informant’s interview and I have always found it to be humorous and I suppose true, but not something to take seriously. What I find interesting about this proverb, in particular, is that it is dependent on interpretation. The person listening to this word of advice can either hear it as ridiculous and funny or they can take it to heart and cause issues. The impact that his proverb has left the listener as an amused audience member or a person who is about to really damage someone else’s relationship. It is very black and white how this saying is received and depends greatly on who is hearing it- as well as their age, sex, and willingness to take charge versus be passive.

Main Piece: Shabbat

Background: Growing up, the informant celebrated Shabbat every Friday night. The custom was very reformed. Her dad would lead a five-minute ‘service’ that consisted of prayer, drinking some wine, and the breaking of Challah. The whole family would have a meal together. It was less of a religious experience for the informant than it was an opportunity for her family to be together and connect at the end of the week. 

Context: When the informant moved out of her house for college, she did not continue the folk ritual of having Shabbat on Friday nights. It wasn’t until she left home that she realized what the experience meant as a folk tradition. She explained to me: 

“Shabbat was unnegotiable in my house. Even on Friday nights when I wanted to go out with my friends in high school, I first had to have dinner with my family. My dad would say the prayers from memory- literally speaking so fast in Hebrew, it was remarkable-, we would pour the wine, and have homemade challah. My mom made it fresh every week and she would often spice it up with, like, a theme of sorts. Sometimes sweet, savory, but always so good. Nothing compares. I really did not have a choice in the matter when it came to Friday night dinner, but I did not know otherwise it was something that was so routine that it never phased me to rebel against the system. And I also didn’t look at it as something ultra Jewish- like I knew my friends weren’t doing this every week, but it felt more like a family tradition rather than a religious obligation. I did not appreciate those nights until they were gone, let me tell ya. I just never realized how special that time was. My dad worked and traveled a lot and my mom had three kids to deal with plus all of the non-profit stuff she did, so that time, even if I ran out of the house to meet my boyfriend directly afterward, that time was so important to my family.  It was one of the only times we all were together and there was no way to get out of it. I miss it. I never thought I would miss it, but on Friday nights, I don’t always want to be at a bar with my friends or finishing up work, I want to be with my dad blessing our food and my mom making sure the candles are burning just right. They always say you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, and I know that if I facetime my parents on a Friday night, they will be right there at the table just enjoying each other’s company. My kids will have some sort of tradition very similar to this implemented into their lives because it kept us together.” 

Thoughts: The celebration of Shabbat is a religious custom that is practiced in many Jewish households across the world. What I find interesting about my informant’s story is that the ritual carries a different meaning to her because of the way that her family practiced this tradition. They did not emphasize the praying as much as they did the conversations at dinner where each family member got to share the stories of their week and laugh over Challah. The Challah is part of the folk ritual that is an emblem of love and connection. Both the wine and the Challah are foodways that facilitate the bringing together of the family and serve as reminders of the informant’s roots when she encounters them in different contexts. 

Main Piece: Miss Susie

Miss Susie had a steamboat,

The steamboat had a bell,

Miss Susie went to heaven,

The steamboat went to…

Hello Operator,

Please dial Number 9,

And if you disconnect me,

I’ll cut off your…

Behind the ‘frigerator,

There was a piece of glass,

Miss Susie sat upon it,

And cut her little…

Ask me no more questions,

Tell me no more lies,

The boys are in the bathroom,

Pulling down their…

Flies are in the meadow,

The bees are in the park,

Miss Susie and her boyfriend are kissing

D A R K, D A R K, 

dark, dark dark 

Background: This is a folk song that has been circulating the playground since I was a kid, and now, the informant, my little sister, also knows this tune. When she sings it, I can always join in, as can my mom because she also remembers a similar version from her childhood. There is little variation between the three versions of the songs, but as the song has aged, so has the length of the song. 

Context: The informant sang this song to me when I asked her favorite nursery rhyme. This song is definitely more mature than Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, for instance, so I was not surprised that an older child chose it. She sang me this portion of the song and said that there was more, but she was uncertain of all the lyrics off the top of her head. I knew the words of the song up to this point, but my mom said that the version she knew stopped at “Pulling down their…Flies”. 

Thoughts: This is a folk song that has withstood the test of time and grown with age. I looked up the rest of the tune and there are many proceeding verses that are not appropriate for all ages. For example, some lyrics include: “I know I know my sister With the forty-acre bra.”, “I wish I had a boyfriend Who kissed me all the time!”, and “He made me wash his underwear So I kicked him out the door”. For the extended version of this song visit, Miss Susie Had a Steamboat (Hello Operator). I think this song is a testimony to how our music has become less censored than it was in prior generations. The kids have modified and added lyrics to the song that are more provocative and test the boundaries of childhood. 

Main Piece: Mad Bess

Background: The informant’s elementary school is said to be haunted by the ghost of a former tenant of land, Mas Bess. The school’s campus is very old and used to house many of the town’s silver mines in the late 19th century. The buildings have been remodeled, but never torn down. The school’s headmaster tells the students that if they are destructive towards the land or the buildings, Mad Bess will not be happy and will curse us all. 

Context: I asked the informant if she had ever seen a ghost before and she told me that she has yet to see her with her own eyes, but knows that Mad Bess is always looming around school. She promised me she was not afraid of Mad Bess, but some of her classmates are. She told me that she would never litter on the campus or disrespect the playground or the classrooms because she is certain Mad Bess would cause a miniature earthquake at her school. 

I also asked the informant if the teachers speak about Mad Bess frequently and she responded very matter-of-factly “Of course they do. Mad Bess is part of our community. The school would be incomplete without her. She has been on campus longer than any of the rest of us and deserved to have her home taken care of.” 

Thoughts: I attended the same school as the informant about a decade ago. While I was at the school, we had a different headmaster, but the legend of Mad Bess was the same. She was spoken about in two contexts. One, she was a legend of entertainment that served as a community point of connection. Two, she gave the teachers a threatening ghost story that they could strategically use to make the children behave. They could scare us into being respectful because the consequences of not doing so were grave. This is a folk legend that has been circulating and bringing together people on the campus since its founding. Ghost stories have so many purposes!