Ringing In the New Year, Orkney Style

Dec 27, 2013 by

One of my favorite Celtic songs for celebrating the New Year is a little Scottish ditty from the Isle of Orkney, An Orkney New Year’s Carol.

There’s no better way to ring in the New Year than with a group of rowdy Scotsmen bound and determined to have a party–with you!

Do a little dance, make a little love
Get down tonight!


A traditional song sung in Orkney and the Shetland Islands, this Scottish carol demands hospitality from the home the revelers have chosen, else “we’ll lay [your door] flat on the floor” .  The origins and author of the song are unknown, but the lyrics reference Catholic Queen Mary and the Blessed Virgin, so it was likely composed before the 16th century separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church.  So, get out your ale and your ham, lads and lasses–the gang’s all here:

This is New Year’s Even Night,
We are all Queen Mary’s Men,

And we’ve come here to claim our right:
And that’s before our lady.

The morning, it is New Year’s Day,
And we’ve come here to sport and play:

And if you don’t open up your door,
We’ll lay it flat upon the floor:

Master, get your ale vat,
And give us a couple of pints of that:

Mistress, get your pork ham,
And cut it large, and cut it round,
Be sure you don’t cut off your thumb:

We wish your cattle all may thrive,
To every one, a goodly calf:

We wish your mares, well fare they all,
To every one, a stag foal:

We wish your hens all well may thrive,
And every one lay three times five:

We wish your geese may all do well,
And every one, twelve at her heel:

God bless the mistress and her man,
Dish and table, pot and pan:

Here’s to the one with yellow hair,
She’s hiding underneath the stair:

Be you maids or be you none,
Although our time may not be long,

You’ll all be kissed ere we go home…


All’s well that end’s well in a Scottish song,  and this tune does end on a happy note.  The carolers confer New Year’s Day blessings upon the (perhaps reluctant) hostess and host, wishing them, their animals and their home much prosperity and good luck in the coming year.

Of course, no Scotsman worth his salt would think of leaving without first also paying honor to the lasses present.  In typical Scottish fashion, the men boastfully promise that ALL the women, old and young,  will get soundly kissed “ere we go home”, even if the time is short.

Quite the way to usher in a Happy New Year and, as they (most likely a Scotsman) say,  it’s not bragging if it’s true, aye?


To hear a sample of the tune and purchase the MP3 download, click HERE.

Nowell Sing We Clear  is a four musician group who have recorded several albums of traditional Celtic and British folk songs. An Orkney New Year’s Carol was originally released on their eponymous first album in 1977, then re-released on their 1989 Best Of Nowell Sing We Clear album. I don’t think their original album is still in print.

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