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Children's Rhymes. Children's Games, Children's Songs, Children's Stories
Children's Rhyme-Games - Bab at the Bowster


As for "Bab at the Bowster" (more generally pronounced "Babbity Bowster"), I am not sure but that grown people have engaged in it more than wee folks have. Indeed, it is not improbable that the young borrowed this originally from the old, by observation. Now-a-day's, undoubtedly, we know it exclusively as a child's play. But yet, within the memory of living men, it was the regular custom in country places nearly over all Scotland to wind up every dancing-ball with "Bab at the Bowster." No wedding dance, no Handsel Monday hall, would have been esteemed complete without it; and I have seen it performed at both, less than forty years ago. Performed by old or young, however, the mode is the same. The girls sit down on one side of the barn or square, the boys on the other. A boy takes a handkerchief--it is regularly a male who starts this play—and while dancing up and down before the girls, all sing:-

Wha learned you to dance,
Bab at the bowster, bab at the bowster;
Wha learned you to dance,
Bab at the bowster brawly?

My Minnie learned me to dance,
Bab at the bowster, bab at the bowster;
My minnie learned me to dance,
Bab at the bowster brawly.

Wha ga'e you the keys to keep,
Bab at the bowster, bab at the bowster;
Wha ga'e you the keys to keep,
Bab at the bowster brawly?

My minnie ga'e me the keys to keep,
Bab at the bowster, bab at the bowster
My minnie ga'e me the keys to keep,
Bab at the bowster brawly.

Kneel down and kiss the ground,
Kiss the ground, kiss the ground
Kneel down and kiss the ground,
Kiss the bonnie wee lassie.

By the time the last verse has been reached the boy has fixed on his partner, and at the command to "kneel down and kiss the ground" he spreads the handkerchief on the floor at the girl's feet, on which both immediately kneel. A kiss ensues, evens though it should be obtained after a struggle; then the boy marches away round and round followed by the girl, while all again sing the song. By the time the last verse is again reached, the girl in turn has selected the next boy, but does not kneel down before him. She simply throws the handkerchief in his lap, and immediately joins her own partner by taking his arm. If, however, she can be overtaken before she joins her partner, a penalty kiss may be enforced. Second boy selects second girl as the first did the first girl, and pair after pair is formed in the same fashion until all are up and marching arm-in-arm round the room, or square, when the game is finished. At adult assemblies, I should state, even as the company paired in this dance, they departed for home.


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