Traditional Scottish Songs
- The Best Thing Wi' Gear is the Haining O't

In a country where poverty was endemic, thriftiness became a necessity and a way of life. This song, by Archibald MacKay (1801-1883) from his book "Ingle-Side Lilts" published in 1855, strongly suggests that having got some "gear" (money, wealth) the best thing to do is the "haining o't" (preservation of it). The song is sung to the tune "The spinning o't".

The Best Thing Wi' Gear is the Haining O't

I trew there's charm in a wee pickle gear,
   And wha wadna strive at the gaining o't?
It mak's a puir body baith canty and fier,
   If honesty's had the obtaining o't.
But haith, it needs guiding, or soon, like the snaw
That melts frae the dyke, it will vanish awa,
And lea'e us wi' nocht but our haffits to claw;
   Sae the best thing wi' gear is the haining o't.

Some brag o' the gowpens o' gowd they can mak',
   Yet fortune, they're ever complaining o't;
And they see wi' surprise their bit house gaun to wrack,
   Tho' rowth is brocht in for maintaining o't.
But if what is brocht in is unwisely laid out,
Cauld pairtith will come wi' its lang wizzent snout,
And mak' that bit meal-pork as souple's a clout;
   Sae the best thing wi' gear is the haining o't.

The well that we drink frae is sure to rin dry,
   If there's owre muckle tooming and draining o't;
And then owre its loss how we yammer and sigh,
   When there micht hae been plenty remaining o't.
And sae, tho' your pouch were as fu' as a nit,
If ye're owre often in't a' its treasure will flit,
And lea'e you in duds frae the head to the fit;
   Sae the best thing wi' gear is the haining o't.

Meaning of unusual words:
gear=money, wealth
canty and fier=lively and strong/sturdy
haith=faith! - an exclamation of surprise
dyke=stone wall
haffits=locks of hair
gowpens o' gowd=handfuls of gold
Cauld pairtith=cold portions
souple's a clout=limp as a cloth
owre muckle tooming=too much emptying
duds=ragged clothes

Return to the Index of Traditional Scottish Songs

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line