The Story of “Nae Mair Wynchin”

Living on a farm with a father who was a workaholic presented its own problems for a teenage boy. I had no intention of following in my fathers footsteps and becoming a shepherd. Even he advised me against that. “There are far better ways to earn a living lad. You’ll never be rich as a shepherd and all you do is work hard to line someone else’s pockets.” So, with no incentive to learn the skills of a shepherd, my attention zeroed in on two areas, girls and music.

This was a source of irritation to my father.  I was so zeroed in on girls and music, that I didn’t want to waste my time helping around the farm. This was further complicated by my fathers failure to pass on the gene that carried his relentless workaholic work ethic. I had developed into a typical lazy teenager controlled only by hormones and music. The clashes with my father were regular and fierce. For a great number of years our relationship was frosty to say the very least.

My father, Pat McNab

The song ‘Nae Mair Wynchin’ is entirely fictitious.

It came about one evening as I stood in front of the fire in my kitchen heating my backside. Lizbeth, my wife, was preparing tea for us both and I was absently singing away to myself. Eric Bogle’s song ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ drifted into my head and I started to sing. A combination of a distracted and inattentive mind resulted in the words coming out distorted in dyslexic fashion.

“… and I was banned from playing with Matilda”

 I laughed at my error and almost ignored it. But the song writer in me woke up and I thought there might be a daft wee verse I could make out of Eric’s wonderfully poignant song. Suddenly, lines that parodied the original song were flooding out of my head. As I tried to keep as close as I could to the original, the story of Matilda and the hen house more or less wrote itself.

Old Hen House by Neil Theasby

Although the story is fictitious, it accurately reflects the strained relationship I had with my father in my mid teens. He was undoubtedly frustrated by my apparent lack of ‘get up and go’. Checking out the girls in the local village of Comrie or listening to the latest top 20 chart were much more important in my eyes than feeding animals or doing odd jobs around the farm.

I recall one Sunday, Mum and Dad had driven up the glen for the monthly church service. I had been invited to attend but had predictably declined.  So Dad had left me several jobs to do in his absence. Knowing that my parents would go to the church service, and in all likelihood stop for a social chat at one of the houses in the glen, I had arranged for a friend to drop off a girl from Crieff called Irene.

An hour or so passed by, and suddenly I heard my parents come into the farmhouse. Obviously, social chitchat had not been the order of the day and they had come straight home after the service. Distracted by Irene, none of the jobs set by my father had been done. To say he wasn’t happy about this would be a significant understatement. He was still seething later that night. Not only was he not happy about the work not getting done, for some reason he was just as unhappy that I had cavorting with a girl who wore emerald green nail varnish. “Who the Hell paints their fingers a colour like that?” he ranted.

The original work is one of the great anti-war songs of my generation and it was always a concern that by writing a frivolous parody to such a well loved and well written song, it might not go down too well with some parts of the folk world. But that has never been the case. I performed it in a concert of humorous songs at Celtic Connections which went out live on radio. I was later told that a recording of that performance was played to Eric Bogle, and he laughed when he heard it, and liked it.

I think the parody works as well as it does because of the huge contrast between a serious song about the horrors of war and a song about teenage sex in a hen house.

The power of Eric’s original song was brought home to me last year when I visited the Turkish beaches on the Gallipoli peninsula where so many troops on both sides lost their lives. Because of that, I would ask before you listen to my nonsense, that you take a few minutes of your time to listen to the great man himself singing “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”.

In the early hours of 25th April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers came ashore at Gallipoli. Despite their bravery, and the huge loss of life, they made little headway against a determined Turkish defence.  Below are a few images from the Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park which is dedicated to the pursuit of peace, harmony, freedom and understanding.

Suvla Bay

Trenches from the battle

ANZAC War Graves

ANZAC memorial

An inscription that summed up the tragedy of war for me.



That was the serious story, and now for the daft story.

Nae Mair Winchin

Now when I was a young lad, I laid on my back, with a girl in a field full of clover
And tho’ my passion was strong, it didn’t last long, and soon all my wynchin’ was over.
‘Cause at 19:15, my father said, “Son, it’s time tae stop wynchin’, there’s work to be done.”
For the coo’s are all up tae their udders in dung, and he marched me away to the byre.

And I was banned from playing with Matilda, nae mair that young girl I’d tae see,
And tae the sound o’ Dad’s roars, I got on wi’ my chores, nae mair wynching Matilda for me.

Oh, how I remember, those terrible days, tending cattle wi’ feeding and water
Knowing one day, they’d be taken away, to be butchered, like the lambs at the slaughter
But I knuckled right down, and worked as hard as I could, I collected the eggs and I split firewood

But when I thought o’ Matilda, I’d scowl and I’d brood, that there was no one as cruel as my father

For he had banned me from playing with Matilda, nae mair that young girl I’d tae see

Just get on with your work, there’s no time tae shirk, (sigh) nae mair wynching Matilda for me.

Then one day, as I went to fetch hay, I spied a note on the back of the hay cart

The initials D & M were written in pen, surrounded by a bonny red love heart

Well my heart skipped a beat, I was jumping for joy, in Perthshire there wasn’t a happier boy

For Matilda had come up with a cunning wee ploy, that we would meet inside the old hen house

Yes, I was banned from playing with Matilda, nae mair that young girl I’d tae see
But if we had our way, we would meet the next day, in the hen house, around half past three

Well that next afternoon as my father walked by, he saw that the byre needed mucking

And as he looked all around, for his errant young son, he became aware of a loud sound of clucking

The hen house door opened, and all hell broke loose, the cock it was startled, and the hens flew their roost

And Matilda and I knew, that we’d cooked our goose, and that was the last time I saw her

Yes, I was banned from playing wi Matilda, Nae mair that your girl I would see

My Dad sent her away, on that fateful day, and then he turned his wrath upon me

And so now on a Sunday, as I sit down to lunch, and I see a roast chicken before me.
I take a leg and some breast, and I start to munch, reliving my hen house love story.

There’s no doubt that Matilda, she led me astray, and that my father was cruel when he sent her away

But is wasn’t just eggs that got laid on that day, so for me please don’t feel any pity

Wynching Matilda, wynching Matilda, she came a wynching, Matilda with me
And that clucking could be heard as he marched by the hen house
She came a wynching, Matilda with me


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