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Scottish word of the week: Bawbee

A bawbee, the halfpenny first issued by James V of Scotland in 1538. Picture: Contributed

A bawbee, the halfpenny first issued by James V of Scotland in 1538. Picture: Contributed

Appropriately enough, for a term originally used to denote a Scottish halfpenny first introduced in the 16th century, bawbee (sometimes baw bee) has offered rich pickings for traditional Scots literature.

It has alternatively been used to describe a fortune (Sir Alexander Boswell’s Jennie’s Bawbee), and as a selling point for someone of modest means (‘bawbee baps’ are cheap rolls in Aberdeen).

Coulter’s Candy, an old Scottish folk song, refers to a bawbee in its more ordinary form:

“Ally bally, ally bally bee,

“Sittin’ on yer mammy’s knee,

“Greetin’ for a wee bawbee,

“Tae buy mair Coulter’s candy”

It also makes a titular appearance on Kenneth McKellar & Morag MacKay’s traditional ballad, The Crookit Bawbee.

The bawbee, introduced by James V in 1538, also came in smaller denominations - the half bawbee and the quarter bawbee.

 

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