"'Babbity Bowster' is an old Scottish dance or game which used to be played as the last dance at weddings and merrymakings." -Alice Bertha Gomme


*Or laddie.

Another Version:

Wha learned you to dance,
You to dance, you to dance,
Wha learned you to dance
A country bumpkin brawly ?

My mither learned me when I was young,
When I was young, when I was young,
My mither learned me when I was young.
The country bumpkin brawly.

Game Instructions

"Mr. Ballantyne describes the dance as taking place at the end of a country ball. The lads all sat on one side and the girls on the other. It began with a boy taking a handkerchief and dancing before the girls, singing the first verse (fig. 1). Selecting one of the girls, he threw the handkerchief into her lap, or put it round her neck, holding both ends himself. Some spread the handkerchief on the floor at the feet of the girl. The object in either case was to secure a kiss, which, however, was not given without a struggle, the girls cheering their companion at every unsuccessful attempt which the boy made (fig. 2). A girl then took the handkerchief, singing the next verse (fig. 3), and having thrown the handkerchief to one of the boys, she went off to her own side among the girls, and was pursued by the chosen boy (fig. 4). When all were thus paired, they formed into line, facing each other, and danced somewhat like the country dance of Sir Roger."

Babbity Bowster - Scottish Children's Songs - Scotland - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Comment After Song Image


This is played as a Scottish jig.

"There are a number of sites in Scotland with game versions and dandling on Mom's knee versions." –Barbara Huet

Please email me to let us know if you still play any version of "Babbity Bowster", and if so, please share your version. Thanks! Mama Lisa

Sheet Music

Sheet Music - Babbity Bowster

Thanks and Acknowledgements

This version was shared by W. H. Ballantyne to Alice Bertha Gomme as found in her book "The traditional games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with tunes, singing-rhymes, and methods of playing according to the variants extant and recorded in different parts of the Kingdom" (1894). You can find the score and image there too.

Thanks to Barbara Huet for sharing this song with us!