Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics:
Cameronian Cat

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The Cameronian Cat

Cameronian Cat

            There was a Cameronian cat
              Was hunting for a prey,
            And in the house she catch’d a mouse,
              Upon the Sabbath-day.

            The Whig, being offended
              At such an act profane,
            Laid by his book, the cat he took,
              And bound her in a chain.

            “Thou damn’d, thou cursed creature,
              This deed so dark with thee,
            Think’st thou to bring to hell below,
              My holy wife and me?

            “Assure thyself, that for the deed
              Thou blood for blood shalt pay,
            For killing of the Lord’s own mouse
              Upon the Sabbath-day.”

            The presbyter laid by the book,
              And earnestly he pray’d,
            That the great sin the cat had done
              Might not on him be laid.

            And straight to execution
              Poor baudrons she was drawn,
            And high hang’d up upon a tree;
              Mess John he sung a psalm.

            And when the work was ended,
              They thought the cat near dead;
            She gave a paw, and then a mew,
              And stretched out her head.

            “Thy name,” said he, “shall certainly
              A beacon still remain,
            A terror unto evil ones,
              For evermore.  Amen.”

            There was a Presbyterian cat
            Went searching for her prey,
            And killed a mouse within the house
            Upon the Sabbath day.

            The people all were horrified
            And they were grieved sair;
            And straightway led that wicked cat
            Before the Minister.

            The minister was horrified,
            And unto it did say,
            Oh, thou preversed pussy cat,
            To break the Sabbath day.

            The Sabbath’s been frae days of yore
            An institution;
            So they straightway led that wicked cat
            To execution.

            The higher up the plum tree grows,
            The sweeter grow the plums;
            The more the cobbler plies his trade,
            The broader grow his thumbs.

            There was a Presbyterian Cat,
            Went out to hunt its prey;
            And in a hoose it caught a moose,
            Upon the Sabbath day:

            An elder he was so enraged
            To see it so profane,
            Adown the brook the cat he took,
            And drowned it in a chain.

            There was an auld Seceder Cat,
            And it was unco gray;
            It brocht a moose into the hoose
            Upon the Sabbath day:
            They took it to the Sess-i-on,
            Wha it rebukit sore,
            And made it promise faithfully
            To do the same no more.

            There was a Presbyterian cat,
              A-hunting for her prey,
            And in the house she catched a mouse
              Upon the Sabbath day.

            The minister offended,
              With such an act profane,
            Laid down his book, the cat he took,
              And bound her in a chain.

            Thou vile, malicious creature,
              Thou murderer, said he,
            Oh! do you think to bring to Hell,
              My holy wife and me.

            But be thou well assurèd,
              That blood for blood shall pay,
            For taking of the mouse’s life
              Upon the Sabbath day.

            Then he took down his Bible,
              And fervently he prayed,
            That the great sin the cat had done,
              Might not on him be laid.

            Then forth to execu-ti-on,
              Poor Bawdrins she was drawn,
            And on a tree they hanged her hie,
              And then they sung a Psalm.


            A little seceder pussie
               Was watching for her prey,
            And in the house she caught a mouse
                Upon the Sabbath day.

            The minister was offended
               That such a deed was done,
            Laid down his book, took up the cat,
               And put her in a gin.

            ‘Thou filthy cursed creature
               And blood shedder,’ cried he,
            ‘Do you think to bring to death and hell
               My holy wife and me?

            ‘But be thou well assured
               That blood for blood shall be,
            For killing of a silly mouse
               Upon the Sabbath day.’

            To the place of execution
               Poor Bawdrons she was drawn,
            And hangit hie upon a tree:
               The minister sang a psalm.


             7.                  The Presbyterian Cat.
  A Presbyterian Cat, sat watching of her Prey
  & in ye House, she caught a Mouse, upon a Sabbath Day:
  The Minister offended at such a Cat profane,
  Threw his Book, ye Cat he took & bound her in a Chain
  Thou Damn’d Confounded Creature, & Blood-sheder said he,
  Think’s thou to throw, to Hell below, my holy Wife & me:
  Thou well may’st be assured, thou blood for blood shall pay;
  For taking of the Mouse’s Life, upon ye Sabbath-day.
  Then up he took the Bible, & heartily he pray'd;
  That ye Great Sin, ye Cat had done, might not on them be laid:
  Then strait to Execution, Poor Boderam was drawn,
  There hang’d was She, upon a tree, wle Pres: John sung a Psalm.


            (1) Hogg, JR I (1819), 37, Song #XXII, + music; note, p. 209 (punctuation regularised).  He notes (p. 209):

            This is another popular country song, and very old.  It is by some called The Presbyterian Cat, but generally as above; and is always sung by the wags in mockery of the great pretended strictness of the Covenanters, which is certainly, in some cases, carried to an extremity rather ludicrous.  I have heard them myself, when distributing the sacrament, formally debar from the table the king and all his ministers; all witches and warlocks; all who had committed or attempted suicide; all who played at cards and dice; all the men that had ever danced opposite to a woman, and every woman that had danced with her face toward a man; all the men who looked at their cattle or crops, and all the women who pulled green kail or scraped potatoes, on the Sabbath-day; and I have been told, that in former days they debarred all who used fanners for cleaning their oats, instead of God’s natural wind.  The air is very sweet, but has a strong resemblance to one of their popular psalm-tunes.[—As well it might, for it is none other than the old tune Irish.]

            The tune gets its name from having appeared first in A Collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems, Dublin, 1749. [Book of Praise (1918), #29].  Note that logically the last stanza should be spoken by the cat.
Richard Cameron, a Presbyterian preacher of the 17th century, gave his name to a religious sect that held rigidly to the principles of the Solemn League and Covenant.  This had been ratified by the parliaments of England and Scotland, and also by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster in 1643, and stated that Presbyterianism was to be maintained in the three kingdoms and popery, prelacy, superstition, heresy and schism were to be extirpated.  The Covenanters suffered a good deal for this belief under Charles II and James VII (or II); Cameron himself met death in 1680, and is regarded as a “Scots Worthy” or martyr.  The Presbyterians who founded the sect were scandalised by the employment of the Cameronian Regiment (26th Infantry) latterly in the service of William III’s foreign wars, since although Scotland was somewhat pacified by a moderate system of Presbytery being established in 1690, prelacy was confirmed in the rest of Britain.  Hence the equation of “Cameronian” with “rigidly righteous”, or what Burns calls the “unco guid”.  The term however in modern times lost its clarity and the cat became a mere Presbyterian; but his master and congregation were still inflexible in their attitude to the Sabbath.
            Henry Grey Graham (Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, 1909,  28n., says “[Hew] Scott, in Fasti Eccles. Scot., identifies the hero of the song with a minister in the north of Scotland.”
            (2) The Scottish student version, from A. G. Abbie, Student Songs (London-Glasgow, 1958), 102, with music. The moral is of course a floating piece of nonsense, also sung to a psalm-tune; a version in Rymour Club Misc. I (1906- 11),34: “The langer that the ploom tree stands, The riper grow the plooms;/ The langer that the souter works, The blacker grow his thooms.” [Tune not specified.]  Abbie’s tune direction is another psalm-tune, Dundee [Este’s Psalter, 1592; Book of Praise (1918), #45.]; but it is really Coleshill (an adaptation of Dundee); in William Barton’s Psalms, 1706; Book of Praise, #90).
            (3-4) Rymour Club Misc. I.33 (in 4 ll. each); indicated tune, Coleshill.
            (5) Rymour Club I.231 (6x2 lines). Quotation marks removed from 3.2.
            (6) A conribution to Notes and Queries Vol. 4, 4th Ser. (83), July 31 1869, pp. 97-8, by J. Macpherson, who said the words “used to be sung to children by an old Scotch lady about fifty years ago”, i.e. c. 1819. The editor notes that a very similar text is in Maidment’s Book of Scottish Pasquils, p. 156, where that editor refers to Hogg’s version “as well as to the notes to be found on the well-known passage in Barnabee’s Journal, in which he describes the Banbury ‘Puritane one’ —
                                                ‘Hanging of his cat on Monday,
                                                For killing of a mouse on Sunday.’”
            (7) Text and tune here from a single sheet issue with music, engraved by Tho. Cross, London, c. 1720. The song is given without music in The Nightingale, 1738, p. 377; Orpheus, 1749, I, p. 20; and Encyclopedia of Comic Songs, 1819, p. 22. This was the last song copied into the Scottish Mansfield/ St. Clair MS, c. 1775-90.

Perhaps the most well-known version current these days is that of Hugh S. Roberton (1928), whose Orpheus Choir did a grand job of it.  He took two traditional verses (our #4), and added a third, deleting the felicide of the old versions and merely making the cat reflect on “the ways o’ mice and men” (see “Mice and Men”, Curwen edition no. 61232, arranged in good four-part harmony).  His tune is another psalm-tune, Desert, which is beautiful sung to godly words, and contrastively effective sung to humorous words.  [That tune is assigned to other words in Rymour Club I.34: “The auld man said unto his son, The nicht that he was born,/ It’s blessin’s on your curly pow, Ye’ll gang for pirns the morn.” —The curly pow line derives from “Dainty Davie”.]  Psalm- tunes are used for this pawky piece of satire, because religious verses were only supposed to be sung on the Sabbath (and of course only religious songs were permitted on the Sabbath).  On week days, however, the psalm-tunes had to be rehearsed, so it became common for congregations and choirs to sing nonsense words, or, as Roberton says, “words of a, more or less, frivolous nature” to these sacred tunes.
            Cf. also Ebsworth’s ed. of Merry Drollery, 349-50.
            A New England version is in Mary Barrows, “Some Half-Forgotten New England Songs” (New England Magazine, n.s. XII [1895], 427-5), p. 475 (the tune resembles John Anderson my Jo/Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye):

            There was a Presbyterian cat,
              As I have heard them say;
            She caught a mouse about the house,
              All on the Sabbath day.
              All on the Sabbath day;
            She caught a mouse about the house,
              All on the Sabbath day.


            “Now, puss, you naughty trollope,
              How can you treat us so?
            Do you intend that wife and I
              Shall to destruction go?

            “Now since it is the Sabbath morn,
              One day you shall remain;
            But when next Monday morning comes,
              You certain shall be slain.”

            So when next Monday morning came,
              Poor pussy she was slain;
            And hanging on an apple tree,
              The deacon sot the Psalm.

            “Now all you wicked hunting crew,
              Lament poor pussy’s fate;
            Repent of all your evil deeds
              Afore it is too late.”

Murray Shoolbraid