Johnny Faa
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

According to Child, printed versions of this ballad probably date back to at least 1720. The first documented printing was in Tea Table Miscellany (1740). Lady Casslilles Lilt (aka Johnny Faa, the Gypsiey Laddie) is in the Skene Manuscripts which holds documents from the 17th century.

Variants and alternate titles include: Johnny Faa, Davy Faw, The Egyptian Laddie, The Gypsy Davy and Lord Garrick.

Variations of this ballad in melody and lyrics at this site are:

This ballad is Child Ballad #200 (The Gypsy Laddie).

For a complete list of Child Ballads this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

Johnny Faa was a prominent title among gypsies and his rights and title as "lord and earl of Egypt"were recognized by James V in 1540. Before that the king's officers were ordered to assist Johnny Faw in "execution of his justice" upon his people. However, the gypsies were expelled from Scotland in 1541 and then in 1609. In 1611 Johnny Faa and three others of the same name were sentenced to be hanged. In 1616 Johnny Faa and two others were sentenced to be hanged for returning to the country and "abiding therein". In 1624 Johnny Faa and seven other men were sentenced to hang and Helen Faa and ten women were sentenced to be drown, but the women's execution was stayed.

Circa 1788 the ballad became associated with John, the sixth earl of Cassilis and his first wife, Lady Jean Hamilton. Before her marriage Lady Jean was in love with "Johnny Faa, of Dunbar". Years later, after she had borne two children, Johnny Faa returned and persuaded her to elope. Johnny Faa and seven other gypsies (which correlates to the 1624 sentence) were hanged and Lady Jean was banished and confined for life in a tower built for her imprisonment. Eight heads, effigies of the gypsies, were said to be carved in the stone tower.

The gipsies cam tae our lord's yett,
And oh! but they sang bonny,
They sang sae sweet and sae complete
That doon cam oor fair lady;
When she cam tripping doon the stair,
And a' her maids before her,
As soon as they saw here weel-faured face,
They coost the glamour ower her,

'Sae take frae me, this gay mantle,
And bring tae me a plaidie,
For if kith and kin and a handsworn,
I'll follow the gypsy laddy;
Yestreen I lay in a weel made bed,
And my guid lord beside me;
This nicht I'll lie in a tenant's barn,
What ever may betide me,

Come tae your bed, says Johnny Faa,
Come tae your bed, my deary,
For I vow and swear by the hilt o' my sword,
Your lord shall nae mair come near ye,
"I'll go tae bed my Johnny Faa,
And I'll go tae bed tae my deary,
For I vow and swear by what passed yestreen,
My lord shall nae mair come near me.

I'll mak a hap tae my Johnny Faa,
I'll mak a hap tae my deary,
And he'll get a' that it gaes round,
And my lord shall nae mair come near me,
And when our lord came hame at e'en,
And speired for his fair lady,
The tane she cried and the ither replied,
"She's awa wi the gypsy laddy.

Gae saddle tae me my black, black steed,
Gae saddle and mak him ready;
Before that I either eat or sleep,
I'll gae seek my fair lady.

He wandered heigh, he wandered laigh,
He wandered late and early,
Until he cam to that wan water,
And spied his fair lady.

O there were fifteen weelmade men,
Although they were na bonny,
And they hangit a' in a raw,
For the Earl o' Castle's lady.
Related Links
There are many variations of the tune, my favorite is Black Jack Davy, which is on the Steeleye Span album All Around My Hat.
From The Saltire Scottish Song Book and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.