Hogmanay: Iain McColl recites A Wee Cock Sparra

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The tale of the chirpy "cock sparra" was first made famous by the actor Duncan MacRae, who wrote it along with Hugh Frater, and originally performed it on a BBC Hogmanay broadcast of “The White Heather Club”. 

McColl’s spirited performance was one of the many highlights of the stv Hogmanay special in 1990 which also saw Mark McManus, the original Chief Inspector Taggart, taking to the stage to do a turn of his own.

It sits in the same tradition as the long narrative poem Albert and the Lion, made famous in England by Stanley Holloway. But in this case it depends so completely on Scottish accent  and intonation that only a few actors have ever been able to pull it off.

Russell Hunter, better known as Lonely in the 70s TV series Callan, was another who made the poem his own.

Iain McColl is best known for his roles in the 80’s BBC sitcom City Lights and his portrayal of Dodie in the comedy series Rab C. Nesbitt.  His rendition of the song shows him in full comic flow and is sure to set you laughing.

The poem doesn't look  much on the page (see below for the full words). But much of the comedy depends on timing and also on the character of the sparrow, still sounding blithe and chirpy as the chapter of accidents unfolds.

 

A wee cock sparra sat on a tree

A wee cock sparra sat on a tree

A wee cock sparra sat on a tree

An' it was chirpin' awa' as blithe as could be

 

Alang came a boy, wi' a bow an' an arra

Alang came a boy, wi' a bow an' an arra

Alang came a boy, wi' a bow an' an arra

An' he said I’ll get ya, ya wee cock sparra

 

The boy with the arra let fly at the sparra

The boy with the arra let fly at the sparra

The boy with the arra let fly at the sparra

And he hit a man, that was hurlin' a barra

 

The man with the barra came oor with the arra                                                      

The man with the barra came oor with the arra

The man with the barra came oor with the arra

And he said, “Do you take me for a wee cock sparra”

                                              

The man hit the boy, though he wasnae his fatha

The man hit the boy, though he wasnae his fatha

The man hit the boy, though he wasnae his fatha

An' the boy stood and glowered, for he was hurt to the marra

An' all the time, the wee cock sparra

An' all the time, the wee cock sparra

An' all the time, the wee cock sparra

Sat chirpin' awa on the shaft o' the barra