FolkWorld Issue 41 03/2010; Song Collection

The Weaver Poet
The Songs of Robert Tannahill

Robert Tannahill (1774-1810) was a weaver from Paisley in the Lowlands of Scotland. In his spare time he played the flute and put his poetry to whatever tune pleasing him. Thus he became the author of popular songs such as 'Are Ye Sleepin' Maggie?' and 'The Braes o' Balquhither' (which evolved into the even more famous 'Wild Mountain Thyme'). We celebrate the 200th anniversary of Tannahill's death on 17th May with a selection of his songs.

Are Ye Sleepin' Maggie? / Barrochan Jean / Braes o' Balquhither, The / Braes o' Gleniffer, The / Coggie, Thou Heals Me / Dear Highland Laddie O, The / Eild / Five Friends, The / Flower of Levern Side, The / Fly We to Some Desert Isle / Gloomy Winter's Now Awa' / Hey, Donald! How, Donald! / I'll Hie Me to the Shieling Hill / I'll Lay Me on the Wintry Lea / Jessie, The Flower Of Dunblane / Lassie o Merry Eighteen / Meg o' the Glen / Molly, My Dear / Och Hey! Johnnie, Lad / Our Bonny Scotch Lads / Peggy O'Rafferty / Rab Roryson's Bonnet / Thou Bonny Wood of Craigie Lea / Wandering Bard, The / When John and I Were Married / With Waefu' Heart / Yon Burn Side /

Robert Tannahill

Robert Tannahill

Robert Tannahill (June 3, 1774 – May 17, 1810) was a Scottish poet. Known as the 'Weaver Poet', his music and poetry is contemporaneous with that of Robert Burns. He was born in Paisley to a weaving family and was apprenticed in the same trade from the age of 12. After a short period of working in Bolton, Lancashire, England around 1800, Tannahill returned to Paisley to support the family in time of illness. In the years which followed, his interest in poetry and music blossomed and his writings began to appear in such publications as The Scots Magazine. In 1810, he died by his own hand, drowned in a culverted stream under the Paisley Canal


Robert Tannahill

The Complete Songs of Robert Tan-nahill, Vol. I ; Brechin All Records ; CDBAR003 ; 2006

Fly We To Some Desert Isle (Emily Smith) / Hey Donald, How Donald (Wendy Weatherby) / Rob Roryson's Bannet (Gillian MacDonald) / The Braes o Balquhidder (John Croall) / The Five Friends (Jim Reid) / Coggie Thou Heals Me (Ross Kennedy) / Meg o the Glen & The Lassie o Merry Eighteen (John Croall) / When John and I were Married (Gillian MacDonald) / Jessie, The Flow'r o Dunblane (Ross Kennedy) / O Are Ye Sleeping Maggie (Jim Reid) / Barrochan Jean (John Morran) / Och Hey! Johnny Lad (Emily Smith) / The Dear Highland Laddie O (Gillian MacDonald) / Yon Burn Side (Ian Anderson) / With Waefu' Heart (Wendy Weatherby) / I'll Hie Me To The Shieling Hill (Ross Kennedy) / Molly My Dear (Ross Kennedy) / Eild (Fred Freeman) / I'll Lay Me On The Wintry Lea (Emily Smith)

Tannahill Weavers

The Tannahill Weavers

The Tannahill Weavers are a popular band who perform traditional Scottish music. Releasing their first album in 1976 they're notable for being one of the first popular bands to incorporate the sound of the Great Highland Bagpipe (the Highland bagpipes are primarily a solo instrument) in an ensemble setting, and in doing so helped to change the sound of Scottish traditional music.

The band was formed in 1968, practising in a back room of the McKay family's rented Council house at 41 St. Ninian's Road, Hunterhill, Paisley and first performed at St. Peter's Folk Club, Glenburn, Paisley. The Club was run by Pat Doherty, father of Weavers' founding member Neil Doherty.

As of 2009, they continue to tour and release new recordings. They are named after Scottish poet Robert Tannahill and have recorded several of his songs.

The current members of the band are:

  • Roy Gullane (guitar, vocals)
  • Phil Smillie (flute, tin whistles, bodhrán)
  • Leslie Wilson (bouzouki, keyboards)
  • John Martin (fiddle, cello, viola)
  • Colin Melville (Highland bagpipes, Scottish smallpipes, tin whistles)

Past members have included: Alan MacLeod (Highland bagpipes, tin whistles, mandola, organ, vocals), Bill Bourne (vocals, bouzouki, guitar, electric guitar, fiddle, keyboards, bass pedals [FW#35]), Dougie MacLean (fiddle, mandolin, vocals, guitar, tenor banjo), Duncan J. Nicholson (Highland bagpipes, Scottish smallpipes, tin whistles), Gordon Duncan (Highland bagpipes, tin whistles [#25]), Hudson Swan (bouzouki, vocals, fiddle, glockenspiel, mandolin [#7]), Iain MacInnes (Highland bagpipes, Scottish smallpipes, tin whistles, vocals [#17]), Kenny Forsyth (Highland bagpipes, Scottish smallpipes, tin whistles), Mike Ward (fiddle, guitar, vocals), Ross Kennedy (bouzouki, fiddle, bass pedals, vocals [#35]), Stuart Morison (fiddles, bones, guitar), John Cassidy (whistles, vocals), Stuart McKay (vocals, guitar, penny whistle), Neil Doherty (vocals, guitar, mandolin, penny whistle), Jim McGowan (vocals)

The Tannahill Weavers, The Old Woman's Dance


  • Are Ye Sleeping Maggie (1976)
  • The Old Woman's Dance (1978)
  • The Tannahill Weavers (1979)
  • Tannahill Weavers IV (1981)
  • Passage (1984)
  • Land of Light (1986)
  • Dancing Feet (1987)
  • Best of the Tannahill Weavers 1979 - 1989 (1989)
  • Cullen Bay (1990)
  • The Mermaid's Song (1992)
  • Capernaum (1994)
  • Leaving St. Kilda (1996)
  • The Tannahill Weavers Collection: Choice Cuts 1987 - 1996 (1997)
  • Epona (1998)
  • Alchemy (2000)
  • Arnish Light (2003)
  • Live and In Session (2006)

The Tannahill Weavers, Live & In Session

Tannahill Weavers @ FolkWorld:
FW#5, #8, #15, #18, #20, #28, #33

Icon Sound Geese in the Bog, Farewell to Fiunary

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Fly We to Some Desert Isle

Fly we to some desert isle,
There we'll pass our days together,
Shun the world's derisive smile,
Wand'ring tenants of the heather:
Shelter'd in some lonely glen,
Far remov'd from mortal ken,
Forget the selfish ways o' men,
Nor feel a wish beyond each other.

Though my friends deride me still,
Jamie, I'll disown thee never;
Let them scorn me as they will,
I'll be thine--and thine for ever.
What are a' my kin to me,
A' their pride o' pedigree?
What were life, if wanting thee,
And what were death, if we maun sever!

The Five Friends

Weel, wha's in the bouroch,
And what is your cheer?
The best that ye'll find
In a thousand year;
And we're a' nodding nid, nid, noddin,
We're a' noddin fu' at e'en.

There's our ain Jamie Clark,
Frae the hall of Argyle,
Wi' his leal Scottish heart,
And his kind open smile;

There is Will, the gude fallow,
Wha kills a' our care,
Wi' his sang an' his joke
And a mutchkin mair;

There is blithe Jamie Barr,
Frae St. Barchan's toun,
When wit gets a kingdom,
He's sure o' the crown;

There is Rab, frae the south,
Wi' his fiddle and his flute,
I could list to his strains
Till the starns fa' out;

Apollo, for our comfort,
Has furnished the bowl,
And here is my bardship
As blind as an owl;

Rab Roryson's Bonnet

Ye'll a' hae heard tell o' Rab Roryson's bonnet,
Ye'll a' hae heard tell o' Rab Roryson's bonnet;
Twas no for itsel', 'twas the head that was in it,
Gar'd a' bodies talk o' Rab Roryson's bonnet.

This bonnet, that theekit his wonderfu' head,
Was his shelter in winter, in summer his shade;
And, at kirk or at market, or bridals, I ween,
A braw gawcier bonnet there never was seen.

Wi' a round rosy tap, like a muckle blackboyd,
It was slouch'd just a kenning on either hand side;
Some maintain'd it was black, some maintain'd it was blue,
It had something o' baith as a body may trow.

But, in sooth, I assure you, for ought that I saw,
Still his bonnet had naething uncommon ava ;
Tho' the haill parish talk'd o' Rab Roryson's bonnet,
'Twas a' for the marvellous head that was in it.

That head--let it rest--it is now in the mools,
Though in life a' the warld beside it were fools;
Yet o' what kind o' wisdom his head was possest,
Nane e'er kent but himsel', sae there's nane that will miss't.

There are some still in life wha eternally blame--
Wha on buts and on ifs rear their fabric o' fame:
Unto such I inscribe this most elegant sonnet--
Sae let them be crowned wi' Rab Roryson's bonnet!

The Braes o' Balquhither

Let us go, lassie, go,
To the braes o' Balquhither,
Where the blae-berries grow
'Mang the bonny Highland heather;
Where the deer and the rae,
Lightly bounding together,
Sport the lang simmer day
On the braes o' Balquhither.

I will twine thee a bower,
By the clear siller fountain,
And I'll cover it o'er
Wi' the flowers o' the mountain;
I will range through the wilds,
And the deep glens sae dreary,
And return wi' their spoils,
To the bower o' my deary.

When the rude wintry win'
Idly raves round our dwelling,
And the roar of the linn
On the night breeze is swelling,
So merrily we'll sing,
As the storm rattles o'er us,
'Till the dean shieling ring
Wi' the light lilting chorus.

Now the simmer is in prime,
Wi' the flowers richly blooming,
And the wild mountain rhyme
A' the moorlands perfuming;
To our dear native scenes
Let us journey together,
Where glad innocence reigns
'Mang the braes o' Balquhither.

Coggie, Thou Heals Me

Dorothy sits i' the cauld ingle neuk;
Her red rosy neb's like a labster tae,
Wi' girning, her mou's like the gab o' the fleuk,
Wi' smoking, her teeth's like the jet o' the slae.
And aye she sings "Weel's me !" aye she sings "Weel's me!
Coggie, thou meals me, coggie, thou heals me;
Aye my best friend, when there's ony thing ails me:
Ne'er shall we part till the day that I die."

Dorothy ance was a weel tocher'd lass,
Had charms like her neighbours, and lovers anew,
But she spited them sae, wi' her pride and her sauce,
They left her for thirty lang summers to rue.
Then aye she sang "Wae's me !" aye she sang "Wae's me!
O I'll turn crazy, O I'll turn crazy !
Naething in a' the wide world can ease me,
De'il take the wooers--O what shall I do !"

Dorothy, dozen'd wi' living her lane,
Pu'd at her rock, wi' the tear in her e'e,
She thought on the braw merry days that were gane,
And caft a wee coggie for company.
Now aye she sings "Weel's me !" aye she sings "Weel's me!
Coggie, thou heals me, coggie, thou heals me;
Aye my best friend, when there's ony thing ails me:
Ne'er shall we part till the day that I die."

When John and I Were Married

When John and I were married,
Our hau'ding was but sma',
For my minnie, canker't carline,
Wou'd gi'e us nocht ava';
I wair't my fee wi' canny care,
As far as it would gae,
But weel I wat our bridal bed
Was clean pease-strae.

Wi' working late and early,
We're come to what you see,
For fortune thrave aneath our hands,
Sae eident aye were we.
The lowe of love made labour light,
I'm sure ye'll find it sae,
When kind ye cuddle down, at e'en,
'Mang clean pease-strae.

The rose blooms gay on cairny brae,
As weel's in birken shaw,
And love will lowe in cottage low,
As weel's in lofty ha'.
Sae, lassie, take the lad ye like,
Whate'er your minnie say,
Tho' ye should make your bridal bed
Of clean pease-strae.

Jessie, The Flower Of Dunblane

The sun has gane down o'er the lofty Ben Lomond
And left the red clouds to reside o'er the scene
While lanely I stray in the calm simmer gloamin'
To muse on sweet Jessie, the flow'r o' Dunblane.
How sweet is the brier wi' its saft faulding blossom
And sweet is the birk wi' its mantle o' green
But sweeter and fairer and dear to this bosom
Is charming young Jessie, the flow'r o' Dunblane.
Is charming young Jessie, is charming young Jessie
Is charming young Jessie, the flow'r o' Dunblane.

She's modest as on-y and blythe as she's bonnie
For guileless simplicity makes her its aim
And far be the villain, divested of feeling
Wha'd blight in its bloom, the sweet flow'r of Dunblane.
Sing on, thou sweet mavis, thy hymn to the evening
Thour't dear to the echoes of Calderwood glen
Sae dear to this bosom, sae artless and winning
Is charming young Jessie, the flow'r o' Dunblane.
Is charming young Jessie, is charming young Jessie
Is charming young Jessie, the flow'r o' Dunblane.

How lost were my days till I met wi' my Jessie
The sports o' the city seem'd foolish and vain
I ne'er saw a nymph I would ca' my dear lassie
Till charm'd wi' sweet Jessie, the flow'r o' Dublane.
Tho' mine were the station of liftiest grandeur
Amidst its profusion I'd languish in pain
And reckon as naething, the height of its splendour
If wanting sweet Jessie, the flow'r o' Dunblane
If wanting sweet Jessie, if wanting sweet Jessie
If wanting sweet Jessie, the flow'r o' Dunblane.

Are Ye Sleepin' Maggie?

Mirk and rainy is the nicht,
There's no' a staum in a' the carry
Lichtnin's gleam athwart the lift,
And cauld winds drive wi' winters fury.
|: Oh, are ye sleeping Maggie :|
Let me in, for loud the linn is howling
Ower the warlock Craigie.

Fearfu' soughs the boortree bank,
The rifted wood roars wild and dreary
Loud the iron yett does clank,
The cry of hoolits mak's me eerie.

Abune ma breath, I daurnae speak,
For fear I rouse your waukrife Daddy
Cauld's the blast upon my cheek,
O rise, O rise my bonnie lady.

She's ope'd the door, she's let him in,
She's cuist aside his dreepin plaidie
Blaw yer warst ye rain and wind,
For Maggie noo I'm an aside ye.
|: Noo since your waukin' Maggie, :|
What care I for hoolits cry,
For boortree bank or warlock Craigie.

Robert Tannahill

Barrochan Jean

'Tis ha'ena ye heard, man, o' Barrochan Jean!
And ha'ena ye heard, man, o' Barrochan Jean!
How death and starvation came o'er the haill nation,
She wrought sic mischief wi' her twa pawky een.

The lads and the lasses were deeing in dizzens,
The tane kill'd wi' love, and the tither wi' spleen;
The ploughing, the sawing, the shearing, the mawing,-
A' wark was forgotten for Barrochan Jean!

Frae the south and the north, o'er the Tweed and the Forth,
Sic coming and ganging there never was seen
The comers were cheery, the gangers were blearie,
Despairing, or hoping for Barrochan Jean.

The carlines at hame were a' girning and graning,
The bairns were a' greeting frae morning till e'en,
They gat naething for crowdy but runts boil'd to sowdie,
For naething gat growing for Barrochan Jean.

The doctors declar'd it was past their descriving,
The ministers said 'twas a judgment for sin,
But they looket sae blae, and their hearts were sae wae,
I was sure they were deeing for Barrochan Jean.

The burns on road-sides were a' dry wi' their drinking,
Yet a' wadna slocken the drouth i' their skin;
A' around the peat-stacks, and alangst the dyke-backs,
E'en the winds were a' sighing, "Sweet Barrochan Jean!"

The timmer ran done wi' the making o' coffins,
Kirkyards o' their sward were a' howkit fu' clean,
Dead lovers were packit like herring in barrels,
Sic thousands were deeing for Barrochan Jean.

But mony braw thanks to the Laird o' Glen-Brodie,
The grass owre their graffs is now bonnie and green,
He sta' the proud heart of our wanton young lady.
And spoil'd a' the charm o' her twa pawky een.

Robert Tannahill

Och Hey! Johnnie, Lad

Och hey! Johnnie, lad,
Ye're no sae kind's ye should ha'e been ;
Och hey! Johnnie, lad,
Ye didna keep your tryst yestreen.
I waited lang beside the wood,
Sae wae and weary a' my lane;
Och hey! Johnnie, lad,
Ye're no sae kind's ye should ha'e been.

I looked by the whinny knowe,
I looked by the firs sae green,
I looked owre the spunkie~howe,
And aye I thought ye would ha'e been.
The ne'er a supper cross'd my Craig,
The ne'er a sleep has clos'd my een;
Och hey! Johnnie, lad,
Ye're no sae kind's ye should ha'e been.

Gin ye were waiting by the wood,
Then I was waiting by the thorn;
I thought it was the place we set,
And waited maist till dawning morn.
Sae be na vex'd, my bonny lassie,
Let my waiting stand for thine;
We'll awa' to Craigton-shaw,
And seek the joys we tint yestreen.

Robert Tannahill

The Dear Highland Laddie, O

Blithe was the time when he fee'd wi' my father, O,
Happy were the days when we herded thegither, O,
Sweet were the hours when he row'd me in his plaidie, O,
And vow'd to be mine, my dear Highland laddie, O.

But, ah! waes me! wi' their sodgering sae gaudy, O,
The laird's wys'd awa' my braw Highland laddie, O,
Misty are the glens and the dark hills sae cloudy, O,
That aye seem'd sae blythe wi' my dear Highland laddie, O.

The blae-berry banks now are lonesome and dreary, O,
Muddy are the streams that gush'd down sae clearly, O,
Silent are the rocks that echoed sae gladly, O,
The wild melting strains o' my dear Highland laddie, O.

He pu'd me the crawberry, ripe frae the buggy fen,
He pu'd me the strawberry, red frae the foggy glen,
He pu'd me the row'n frae the wild steep sae giddy, O,
Sae loving and kind was my dear Highland laddie, O.

Fareweel, my ewes, and fareweel, my doggie, O,
Fareweel, ye knowes, now sae cheerless and scroggie, O,
Fareweel, Glenfeoch, my mammy and my daddie, O,
I will heave you a' for my dear Highland laddie, O.

Robert Tannahill

Yon Burn Side

We'll meet beside the dusky glen, on yon burn side,
Where the bushes form a cosie den, on yon burn side;
Though the broomy knowes be green,
And there we may be seen,
Yet we'll meet--we'll meet at e'en, down by yon burn side.

I'll lead you to the birken bower, on yon burn side,
Sae sweetly wove wi' woodbine flower, on yon burn side;
There the busy prying eye,
Ne'er disturbs the lovers' joy,
While in ither's arms they lie, down by yon burn side.

Awa', ye rude unfeeling crew, frae yon burn side,-
Those fairy-scenes are no' for you, by yon burn side;
There fancy smooths her theme,
By the sweetly murm'ring stream,
And the rock-lodg'd echoes skim, down by yon burn side.

Now the planting taps are ting'd wi' goud, on yon burn-side,
And gloaming draws her foggy shroud o'er yon burn side;--
Far frae the noisy scene,
I'll through the fields alane,
There we'll meet--my ain dear Jean! down by yon burn side.

Robert Tannahill

With Waefu' Heart

With waefu' heart, and sorrowing e'e,
I saw my Jamie sail awa';
O 'twas a fatal day to me,
That day he pass'd the Berwick Law:
How joyless now seem'd all behind!
I ling'ring stray'd along the shore;
Dark boding fears hung on my mind
That I might never see him more.

The night came on with heavy rain,
Loud, fierce, and wild, the tempest blew;
In mountains roll'd the awful main--
Ah, hapless maid! my fears how true!
The landsmen heard their drowning cries,
The wreck was seen with dawning day;
My love was found, and now he lies
Low in the isle of gloomy May.

O boatman, kindly waft me o'er!
The cavern'd rock shall be my home;
'Twill ease my burthen'd heart, to pour
Its sorrows o'er his grassy tomb:
With sweetest flow'rs I'll deck his grave,
And tend them through the langso me year,
I'll water them, ilk morn and eve,
With deepest sorrow's warmest tear.

Robert Tannahill

I'll Hie Me to the Shieling Hill

I'll hie me to the shieling hill,
And bide amang the braes, Callum,
Ere I gang to Crochan mill,
I'll live on hips and slaes, Callum.
Wealthy pride but ill can hide
Your runkl'd mizzly shins, Callum,
Lyart pow, as white's the tow,
And beard as rough's the whins, Callum.

Wily woman aft deceives!
Sae ye'll think, I ween, Callum,
Trees may keep their wither'd leaves.
'Till ance they get the green, Callum.
Blithe young Donald's won my heart,
Has my willing vow, Callum,
Now, for a' your couthy art,
I winna marry you, Callum.

Robert Tannahill

Molly, My Dear

The harvest is o'er, and the lads are so funny,
Their hearts lin'd with love, and their pockets with money;
From morning to night 'tis, My jewel, my honey,
Och, go to the North with me, Molly, my dear!

Young Dermot holds on with his sweet botheration,
And swears there is only one flow'r in the nation;
Thou rose of the Shannon, thou pink of creation,
Och, go to the North with me, Molly, me dear!

The sun courts thy smiles as he sinks in the ocean,
The moon to thy charms veils her face in devotion;
And I, my poor self, och! so rich is my notion,
Would pay down the world for sweet Molly, my dear.

Though Thady can match all the lads with his blarney,
And sings me love songs of the Lakes of Killarney,
In worth for my Dermot he's twenty miles journey,
My heart bids me tell him I'll ne'er be his dear.

Robert Tannahill

Gloomy Winter's Now Awa'

Gloomy winter's now awa',
Saft the westlan' breezes blaw,
'Mang the birks o' Stanley shaw
The mavis sings fu' cheery, O;
Sweet the crawflower's early bell
Decks Gleniffer's dewy dell,
Blooming like thy bonnie sel',
My young, my artless deary, O
Come, my lassie, let us stray
O'er Glenkilloch's sunny brae,
Blithely spend the gowden day
'Midst joys that never weary, O.

Towering o'er the Newton woods,
Lav'rocks fan the snaw-white clouds,
Siller saughs, wi' downy buds,
Adorn the banks sae briery, O;
Round the sylvan fairy nooks,
Feathery breckans fringe the rocks,
'Neath the brae the burnie jouks,
And ilka thing is cheery, O;
Trees may bud, and birds may sing
Flowers may bloom, and verdure spring,
Joy to me they canna' bring,
Unless wi' thee, my dearie, O.

Robert Tannahill

Peggy O'Rafferty

O could I fly like the green-coated fairy,
I'd skip o'er the ocean to dear Tipperary,
Where all the young fellows are blithsome and merry,
While here I lament my sweet Peggy O'Rafferty;
How could I bear in my bosom to leave her!
In absence I think her more lovely than ever;
With thoughts of her beauty I'm all in a fever,
Since others may woo my sweet Peggy O'Rafferty.

Scotland, thy lasses are modest and bonny,
But here every Jenny has got her own Johnny,
And though I might call them my jewel and honey,
My heart is at home with sweet Peggy O'Rafferty;
Wistful I think on my dear native mountains,
Their green shady glens, and their crystalline fountains,
And ceaseless I heave the deep sigh of repentance,
That ever I left my sweet Peggy O'Rafferty.

Fortune, 'twas thine all the light foolish notion,
That led me to rose o'er the wide-rolling ocean,
But what now to me all thy hopes of promotion.
Since I am so far from sweet Peggy O'Rafferty;
Grant me as many thirteens as will carry me
Down through the country, and over the ferry,
I'll hie me straight home into dear Tipperary,
And never more leave my sweet Peggy O'Rafferty.

Robert Tannahill

The Wandering Bard

Chill the wintry winds were blowing,
Foul the murky night was snowing,
Through the storm the minstrel, bowing,
Sought the inn on yonder moor.
All within was warm and cheery,
All without was cold and dreary,
There the wand'rer, old and weary,
Thought to pass the night secure.

Softly rose his mournful ditty,
Suiting to his tale of pity;
But the master, scoffing, witty,
Check'd Inns strain with scornful jeer:
"Hoary vagrant, frequent comer,
Canst thou guide thy gains of summer?--
No, thou old intruding thrummer,
Thou canst have no lodging here."

Slow the bard departed, sighing;
Wounded worth forbade replying;
One last feeble effort trying,
Faint he sunk no more to rise.
Through his harp the breeze sharp ringing,
Wild his dying dirge was singing,
While his soul, from insult springing,
Sought its mansion in the skies.

Now, though wintry winds be blowing,
Night be foul, with raining, snowing,
Still the trav'ller, that way going,
Shuns the inn upon the moor
Though within 'tis warm and cheery,
Though without 'tis cold and dreary,
Still he minds the minstrel weary,
Spurn'd from that unfriendly door.

Robert Tannahill

Our Bonny Scotch Lads

Our bonny Scotch lads, in their green tartan plaids,
Their blue-belted bonnets, and feathers sae braw,
Rank'd tip on the green were fair to be seen,
But my bonnie young laddie was fairest of a'.
His cheeks were as red as the sweet heather-bell.
Or the red western cloud looking down on the snaw,
His lang yellow hair o'er his braid shoulders fell,
And the een o' the lasses were fix'd on him a'.

My heart sunk wi' was on the wearifu' day,
When torn frae my bosom they march'd him awa';
He bade me farewell, he cried "O be leal!"
And his red cheeks were wet wi' the tears that did fa'.
Ah! Harry, my love, though thou ne'er shouldst return,
Till life's latest hour I thy absence will mourn,
And memory shall fade, like the leaf on the tree,
Ere my heart spare ae thought on anither but thee.

Robert Tannahill

Thou Bonny Wood of Craigie Lea

|: Thou bonny wood of Craigie lea! :|
Near thee I pass'd life's early day,
And won my Mary's heart in thee.

The broom, the brier, the birken bush,
Bloom bonny o'er thy flow'ry lea;
And a' the sweets that ane can wish
Frae nature's hand, are strew'd on thee.

Far ben thy dark green planting's shade,
The cushat croodles am'rously;
The mavis, down thy bughted glade,
Gars echo ring frae ev'ry tree.

Awa', ye thoughtless, murd'ring gang,
Wha tear the nestlings ere they flee !
They'll sing you yet a canty sang,
Then, O in pity let them be!

When Winter blaws in sleety show'rs
Frae aff the Norland hills sae hie,
He lightly skiffs thy bonny bow'rs,
As laith to harm a flow'r in thee.

Though fate should drag me south the line,
Or o'er the wide Atlantic sea,
The happy hours I'll ever mind,
That I in youth ha'e spent in thee.

Robert Tannahill

The Braes o' Gleniffer

Keen blaws the wind o'er the Braes o' Gleniffer.
The auld castle's turrets are cover'd wi' snaw;
How chang'd frae the time when I met wi' my lover
Amang the broom bushes by Stanley green shaw:
The wild flow'rs o' simmer were spread a' sae bonnie,
The mavis sang sweet frae the green birken tree:
But far to the camp they hae march'd my dear Johnnie,
And now it is winter wi' nature and me.

Then ilk thing around us was blithesome and cheery,
Then ilk thing around us was bonny and braw;
Now naething is heard but the wind whistling dreary,
And naething is seen but the wide-spreading snaw.
The trees are a' bare, and the birds mute and dowie,
They shake the cauld drift frae their wings as they flee,
And chirp out their plaints, seeming wae for my Johnnie,--
'Tis winter wi' them, and 'tis Winter wi' me.

Yon cauld sleety cloud skiffs alang the bleak mountain,
And shakes the dark firs on the stey rocky brae,
While down the deep glen bawls the snaw-flooded fountain,
That murmur'd sae sweet to my laddie and me.
'Tis no its loud roar on the wintry wind swellin',
'Tis no the cauld blast brings the tears i' my e'e,
For, O gin I saw hut my bonny Scotch callan,
The dark days o' winter were simmer to me!

Robert Tannahill

The Flower of Levern Side

Ye sunny braes that skirt the Clyde
Wi' simmer flowers sae braw,
There's ae sweet flower on Levern side,
That's fairer than them a':
Yet aye it droops its head in wae,
Regardless o' the sunny ray,
And Wastes its sweets frae day to day,
Beside the lonely shaw;
Wi' leaves a' steep'd in sorrow's dew,
Fause, cruel man, it seems to rue,
Wha aft the sweetest flower will pu',
Then rend its heart in twa.
Thou bonny flow'r on Levern side,
O gin thou'lt be but mine;
I'll tend thee wi' a lover's pride,
Wi' love that ne'er shall tine;
I'll take thee to my shelt'ring bower,
And shield thee frae the beating shower,
Unharm'd by ought thou'lt bloom secure
Frae a' the blasts that blaw:
Thy charms surpass the crimson dye
That streaks the glowing western sky,
But here, unshaded, soon thou'lt die,
And lone will be thy fa'.
Robert Tannahill

I'll Lay Me on the Wintry Lea

I'll lay me on the wintry lea,
And sleep amidst the wind and weet ;
And ere another's bride I be.
Oh, bring me to my winding sheet ?

What can a helpless lassie do,
When ilka friend wad prove a foe :
Wad gar her break her dearest vow,
To wed wi' ane she canna lo'e ?


The rough hail rattles through the trees,
The sullen lift low'rs gloomy gray,
The traveller sees the swelling storm,
And seeks the ale-house by the way.

But, waes me ! for yon widowed wretch,
Borne down with years and heavy care,
Her sapless fingers scarce can nip
The wither'd twigs to beet her fire.

Thus youth and vigour fends itsel',
Its help, reciprocal, is sure ;
While dowless Eild, in poortith cauld,
Is lonely left to stand the stoure.

Robert Tannahill

Hey, Donald! How, Donald!

Though simmer smiles on bank and brae,
And nature bids the heart be gay,
Yet a' the joys o' flowery May
Wi' pleasure ne'er can move me.

Hey, Donald ! how, Donald !
Think upon your vow, Donald ;
Mind the heathery knoWe, Donald,
Where you vowed to love me.

Meg o' the Glen

Meg o' the glen set aff" to the fair,
Wi' ruffles, and ribbons, and meikle prepare ;
Her heart it was heavy, her head it was light,
For a' the lang way for a wooer she sighed.

She spak' to the lads, but the lads slipped by,
She spak' to the lasses, the lasses were shy ;
She thought she might do, but she didna weel ken,
For nane seemed to care for poor Meg o' the glen.

Robert Tannahill

The Lassie o Merry Eighteen

" My faither wad hae me to marry the miller ;
" My mither wad hae me to marry the laird ;
" But brawly I ken it's the love o' the siller
" That brightens their fancy to ony regard ;
" The miller is crookit, the miller is crabbit,
" The laird, though he's wealthy, he's lyart and lean,
" He's auld, an' he's cauld, an' he's blin', an' he's bald,
" An' he's no for a lassie o' merry eighteen."

But O there's a laddie wha tells me he loes me.
An' him I loe dearly, aye, dearly as life,
Tho' father an' mither should scold an' abuse me,
Nae ither shall ever get me for a wife ;
Although he can boast na o' land nor yet siller.
He's worthy to match wi' a duchess or queen ;
For his heart is sae warm, an' sae stately his form,
An' then, like mysel', he's just merry eighteen.

More songs and poems by Robert Tannahill
can be found on the following web pages:

  • Photo Credits: (1) Robert Tannahill (by Wikipedia); (2) The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill, Volume I (by Brechin All Records); (3) The Tannahill Weavers (by Adolf 'gorhand' Goirup); (4)-(5) The Tannahill Weavers albums (unknown).

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