Ye Banks And Braes O’ Bonnie Doon

My informant has a very interesting story. She is Scottish, but grew up primarily in England, near London. Informant’s parents were both very Scottish and so much of who she is surrounds this Scottish heritage. In this particular piece, she outlines much of her story as she is flipping through an old Scottish book of songs that she is showing me. When I asked her about folklore from her past, what comes to mind the most is folk music — as she is a singer. The book is old and falling apart. We are looking at it together. It was printed in 1884… She is gazing lovingly at the book, gingerly flipping the pages. My informant loves music. Everything in her life has to do with singing. She has been a singer her entire life and even now continues to sing in the church choir. Ever since I was little, we have always sung together; it has always been our special bond. She says that I got my singing skills from her. It makes sense then, that we now sit down and for the next 5 hours, go through this book.

Informant: “Also, I didn’t know the Beatles, yet. But most Saturday nights…we lived in the country, so if you wanted to go in to Birmingham, we had to take buses. We lived in a field, really…In college. Saturday night we hired a bus, I was the social secretary, and we would go in and they would drop us off at the men’s college in town. There was a hop every Saturday night. That was where I met Papa, at the hop. On the way home, there were these two girls, Norene and I don’t know the other one but they were hippies before there were hippies, and they had guitars and we would sing all of these folk songs. We had to be home by 10:30, I persuaded them to let us stay out until 11:00 when I was secretary. Anyway, we would sing this song. I really should be writing things down. I had so many adventures. This one is a very pretty song. [She hums the tune and we read through the lyrics together] This is so Scottish. My parents spoke so Scottish, I thought it was all slang, but I actually realized that there is a Scottish to English dictionary, these were real Scottish words! I always thought they weren’t real words.”


Informant sings the song, as I look on in the book. I try to sight read the music but am getting tripped up by the very Scottish lyrics.


Ye Banks And Braes O’ Bonnie Doon

Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon,

How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair;

How can ye chant, ye little birds,

And I sae weary, fu’ o’ care!


Ye’ll break my heart, ye warbling birds,

That wanton through the flow’ry thorn;

Ye mind me o’ departed joys,

Departed never to return.


Oft ha’e I roved by bonnie Doon,

To see the rose and woodbine twine;

And ilka bird sang o’ its love,

And foldly sae did I o’ mine.


Wi’ lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,

Fu’ sweet upon it’s thorny tree;

But my fause lover stole my rose,

And ah! He left the thorn wi’ me.