The Dowie Dens o Yarrow

On Springthyme SPRCD 1042
Shepheard, Spiers & Watson - They Smiled as We Cam In

Tom Spiers: This was one of the first ballads I learnt back in the 1960s and the text is pretty close to the version in Norman Buchans 101 Scottish Songs which was the most accessible source of traditional song in those days.

The haunting tune is from the singing of Jessie MacDonald and was collected by Peter Hall on one of his field recording expeditions. (Child 214, GD 2:215; Roud 13)

Tom (vocal and fiddle) with Arthur (whistle) and Pete (melodeon)

1: There wis a lady in the north,
I neer could find her marrow, [her equal
She wis courted by nine gentlemen,
And a plooboy lad fae Yarrow.

2: These nine sat drinking at the wine,
Sat drinking wine in Yarrow;
And theyve made a vow amang them aa,
Tae fecht for her on Yarrow. [fight

3: Shes washed his face an kaimed his hair,
As aft shes deen afore O;
An shes made him like a knight sae braw, [fine
Tae fecht for her on Yarrow.

4: Shes washed his face an kaimed his hair,
As aft shes deen afore O;
An shes made him like a knight sae braw, [fine
Tae fecht for her on Yarrow.

5: Then hes gaed up thon high, high hills,
In tae the houms o Yarrow; [dark valley
And its there he saw nine airmed men,
Come tae fecht wi him on Yarrow.

6: Its three he slew and three they flew,
And three hes wounded sairly;
But her brither John hes come in ahin,
And hes murdered him maist foully.

7: Ah faither dear, Ive dreamt a dream,
A dream o dule an sorrow; [dule=grief
I dreamt I wis puin heather bells,
On the dowie dens o Yarrow.

8: Ah dochter dear, Ive read your dream,
I doot it will bring sorrow;
For your ain true love he lies pale and wan,
On the dowie dens o Yarrow.

9: Well shes gaed up thon high, high hills,
Intae the houms o Yarrow;
And its there she saw her ain true love,
Lying pale an wan on Yarrow.

10: Her hair it wis three-quarters lang,
The colour it wis yellow;
An shes tied it roon his middle sma,
An shes bore him doun fae Yarrow.

11: Ah faither dear, yeve seiven sons,
Ye may wad them aa the morrow;
But the fairest flooer amang them aa,
Wis the plooboy lad fae Yarrow.

c p 2006 Springthyme Records Springthyme Music