Norman Kennedy: On Autumn Harvest ah003.
Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: For Friendship and for Harmony
Live from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2005

Binnorie or the Twa Sisters is one of the oldest of the classic Scots ballads - number 10 in Francis J Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. There are more than 100 versions with tune in Bertrand Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads - many collected from oral tradition in the United States. The ballad remains popular in Scottish tradition in various forms - some with the Binnorie line as here and others with the burden line "The swans swim sae bonnie O" (Child 10; GD 2:213; Roud 8). Norman has sung this for over 50 years and has often used it to accompany his hand loom weaving. In this recording Louis Killen can be heard on one side and Elizabeth Stewart on the other along with a room full of singers joining the chorus.

1: There wis twa sisters bade in a booer,
Binnorie O, Binnorie,
There cam a knight tae be their wooer,
By the bonnie mill dams o Binnorie.

2: He's coorted the eldest with glove and ring,
Binnorie O, Binnorie,
But he's lovit the youngest abeen aathing,
Be the bonnie mill dams o Binnorie.

3: He's coorted the eldest with brooch and knife,
But he's lovit the youngest a mair than his life.

4: The eldest she wis vexèd sair,
And sairit be the sister fair.

5: It was upon a mornin clear,
She cried untae her sister dear.

6: "Noo sister, sister come tak me be the hand,
And we'll walk doun be the water strand."

7: The youngest she stood upon a stane,
The eldest she cam and she shovit her in.

8: "Noo sister, sister come gie tae me yer hand,
And ye sall be heir tae aa my land.

9: "Ill faa the land that I should tak,
Binnorie O, Binnorie,
For ye twinèd me fae my loves back,
Fae the bonnie mill dams o Binnorie."

10: "For yer cherry cheeks and yer yaller hair,
Gar me gae a maiden for evermair."

11: Sometimes she sunk, sometimes she swam,
Till she floated doun tae the miller's dam.

12: "Miller, miller come draw yer dam,
Binnorie O, Binnorie,
There's either a mermaid or a milk-white swan,
In the bonnie mill dams o Binnorie."

13: The miller he hastened and drew his dam,
Binnorie O, Binnorie,
And there he's fund a droonèd woman,
In the bonnie mill dams o Binnorie."

14: Ye quidna see her little, wee feet,
Her gowden tresses they were sae deep.

15: Ye quidna see her middle sae braw,
Her gowden girdle it wis sae braw.

16: Ye quidna see her fingers sae sma,
Wi diamond rings-a they were coverèd aa.

17: An aa amon her yaller hair,
A rope o pearls wis twinèd there.

18: By and cam a harper fine,
That harpèd for the king tae dine.

19: He's made a harp ootan her breast bane,
Fa soun would melt a hert o stane.

20: He's taen three strands o her yalla hair,
And wi them strung this harp sae fair.

21: He's gane untae her faither's haa,
And there wis the court assemblit aa.

22: He's lain the harp doun on a stane,
And syne it began tae play its lane.

23: "Yonner sits my faither the king,
And yonner sits my mither the queen."

24: "Yonner stands my brither Hugh,
And be him my William sweet and true."

25: But the last tune that the harp played then,
Binnorie O, Binnorie,
Was, "Waes tae ma sister, false Helen,
By the bonnie mill dams o Binnorie."
c p 2006 Autumn Harvest