The Scottish Ballads - Alive and Singing!


The Scottish Ballads
Follow these links to full lists of ballads by Number and Title with many complete ballad texts. Francis J Child's newly republished The English and Scottish Popular Ballads is available for sale at Springthyme Book Sales.
FJ Child: Child Ballads: [Child Republished]
Bertrand H Bronson: Traditional Tunes: [Bronson Republished]
By Number: [Child Ballads by Number]
By Title: [Child Ballads by Title]
Scotland's Child Ballad Site
For anyone interested in the ballads as song or as literature or as an insight into culture and history the essential starting point is Professor Francis James Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads first published between 1882 and 1898. Many of the finest traditional ballad versions in Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads were obtained from Scottish sources -- and many of these ancient ballads are still to be found among Scotland's tradition bearers today. Although traditional singers think of these ballads as old songs, they may never have heard of FJ Child and will surprised to know that the younger generation of folksong enthusiasts and ballad scholars will talk of their song as a "Child ballad" and may even know the Child ballad number for their song. As a literature scholar, Child took very little interest in the ballads as song, although he included a few tunes as an appendix in the final volume of his work. It was left to an American musicologist Bertrand Bronson in the mid 1900s to give proper consideration to the ballads as song.

loomis pressBertrand Harris Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads begins where Child left off. In four large volumes published by Princeton University Press between 1959 and 1972, Bronson brought together all available tunes for each of Child's ballads together with their texts, annotated and organized them, with notes describing the history and development of each tune and tune family. The collection was immediately accepted as an indispensable text for ballad scholars, performers, and students of the ballad tradition -- nearly 2,200 pages of tunes and texts with notation for 4,120 tunes -- a milestone in ballad scholarship that has never been surpassed.

As part of Scotland's Child Ballad Site we are including full texts of many of the ballads as printed in Child's collection. For a start, here's a link to Child#2: The Elfin Knight and another to Child#12: Lord Randal. In each case the texts have been taken unedited from earlier editions of Child and from the newly published Loomis House Press edition (with permission) with hypertext links to enable easy navigation through the ballad variants. A [ LINK ] has also been provided on many Child ballad pages that leads to an expandable selection of pages of traditional versions from the archives - Versions from the Singing Tradition - which will include ballad variants collected from current and recent living tradition with linked sound files yet to be put in place. Contributed ballad texts, field recordings, and archive versions are welcome!

In recent years the folk song revival has led to a reawakening of interest by singers in aquiring an active ballad repertoire. Many of these ancient, popular/ traditional ballads are still part of a living cultural tradition - especially here in Scotland at the heart of Child's ballad country. Who in Scotland does NOT know snippets at least of such ballads as Barbara Allen (Child #84), The Dowie Dens o Yarrow (Child #214), Mary Hamilton (Child #173), Sir Patrick Spens (Child #58), The Jolly Beggar (Child #279) or Mill o Tifty's Annie (Child #233)?

Both Child and Bronson have recently been republished and, by arrangement with the publishers, we are making both of these essential works available through the Springthyme website at a very good price. The new five volume edition of Child is no mere facsimile -- the work has been completely reset, corrected and prepared by Mark and Laura Heiman of Loomis House in the USA. Loomis House are also publishing the Bronson volumes, digitised by Camsco Music by arrangement with the original publishers at Princeton University Press.

1: More on Francis James Child.
2: More on Bertrand H Bronson.
3: Buy Child's: The English and Scottish Popular Ballads.
4: Buy Bronson: Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads

We welcome suggestions and would be pleased to accept ballad variants, text and sound file links to the site. Contact us by email:

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