|The Twa Sisters
2: The Swans Swim Sae Bonnie
Versions from the Singing Tradition
1: Binnorie O
As sung by Archie Webster, Strathkinness, Fife
2: The Swans Swim sae Bonnie
As sung by Jock White, Marshall's Field, Alyth, Angus
3: Binnorie O
As sung by Jock Duncan, Pitlochry, Perthshire
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As sung by Belle Stewart, Blairgowrie, Perthshire
This form of the ballad with reference to the swans was well known by the Whites, a Scottish traveller family - and was considered a family song by them. Belle Stewart had heard it sung by one of the Whites and recorded her memory of it for me [Spr 64.3, 64.18] during the Blairgowrie berrypicking season in August 1964. I then met several members of the White family on Marshall's field at Alyth in Perthshire and obtained their version.
'Sister dear sister are ye comin for a walk?
Hi ho and sae bonnie O
And I'll show ye wonders afore we come back.'
An the swan they swim sae bonnie O
'Putee youree footee on that marble stone,
And I'll show ye wonders afore we go home.'
So she put her foot on that marble stone,
An sa lightly she pushed her agin the stream.
'O sister, dear sister wad ye catch my hand?
An it's I will gie ye my true lover John.'
There was a miller had a daughter and the lassie was a maid,
But the lassie walkit hither for tae bak some bread.
'O miller, dear miller come dry up your dam,
For I think I see a maid or a white milk swan.'
He took oot the maid an he hung her up tae dry,
There was three fiddlers cam passin by.
The first yin o them taen her three finger bones,
Sayin, 'It's this will mak me three fiddle pins.'
The second yin o them taen three lengths o her hair,
Sayin, 'That'll mak a fiddle that'll play a tune sae rare.'
The third yin o them taen her breast bone,
Sayin, 'This'll mak a fiddle that'll play a tune its lone.'
It's these three fiddlers playin came along,
Till they came to a castle that stood so high.
[The fiddle tells its own story:
Sayin, 'It's yonder he sits my father the king,
Then it's yonder she sits my mother the queen.'
Sayin, 'It's yonder she sits my false sister Jean,
An sa lightly she pushed me agin the stream.'
But it's oot and speaks her false sister Jean,
'Let us pay these three fiddlers and let them be gane.'
But it's up an speaks her father the king,
'I'll pay the three fiddlers when they play the same tune o'er again.'
They kinlet up a fire that wad nigh burn a stone,
An they thrust false Jean there in her alone.
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