Barbara Allen

On Springthyme SPRCD 1043
Shepheard, Spiers & Watson: Over the High Hills

Tom Spiers: Since early childhood I’d often heard this ballad sung, but was never motivated to learn it until I heard a recording made by Peter Hall in the early 1960s, of John Stewart, a settled traveller in Aberdeen. I loved the tune and the feeling he put into it. Over the years I’ve changed a few lines and added a couple of verses, but don’t ask me which ones. Barbara Allen is one of the most popular traditional ballads both in print and collected from the living tradition. Bronson published 198 tunes and texts for the ballad, but I think he missed this one. (Child 84, Greig Duncan 6.1193)

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

1: It fell aboot the Martinmas Time,
Fan the green leaves they were faain;
That young John Graeme, fae the north countrie,
Fell in love wi Barbara Allan,
Fell in love wi Barbara Allan.

2: He’s coortit her for seven lang years,
Till he could coort nae langer;
For he fell sick and his hert wis sair,
So he sent for his true lover,
Aye he sent for his true lover.

3: He sent his man doon through the toon,
Tae the place far she wis dwellin;
Sayin, "Haste ye come tae my maisters side,
Gin yer name bees Barbara Allan,
Gin yer name bees Barbara Allan."

4: Sae hooly hooly she’s raised up,
And sae slowly she’s gaed wi him;
And fan she’s poud the curtains roond,
She said, "Young man I think yer dyin."
Said, "Young man I think yer dyin."

5: "Aye surely I am dyin love,
But one kiss fae you micht cure me."
"One kiss fae me that will niver be,
Though yer herts bleed wis a-spillin,
Though yer herts bleed wis a-spillin."

6: "For mind ye no young man," she said,
"Fan we sat in yonder tavern?
Ye gart the healths gae roond an roon,
But ye forgot yer Barbara Allan,
Ye forgot yer Barbara Allan."

7: "O look ye doon tae my bed fit,
And it’s there ye’ll find a token;
A china vase that’s full o tears,
Gae that tae Barbara Allan,
Gae that tae Barbara Allan."

8: Then he’s turned his face untae the waa,
For death wis wi him dealin;
And he’s bid farewell tae aa his freens,
And adieu tae Barbara Allan,
And adieu tae Barbara Allan.

9: Well she hid scarcely walked a mile,
Fan she heard the deid bell tollin;
And every strike, it seemed tae say,
Hard-herted Barbara Allan,
Hard-herted Barbara Allan.

10: "O mither, mither mak my bed,
For I am broken herted;
For young John Graeme his died for me,
But we winna lang be pairted,
No we winna lang be pairted."

11: The pair were laid in yon kirkyaird,
Aye she wis lain aside him;
And fae her hert there grew a rose,
And fae his hert a briar,
And fae his hert a briar.

12: They grew up tae the bell tower tap,
Till they could grow nae higher;
And there they’ve made a lover's knot,
The rose among the briar,
The rose among the briar.

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