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Loch Lomond -- Lady John Scott

Chiming in...
(Poem #719) Loch Lomond
 By yon bonnie banks, and by yon bonnie braes,
 Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond,
 Where me and my true love were ever wont to be,
 On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

        Oh, you'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road,
        And I'll be in Scotland afore ye
        But me and my true love will never meet again,
        On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

 I mind where we parted in yon shady glen,
 On the steep, steep side of Ben Lomond,
 Where in deep purple hue the Highland hills we view,
 And the moon coming out in the gloaming.

        Oh, you'll take the high road... etc.

 The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring,
 And in sunshine the waters are sleeping,
 But the broken heart will ken no second spring again,
 And the world does not know how we are greeting.

        Oh, you'll take the high road... etc.
-- Lady John Scott
Mistakenly attributed by Lord Ickenham to the poet Burns.

Referred to in 'Uncle Fred In The Springtime' (1940):

  From some spot hidden from them by thick shrubberies there came the sound
of a pleasant tenor voice. It was rendering "Bonny, Bonny Banks of Loch
Lomond", and putting a good deal of feeling into it.
  "Gah! that whistling feller again!"
  "I beg your pardon?"
  "Chap who comes whistling and singing outside my window," said the Duke,
like the heroine of an old-fashioned novelette speaking of her lover.

        -- P. G. Wodehouse, 'Uncle Fred In the Springtime"

The Duke (Alaric, of Dunstable) dislikes the song with an especially
virulent dislike because, well, it doesn't _rhyme_. Oh well. One can't have
everything <grin>.



Leslie Nelson's _Contemplator_ folk website has a MIDI file of this song:
[broken link]
recorded by Barry Taylor.

Nelson goes on to say:

"Loch Lomond is an old Jacobite Air. It is based on an older folk tune
'Robin Cushie (Kind Robin Loves Me)', in McGibbons' Scots Tunes Book I,
dated 1742. The words are attributed to Lady John Scott (1810-1900) who
adapted a broadside by Sanderson of Edinburgh (1838). The version we are
familiar with today is said to have first appreared in print in Poets and
Poetry of Scotland (1876).

Folklore has it that the words were written by a captured Jacobite solider
in Carlisle Castle in 1745. Two soldiers were captured and one lived (took
the high road) and the other was executed. This is a nice addition to
Jacobite folklore, but otherwise is not true."

        -- Leslie Nelson, [broken link]

(The above link has more on Loch Lomond, the Jacobite uprising, and Scottish
folk music - it's worth a visit).


Thanks to V. Ganesh, for sending in this link:
[broken link]
which is 'an attempt by the good folks at to collect the
text of all the songs that P.G.,Wodehouse makes cursory references to in his

20 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ira Cooper said...

I remember learning this song, early in elementary school. I will never
forget that one female classmate, by the name of Bonnie, was so taken by the
words of the song that she inscribed her last name into our music book,
right after one of the "Bonnies." I also remember the fit thrown by the
teacher, upon discovery of the editing!

John McManamon said...

One of the most beautiful recordings of this song is done by Chanticleer on
their album "Wondrous Love" which is a collection of folk songs from around
the world. It's guaranteed to stir the Celtic soul!

- John McManamon

GrainneInGlasgow said...

Each year whilst we camped in Argyll, Scotland, with our grandfather, my
brothers and I sang this poem. We had to pass Lochs Lomond and Restal and
various others en-route to our site. We always assumed the "high road" meant
the new road (over the Rest and Be Thankful), whilst the "low road" meant the
old track deep in the glen .... obviously wrong but it made sense to us as
children :-)

Just seeing this poem again has brought back so many pleasant memories ...


Ian Baillieu said...

As regards the folklore about the lyrics referring to two
captured Jacobite soldiers, one of whom was to be hanged,
and the other freed to walk back to the Scottish highlands,
someone once told me many years ago that the 'high road' in
this song meant swinging high on the gallows, while the 'low
road' was the survivor's road at ground level. This is the
opposite of the interpretation usually given, that the 'low
road' means death. The 'usual' interpretation may seem
easier to reconcile with Lady Scott's lyrics, but there
other versions of this song earlier than hers. Some of the
original sense of the song may have been confused by changes
introduced from one version to the next.

Robert Benjamin Johnston said...

For those you inclined to a raucous version, I would heartily suggest the
Real McKenzies...You got to like a bunch of Canadians of Scottish descent
from Vancouver that play Punk, but manage to have an actual piper in their
band...Of course some may consider it sacrilege...But hey, they also have a
version of Scotts Wa¹ Hae¹ that actually has some anger and energy about

Candace McCoy said...

hi -- The song is played sometimes at funerals...particularly impressive when played on bagpipes. Perhaps the story of the two Jacobite soldiers, one of whom lived and the other who died, makes it particularly appropriate. When I first heard it, I was told that it was a lament for the dead Bonnie Prince Charlie, though it seems everything in Scottish folksongs gets attributed to Jacobites and Bonnie Princeton Charlie! In any event, the lyrics perfectly fit the idea of mourning. In saying "you take the high road and I'll take the low road," the mourner addresses a person who has gone "above" and left the mourner bereft here on earth below. The true lovers will never meet again, but one will return to Scotland "before ye." (That would be the one who lives...perhaps on a pilgrimage back to Scotland to the place where the true lovers were "wont to go.") Of course, there is a more mundane explanation. In Scottish Highland towns, the High Road is the road that goes through the center of town. The low road is further down the hill at the edge of town. There is no doubt that the song is a mournful lament for a dead love and the mourner expects never to have love again. "The broken heart will ken no second spring again." I have no idea what the line "and the world can not know what we're greeting" means.

Candace McCoy
City University of New York
The Graduate Center
John Jay College Doctoral Program
899 Tenth Avenue, Suite 636T
New York

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