> June Tabor > Songs > Heather Down the Moor
> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Down the Moor
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Brass Monkey: Heather Down the Moor

Heather Down the Moor

[ Roud 375 ; G/D 5:962 ; Ballad Index HHH177 ; trad.]

Eddie Butcher sang this popular Ulster song on his 1976 Free Reed album, I Once Was a Daysman. The album notes commented:

Robert Burns attributed Down the Moor to a Kilmarnock girl named Jean Glover, “who was not only a whore but a thief; and in one or other character has visited most of the Correction Houses in the West. … I took the song down from her singing as she was strolling through the country with a sleight-of-hand blackguard.” When the Ulster journalist Sam Henry published the set of the song as No. 177 in his massive collection Songs of the People, he noted of Burns' informant: “To her other faults, it would seem, must be added unveracity, as clearly this old song was composed long before her day.” It has recently been suggested that the song is in fact based on the Scots ballad The Laird o' Drum (Child 236), but the evidence for this in any published version is extremely scanty. Whatever its origin, this has been a very popular song in Ulster in the past and Eddie does it full justice, relishing in the song's grand air with its extended phrasing.

June Tabor sang Heather Down the Moor in 1980 on her album with Martin Simpson, A Cut Above. This track was also included in the Topic anthology The Good Old Way and on the June Tabor compilation Anthology.

Peter Bellamy learnt Down the Moor from Eddie Butcher's singing and recorded it for his cassette Fair Annie: English, Irish, Australian and American Traditional Songs, accompanying himself on Anglo concertina. This track was also included on his Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. He also sang Down the Moor live at the Cockermouth Folk Club in January 1991. This concert was released on his cassette Songs an' Rummy Conjurin' Tricks.

Damien Barber learned Down the Moor from Peter Bellamy and recorded it for his 2000 album, The Furrowed Field, and together with Mike Wilson for their 2009 CD Under the Influence.

Martin Carthy sang a much slower version than June Tabor's on Brass Monkey's fourth album Going and Staying and played it live on the DVD The Four Martins. He commented in the former album's sleeve notes:

Both Heather Down the Moor and The Doffing Mistress are Ulster songs. The former is a courting song from the lovely County Derry singer, Eddie Butcher, and the latter a song from the weaving mills which Anne Briggs used to sing in the 1960.

Ruth Notman recorded Heather Down the Moor in 2007 for her CD Threads.

Jon Boden sang Down the Moor as the May 9, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He has taken this one

From Peter Bellamy although I heard the June Tabor / Martin Simpson first, both version are fabulous. Also heard Carthy sing it recently, also brilliant, and he made the pertinent point that there aren’t many courtship ballads where the girl, having accepted the boy’s advances, then says, “Right, that’s me, best be off.”

Lyrics

June Tabor sings Heather Down the MoorPeter Bellamy sings Down the Moor

One morn in May when fields were gay,
Serene and pleasant was the weather,
I spied a lass and a very bonny lass,
She was sweeping the dew from among the heather
Down the moor.
And among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
I spied a lass and a very bonny lass
She was sweeping the dew from among the heather
Down the moor.

One morn in May when fields were gay,
Serene and pleasant was the weather,
I spied a lass and a very bonny lass,
She was swooping the dew from among the heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
I spied a lass and a very bonny lass
She was swooping the dew from among the heather
Down the moor.

Bare footed was she, she was comely dressed
And her head bore neither hat nor feather,
She'd a plaid wrapped neatly round her waist
As she tripped through the blooming heather
Down the moor.
And among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
She'd ha plaid wrapped neatly round her waist
As she tripped through the blooming heather
Down the moor.

Barefoot was she but comely dressed
And on her head neither hat nor feather,
With a skirts-top neatly round her waist
As she tripped through the blooming heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
With a skirts-top neatly round her waist
As she tripped through the blooming heather
Down the moor.

I stepped up to this fair young maid,
“Tell your name, come tell me hither.”
She answered me, “Down by the bonny burn side
I am herding all my ewes together
Down the moor.”
And among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
She answered me, “Down by the bonny burn side
I am herding all my ewes together
Down the moor.”

I stepped up to this fair young maid,
“Come tell me, love, why come you hither?”
She answered me, “Down by the bonny burn side
I am herding all my ewes together
Down the moor.”
In among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
She answered me, “Down by the bonny burn side
I am herding all my ewes together
Down the moor.”

I courted her that live-long day,
My heart as light as any feather,
Until the beams of the red-setting sun
Come a-shining down in among the heather
Down the moor.
And among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
Until the beams of the red-setting sun
Come a-shining down in among the heather
Down the moor.

I courted her that live-long day,
My heart as light as any feather,
Until the beams of the red-setting sun
Come slanting down in among the heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
Until the beams of the red-setting sun
Come slanting down in among the heather
Down the moor.

She said “Young man, I must away,
My ewes are straying from each other.
But I'm as loath for to part with you
As the bonnie wee lambs to part their mother
Down the moor.
And among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
But I'm as loath for to part with you
As the bonnie wee lambs to part their mother
Down the moor”

She said “Young man, I must away
For my ewes are straying from each other.
Though I'm as loath to part with you
As the bonnie wee lambs are to part their mother
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
Though I'm as loath to part with you
As the bonnie wee lambs are to part their mother
Down the moor”

So up she got and away she went,
And her name and place I cannot gather.
But if I was a king I would make her a queen,
The bonnie lass I met in among the heather
Down the moor.
And among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
But if I was a king I would make her a queen,
The bonnie lass I met in among the heather
Down the moor.

So up she got and away she run,
Her name and place I did not gather.
But if I was a king I'd make her my queen,
That bonnie lass I met in among the heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
O'er the moor, through the heather
If I was a king I'd make her my queen,
That bonnie lass I met in among the heather
Down the moor.

Martin Carthy sings Heather Down the Moor

One morn in May when flowers were gay,
Serene and pleasant was the weather,
I spied a lass, a very bonny lass
She was sweeping the dew from among the heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
Down the moor and through the heather
I spied a lass, a very bonny lass
She was sweeping the dew from among the heather
Down the moor

Bare footed was she, she was neatly dressed,
Neither had no hat nor feather
But a plaid wrapped neatly round her waist
As she tripped through the blooming heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
Down the moor and through the heather
But her plaid hung/wrapped neatly round her waist
As she tripped through the blooming heather
Down the moor.

I stepped up to this fair maid,
“Come tell your name, come tell me hither.”
She answered me, “Down by the bonny burn side
And I'm herding all my ewes together
Down the moor.”
In among the heather,
Down the moor and through the heather
She answered me, “Down by the bonny burn side
And I'm herding all my ewes together
Down the moor.”

I courted her that live-long day,
My heart was light as any feather,
Until the beams of the red-setting sun
Come shining down in among the heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
Down the moor and through the heather
Until the beams of the red-setting sun
Come shining down in among the heather
Down the moor.

She said “Young man, I must away,
My ewes are straying from each other
I'm as loath to part with you
As the bonnie wee lambs are to part their mother
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
Down the moor and through the heather
I'm as loath to part with you
As the bonnie wee lambs are to part their mother
Down the moor.”

So up she got and away she went,
Her name and place I could not gather.
But if I were a king I'd make her a queen,
The bonnie lass I met in among the heather
Down the moor.
In among the heather,
Down the moor and through the heather
If I were a king I'd make her a queen,
The bonnie lass I met in among the heather
Down the moor.