“Teachers at the conservatoire will use that to teach because it’s a great learning resource.
But it’s difficult being taught a song when they open Mainly Norfolk and you are the citation!”
Iona Fyfe on Grizzly Folk
John Strachan sang Bonny Udny to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson in Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on 16 July 1951. This recording was included in 2002 on his Rounder anthology Songs from Aberdeenshire.
John Mearns of Aberdeen sang Bonnie Udny on his ca. 1964 Scottish Records EP Another Five Scottish Folk-Songs. The album's sleeve notes laconically commented:
The origins of Dufftown Fair and Bonnie Udny are obscure. They are found in various forms in many part of the country.
Daisy Chapman sang Bonnie Udny at the Aberdeen Folk Festival in October 1967. This recording by Peter Shepheard was included in 2000 on her Musical Traditions anthology of songs from Buchan, Ythanside. Another live recording from 15 April 1970 was included in 2012 on King's Head Folk Club, a Musical Traditions anthology of traditional performers at this London Folk Club 1968-1970. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:
A song that sings the praises of Udny (5 miles east of Oldmeldrum) and her ‘rovin blades’ who ‘tak great pleasure in a-courtin fair maids.’ Greig has a number of versions with various spellings of the town indicative of local pronunciation. He comments that the song is constantly being asked for in the columns of papers which encourage the hunt for old songs. But the song does not originate in Aberdeenshire: Logan's Pedlar's Pack has the related song Bonnie Paisley; the Sam Henry collection has Bonnie Portrush and Greig mentions other versions with Portmore, Kilkenny, Ury and Yarmouth, and links the song back to a song Over Hills and High Mountains dating from the late 17th century in Chapell's Old English Popular Music.
Lizzie Higgins sang Bonny Udny on her 1968 album of Scots songs and ballads Princess of the Thistle. Another recording, made by Ailie Munro in Aberdeen in 1970, was included in 2006 on her Musical Traditions anthology In Memory of Lizzie Higgins. Peter Hall commented in the first album's sleeve notes:
The theme and form of this song facilitate its attachment to any locality, and versions are known under a variety of names: Yarmouth is a Pretty Town, Bonny Portmore, The Boys of Kilkenny, etc. Th is has led to a proliferation which makes identification of origins both difficult and hazardous, although perhaps one might guess at an Irish ancestry. In Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs, 1881, the song was given as Bonny Portmore and it was probably an earlier relative of this that Robert Burns used as the basis of My Heart’s in the Highlands. The tune also does service for a recruiting song of Irish derivation, Johnny Gallagher.
John MacDonald sang Bonnie Udny in November 1974 to Tony Engle and Tony Russell in his caravan at Pitgaveny, Elgin, Morayshire. This recording was included in the following year on his Topic album of Scots ballads, bothy songs and melodeon tunes, The Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire. Hamish Henderson commented in the album's sleeve notes:
Gavin Greig deals at some length with this song in No. XXXII of his Buchan observer articles (Folk-Song of the North-East). He draws attention to a wide ramification of interlinking songs, starting with Peter Buchan's Portmore and taking in The Boys of Kilkenny, Bristol City and Yarmouth Is a Pretty Town. He also mentions a charming version from Renfrewshire—very close to John's, textwise— called Bonnie Paisley.
John got the present “wey o't” from John Jamieson, grieve at Pitgaveny. He has added a very pleasing “diddling” refrain.
Jane Turriff sang Bonnie Udny, accompanying herself with harmonium, on her 1996 Springthyme album Singing Is Ma Life. She also sang it on the 1995 Greentrax anthology of songs from the Greig-Duncan Collection as performed at the Edinburgh International Festival, Folk Songs of North-East Scotland. The former album's notes commented:
While this version is localised to Udny in Aberdeenshire, there are a number of Scottish, Irish and English equivalents to this song. GD 1089, Ord 341, and Henry H171 has a similar first line). The song is still quite well known in the living tradition in Scotland.
A song which has been in my repertoire for a few years, this version of Bonny Udny is a mix of Lizzie Higgins' and Jane Turriff's versions. Bonny Udny has been sung by many source singers on the North East such as John Strachan, John Mearns, Daisy Chapman, John MacDonald and Jock Duncan. Peter Hall comments: “The theme and form of this songs facilitate its attachment to any locality, and versions are known under a variety of names: Yarmouth Is a Pretty Town, Bonny Portmore, The Boys of Kilkenny.” Bonny Udny, to me, highlights the universalism in folksong; the song, carrying the same message—love for an area and significant partner—can be found in Scotland, England and Ireland, linking the British oral tradition.
With thanks to Pete Shepheard of Springthyme Records for allowing the use of Lizzie Higgins' Bonny Udny from the 1969 album Princess of the Thistle. “Lizzie stated that it had been in her family ‘for years’, but although a favourite, it required her to be in top form to sing, because of its great range.” (In Memory of Lizzie Higgins)
Bonny Udny is found in John Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads, Greig's Folk Song in Buchan, Greig-Duncan 6:1089, Roud 3450
This video shows Iona at the Buchan Heritage Society's Strichen Festival in May 2016:
Daisy Chapman sings Bonnie Udny
Oh Udny, bonnie Udny, ye shine whaur ye stan,
And the more I look on you, ye make my heart warm;
If I were in Udny I would think myself at home,
For it's there I've got a sweetheart, but here I have none.
Over hills and through valleys oft times I hae roam,
Through bramble and brushwood myself all alone,
Through hedges and ditches, aye, and mony's the snare,
I've walkèd through Udny for tae visit my dear.
It's nae the lang journey that I hae to go,
Nor is it the many miles that grieve me so;
It is one thing that grieves me and it makes my heart sad,
It's the leaving o' bonnie Udny and yon bonnie lass.
Aa the young lads aboot Udny, they are aa rovin blades,
They tak great delight in courtin fair maids;
They tak them and kiss them, aye, and spend their money free,
Aa the places in bonnie Scotland, bonnie Udny for me.
'Twas on a certain Sunday, oh me and my love met,
Which caused me on the Monday to mourn o'er my fate;
To spoil my eyes crying, what a fool I would be,
Since she's gone to court another, let her go where will she.
Let's drink and be merry, let us drink and ging hame,
If we bide here muckle langer, we'll get a bad name;
We'll get a bad name, aye, and we'll fill oorselves fu,
And the lang walks o' Udny they are aa 'til gang through.
Lizzie Higgins sings Bonny Udny
Udny, bonny Udny, ye shine far ye stand
An the mair I gaze upon you, oh the mair my hairt yearns.
An tae keep my eyes from weeping what a fool I would be,
For aa yer lands in Scotland Bonny Udny for me.
For it's you pu the red rose an it is I'll pu the thyme.
You drink tae your love an I'll drink tae mine.
We will drink and be merry, we'll drink tae we're fu,
For the lang, lang walks o Udny, they are aa tae go through.
They hae stolen my sweethairt an they've put him on the spree.
They hae stolen my sweethairt an they've taen him frae me.
They hae stolen my sweethairt but that they will rue,
Oh, the lang, lang walks o Udny, they are aa tae go through
We will drink an be merry, we will drink an come hame.
If we bide here ony langer we'll get a bad name,
An tae get a bad name, love, for that it winnae dae.
O aa yer lands in Scotland, Bonny Udny for me.
Jane Turriff sings Bonnie Udny
Oh Udny, bonnie Udny, ye stand faur ye shine,
The more l look at you the more my heart warms,
Bit if I wis in Udny I wid think mysel at hame,
For it's there l've got a sweetheart but here I've got none.
Over hills and through valleys how often l've gone,
Through brambles and brushwood, myself all alone,
Through hedges an ditches an dark nights an clear,
I have wandered tae Udny tae visit my dear.
Oh it's nae the lang journey that I hae tae go;
It's nae the long road that vexes me so;
It's the leavin o Udny an the loved ones behind;
O Udny, bonnie Udny, ye're aye in ma mind.
It wis on a certain Sunday that me an my love met,
Which caused me on a Monday tae mourn ower my fate;
Bit tae spoil my eyes fae cryin, whit a fool I wid be,
For she's gone to coort another, let her go where will she.
Aa the lads aboot Udny, they're aa rovin blades,
They tak great delight in coortin fair maids;
They tak them, ay, an kiss them an spend their money free,
Bit aa the lands in bonnie Scotland, bonnie Udny's for me.
Oh we'll drink an be merry, we'll drink then gang hame,
But if we bide here muckle langer, we'll get a bad name,
And tae get a bad name, love, an fill oursels fu,
An we've the lang walks tae Udny, they're ay tae gang through.
Iona Fyfe sings Bonny Udny
Oh Udny, bonny Udny, ye shine whaur ye stand
The mair I look on you, the mair my heart warms.
If I were in Udny, I'd think I's at hame
For there I get sweethairts, for here I get nane.
It's nae the lang road, love, that I hae tae gang,
Nor is it the lang miles that maks me think lang;
But the one thing that grieves me and maks my hairt sad,
It's the leavin' o' you, Udny, and yon bonnie lass.
Well, the lads aboot Udny, they're aa rovin' blades,
They tak great delight in the coortin' o maids;
They kiss them and clap them and spend money free,
Of a' the airts in Scotland, bonnie Udny's for me.
I once loved a fair maid, she said she loved me,
An' oor parents were willing that wedded we'd be.
But for all of her promises she has forgot me,
And since she's got another, let her go where will she.
'Twas on a certain Sunday, that me and my love met,
Which caused me on Monday tae sigh, sore and weep;
But ti spoil my eyes weeping, such a fool I would be,
And since she's got another, let her go where will she.
I will build my love a castle on yon piece of ground,
Where lord, duke or nobleman can ne'er pull it down;
And if anyone should ask of you, “Oh what is your name?”
You can say it is Mary and from Udny ye came.
You pull the red rose, and I'll pull the thyme.
You drink tae your love and I'll drink tae mine.
For my mind will not alter or gang to and fro,
But I'll aya prove kind-hairtit tae the girl that I loe.
Let us drink and be merry, let us drink and gang hame,
For if we stay langer, we'll get a bad name;
We'll get a bad name and we'll drink ourselves fu,
And the long walks o' Udny are, aye, tae gang through.