> Folk Music > Songs > Busk, Busk, Bonnie Lassie

Busk, Busk, Bonnie Lassie / Bonny Glenshee

[ Roud 832 ; G/D 5:1053 ; Ballad Index McCST033 ; DT GLENSHEE ; Mudcat 26398 ; trad.]

The Scottish Folksinger Travellers’ Songs From England and Scotland

Jeannie Robertson sang Busk, Busk, Bonnie Lassie on her 1957 EMI album Jeannie’s Merry Muse. A live recording, made by Hamish Henderson in Edinburgh in 1958, was released in 1984 on her Lismor album Up the Dee and Doon the Don.

Cathy Stewart sang Busk, Busk, Bonnie Lassie, accompanied by Alex Stewart, in 1965 on the Topic album The Stewarts of Blair. Hamish Henderson wrote in the sleeve notes:

North of Blairgowrie and Alyth rise the Grampians, a convenient refuge for Jacobite armies in retreat, and for eloping lovers. The chorus of this marvellous song links it with the Braes o’ Balquhidder and with many similar songs of love triumphant among the hills and braes. Greig printed a version called Oh, No No (FSNE CVII), but it lacks this evocative chorus, much to its disadvantage. The opening of the tune and that of the pipe march The Bloody Fields of Flanders are virtually identical.

Alex accompanies Cathie on the ‘goose’, a small set of Highland pipes—bag and chanter, but minus the drones. Alex’s father used it for teaching and for practice, as it is easier to play than the chanter alone.

Belle Stewart sang Busk, Busk, Bonnie Lassie, in 1977 on her Topic album of Scots traditional songs and ballads, Queen Among the Heather. Geordie McIntyre noted:

Belle learned this distinctive parting song from her daughter Cathie’s mother-in-law, the late Charlotte Higgins, “a grand old woman for songs”. A much longer, more ‘literary’ version, minus chorus, is printed under the title of Oh No No in Gavin Greig’s Folk-Song of the North-East. The song has become very popular with revival singers, usually sung at ‘funeral pace’. Belle observes it should be sung ‘wae a wee lilt’.

A live recording of the Stewarts of Blair singing Bonnie Glenshee at the Blairgowrie Folk Festival in between 1986 and 1995 was included in 2000 on the festival anthology The Blair Tapes.

Brian Dewhurst sang Busk Busk Bonnie Lassie in 1977 on his Fellside album Follow That With Your Sea Lions.

Jim Reid sang Busk Busk Bonnie Lassie in 1984 on his Springthyme album I Saw the Wild Geese Flee. He noted

A lovely traditional song from the Stewart family of Blairgowrie that has become widely popular in recent years. The song has a superb chorus, so sing and join in.

Maggie Boyle sang Busk Busk Bonnie Lassie on her 1987 Run River album Reaching Out.

Norman Kennedy sang Busk Bonnie Lassie at a concert held at the First Parish of Watertown Unitarian Universalist Church on 23 October 1999. A recording of this concert was released in 2004 on the Autumn Harvest album I Little Thocht My Love Wid Leave Me.

Jim Malcolm sang Bonnie Glenshee on his 2002 album Home. He noted:

My grandfather’s family farmed in Glenshee and Glenisla, and I can see yon high hills every day from home sweet home in Perth. I never learned this song; I have always known it.

Maureen Jelks sang Bonnie Glenshee at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2006. A recording of this was included in the following year on the festival anthology Some Rants o’ Fun (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 3). The album notes commented:

This beautiful song came to the fore in the 1960s when it was recorded by the Stewarts of Blair sung to the accompaniment of Alex on the goose (a pipe chanter). Cathie Stewart had the song (the first three verses anyway) from her husband’s mother Charlotte Higgins of Blairgowrie.

Joe Aitken from Kirriemuir in Angus sang Glen Isla and Glenshee on the 2007 Ross live album Tam Reid’s Ceilidh and on his 2020 Ross EP The Kelty Clippie.

This video shows Iona Fyfe and audience singing Bonny Glenshee on November, 17 2018 at The Cellar Upstairs near Kings Cross station in London:


Jim Reid sings Busk Busk Bonnie Lassie

Dae ye see yon high hills,
Aa covered ower wi snaw?
They hae pairted mony the true love,
And they’ll soon pairt us twa.

Chorus (after each verse):
Busk, busk bonnie lassie
And come awa wi me,
And I’ll tak ye tae Glen Isla
Near bonnie Glen Shee.

Dae ye see yon shepherd,
As he gaes alang,
Wi his plaidie roun aboot him,
And his sheep they graze on?

Dae ye see yon soldiers,
As they march alang,
Wi their muskets on their shoulders,
And their broadswords hingin doun?

(repeat first verse)

Maureen Jelks sings Bonnie Glenshee

Dae ye see yon high hills
Aa covered ower wi snaw,
They hae pairted mony’s a true love
And they’ll soon pairt us twa.

Chorus (after each verse):
Busk, busk bonnie lassie,
Aye and come awa wi me,
And I’ll tak ye tae Glenisla
Near bonnie Glenshee.

Dae ye see yon shepherds
As they walk along,
Wi their plaidies rowed aboot them
And their sheep grazing on.

Dae ye see yon sodgers
As they mairch along,
Wi their muskets ower their shoulders
And their broadswords hangin doun.

Dae ye see yon laverock
As it scurries along,
And dae ye hear yon blackbird
As it sweetly sings its song.

Then I wad gang wi ye
For ye’re aye on my mind,
It was never my intention
For tae leave you behind.