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The Banks o Doon / Ye Banks and Braes

[ Roud 13889 ; Ballad Index CTbnksbr ; Bodleian Roud 13889 ; Wiltshire 1031 ; DT BANKBRA2 ; Mudcat 105266 ; Robert Burns]

The Banks o Doon is a Scots song written by Robert Burns in 1791, sometimes known as Ye Banks and Braes (after the opening line of the third version). Burns set the lyrics to an air called The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight. [Wikipedia]

Margaret Tait sang Ye Banks and Braes of Bonny Doon in 1950 in Winnipeg in a Canadian Broadcasting Company recording. It was included in 2016 on Louise Bichan’s Margaret Tait Project CD, Out of My Own Light.

Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor sang Ye Banks and Braes on their 1962 album Two Heids Are Better Than Yin!.

Jean Redpath sang The Banks o’ Doon in 1981 on her Philo/Greentrax album The Songs of Robert Burns Volume 3. Serge and Esther Hovey noted:

This second version of The Banks o’ Doon was published in The Scots Musical Museum in 1792, signed “B”. Folksong researchers will appreciate the following remarks, written in 1794 to his editor, Thomson, regarding this song:

“Do you know the history of the air?—It is curious enough.

“A good many years ago a Mr Jas Miller, … was in company with our friend, Clarke; & talking of Scots music, Miller expressed an ardent ambition to be able to compose a Scots air.

“Mr Clarke, partly by way of joke, told him, to keep to the black keys of the harpsichord, & preserve some kind of rhythm; & he would infallibly compose a Scots air.

“Certain it is, that in a few days, Mr Miller produced the rudiments of an air, which Mr Clarke, with some touches and corrections, fashioned into the tune in question …

“Now, to shew you how difficult it is to trace the origin of our airs, I have heard it repeatedly asserted that this was an Irish air; nay, I  met with an Irish gentleman who affirmed he had heard it in Ireland among the old women; while on the other hand, a Lady of fashion, no less than a Countess, informed me, that the first person who introduced the air into this country was a Baronet’s Lady of her acquaintance, who took down the notes from an itinerant Piper in the Isle of Man.

“How difficult then to ascertain the truth respecting our Poesy and Music! I myself, have lately seen a couple of Ballads sung through the streets of Dumfries, with my name at the head of them as the Author, though it was the first time ever I had seen them.”

Mairi Campbell sang Ye Banks and Braes in 1993 on The Cast’s Culburnie CD The Winnowing. She noted:

A famously inspired match of tune and lyrics by Burns who, as a fiddler himself, would have known the tune as The Royal Caledonian Hunt’s Delight.

Gill Bowman sang The Banks o’ Doon in 1994 on her Greentrax CD of love songs of Robert Burns, Toasting the Lassies.

Hector Gilchrist and Liz Thomson sang Ye Banks and Braes in 1996 on their WildGoose album of songs of Robert Burns, The Lea Rig. They noted:

This is sung to the popular tune which is said to have originated from advice given to a Mr James Miller, that in order to write a Scots air, he need only keep to the black keys of the harpsichord and preserve some kind of rhythm. Neil Gow adapted it, giving it the title The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight. The words are a second version of an unhappy love tale first written in 1787 and re-worked in 1792 for The Scots Musical Museum publication.

Rod Paterson sang Ye Banks and Braes in 1996 on his Greentrax CD of Robert Burns songs, Songs From the Bottom Drawer. He noted:

Probably my earliest recollection of a Burns song—heard in an Angus tattie field.

Mick West sang Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonie Doon in 1997 on the Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 3.

Beryl Graeme sang Ye Banks and Braes on her 1999 CD Moth to a Flame. The liner notes commented:

These words were written by Robert Burns to an old tune The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight. It is thought to refer to an Ayrshire girl who fell in love with a squire who seduced her but did not marry her.

Alasdair Roberts sang Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon on his 2001 CD The Crook of My Arm.

Sheena Wellington sang Ye Banks and Braes in 2003 on her Greentrax CD Hamely Fare.

Printed in the The Scots Musical Museum vol. 4 in 1792, this was Burns’ second version of the song.

Stravaig sang Ye Banks and Braes live at Celtic Connections at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in January 2001. This recording was included in 2002 on the festival anthology Scots Women.

Eddi Reader sang Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon on the 2009 deluxe reissue of her CD The Songs of Robert Burns.

Band of Burns sang The Banks o’ Doon at a concert on 29 January 2017 at Union Chapel, London. This recording was released in 2018 on their CD Live From the Union Chapel.

Mairearad Green sang Ye Banks and Braes on a download single released on Robert Burns’ 2021 birthday.


Mairi Campbell sings Ye Banks and Braes

Ye banks and braes o bonnie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary, fu o care!
Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro the flowering thorn!
Thou minds me o departed joys,
Departed, never to return.

Aft hae I rov’d by bonnie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine;
And ilka bird sang ough its luve,
And fondly sae did I ough mine;
Wi lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Fu sweet upon its thorny tree!
And my fause luver stole my rose—
But, ah! he left the thorn wi me.