> Louis Killen > Songs > The Bonny Hoose o' Airlie

The Bonny House of Airlie

[ Roud 794 ; Child 199 ; G/D 2:233 ; Ballad Index C199 ; Bodleian Roud 794 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang The Bonnie Hoose o' Airlie in 1956 on his and A.L. Lloyd's Riverside album of Child ballads, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads Volume I. This track was included in 2009 on the Ewan MacColl CD Ballads: Murder·Intrigue·Love·Discord. Editor Kenneth G. Goldstein wrote in the original album's booklet:

This ballad describes the burning and sacking in 1640 of the castle of the Earl of Airlie, a supporter of Charles Edward, by the Duke of Argyll. Airlie, aware that he would be forced to renounce the King, left Scotland, leaving his house in the keeping of his oldest son, Lord Ogilvie. Argyll, ordered to proceed against the castle, raised several thousand men for the purpose. When Ogilvie heard of his coming with such a huge force, the castle was abandoned. Lady Ogilvie's defiance is an invention of the ballad muse, for it has been fairly well established that none of the family was there at the time the castle was sacked.

The ballad is rare outside of Scotland, a few versions having been collected in North America. The version MacColl sings was collected from Boston Dunn, an iron moulder from Falkirk, Stirlingshire.

Bella Stewart sang Bonnie House o’ Airlie on the 1968 LP Back o' Benachie: Songs and Ballads from the Lowland East of Scotland, and John MacDonald sang it on the 1975 Topic LP The Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire: Scots Ballads, Bothy Songs and Melodeon Tunes, which recording was also included on It Fell on a Day, a Bonny Summer Day (The Voice of the People Series Vol. 17).

Louis Killen sang The Bonny Hoose o' Airlie in 1978 on his LP Old Songs, Old Friends. He commented on the album sleeve:

Another friend who traded me many songs was Laurie Charlton, borderer, gunsmith, art teacher, ballad singer, and fisherman, who ran Folksong and Ballad in Newcastle after I took off for London in 1961. But well before that he taught me Ca' the Yowes. […] I also got from Laurie The Bonny Hoose o' Aurlie, that ballad of the burning of the home of the Ogilvies by the covenanting Campbells, while the former were supporting King Charles I against Cromwell and Parliament.

Gerry Hallom sang this ballad in 1981 on his Fellside album Travellin' Down the Castlereagh.

Bobby Eaglesham sang The Bonny House of Airlie in 1997 on the Fellside anthology Ballads. Paul Adams commented in the album's liner notes:

Many attempts have been made to ascribe historical events and figures to ballads as has been mentioned elsewhere in this text. Normally the links are tenuous, but in this case the origins are based on fact. !n 1640 the Convention of Estates granted a “commission of fire and sword” to Archibald Campbell the 8th Earl of Argyll against the Earl of Airlie and other adherents of Charles I. They were harsh and brutal times and yet Argyll's actions seem to have offended to such an extend that he was obliged to obtain an “Act of Ratificatioune & Exoeneratioune” to absolve himself from blame. The ballad takes liberties with the historical fact (it is doubtful whether Argyll was there in person). Lady Ogilvie is the Earl of Airlie's daughter-in-law. Airlie had left Airlie Castle (part of the old castle stands within the grounds of the modern mansion which bears its name about 5 miles SW of Kirriemuir) in the hands of his son. Reputedly Argyll raised five thousand men and on hearing this Lord Ogilvie fled for safety. The numbers and names vary from version to version.

Maureen Jelks sang The Bonny Hoose o' Airlie in 2000 on her album Eence Upon a Time. She commented:

I thought it was about time I learned this as I live just a few miles from Airlie. This version is from Scottish Ballads, Cannongate Clasics, edited by Emily Lyle, but I have heard it sung by the late Belle Stewart, another favourite singer. It is about the burning of the House of Airlie by the Argylls, an event that occured on 1645 during the reign of Charles I.

Kate Rusby sang a very much shorter version of The Bonny House of Airlie in 2005 on her CD The Girl Who Couldn't Fly.

Jon Boden sang The Bonny House of Airlie as the August 28, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He gave Louis Killen as his source.

Fiona Hunter learned The Bonny Hoose o Airlie from the singing of Belle Stewart and sang it in 2015 on Malinky's album Far Better Days. This video shows Malinky at TradFest Edinburgh in June 2015:

Lyrics

Ewan MacColl sings The Bonnie Hoose o' Airlie Bobby Eaglesham sings The Bonnie House of Airlie

It fell on a day, on a bonnie summer's day
When the sun shone bright and clearly,
That there fell oot a great dispute
Atween Argylle and Airlie.

It fell on a day, on a bonny summer's day
When the sun shone bright and clearly,
That there fell oot a great dispute
Between Argyll and Airlie.

Argylle he has mustered a thousand o' his men,
He has marched them oot right early;
He has marched them in by the back o' Dunkeld,
To plunder the bonnie hoose o' Airlie.

Argyll he has mustered a thousand o' his men,
And he's marched them in right early;
He's marched them up by the back o' Dunkeld,
Tae plunder the bonnie hoose of Airlie.

Lady Ogilvie has looked frae her window so high,
And O, but she grat sairly,
To see Argylle and a' his men
Come plunder the bonnie hoose of Airlie.

Lady Ogilvie she looked frae her window sae high,
And oh but she grat sairly,
To see Argyll and a' his men
Come plunder the bonny hoose of Airlie.

“Come doon, come doon, Lady Ogilvie,” he cried:
“Come doon and kiss me fairly,
Or I swear by the hilt o' my gewwd braidsword
That I winna leave a stan'in' stane in Airlie.”

“Come doon, come doon, Lady Ogilvie,” he cried:
“Come doon and kiss me fairly,
Or I swear by the hilt on my broadsword
I'll never leave a standin' stane in Airlie.”

“I winna come doon, ye cruel Argylle,
I winna kiss ye fairly;
I wadna kiss ye, fause Argylle,
Though ye sudna leave a stan'in' stane in Airlie.”

“Oh I wadna come doon, ye cruel Argyll,
And I wadna kiss ye fairly;
Oh I wadna kiss, nay, false Argyll,
Though ye wadna leave a standin' stane in Airlie.”

“Come, tell me whaur your dowry is hid,
Come doon and tell me fairly.”
“l winna tell ye whaur my dowry is hid,
Though ye sudna leave a stan'in' stane in Airlie.”

“Come tell me whaur your dowry is hid,
Come doon and tell me fairly.”
“l winna tell ye whaur my dowry is hid,
Though ye wadna leave a standin' stane in Airlie.”

They socht it up and they socht it down,
I wat, they socht it early;
And it was below yon bowling green
They found the dowry o' Airlie.

Oh they sought it up and they sought it doon,
And aye they sought it early;
And it was ablow yon bowling green
They found the dowry of Airlie.

“Eleven bairns I ha'e born
And the twelfth ne'er saw his daddie,
But though I had gotten as mony again,
They suld a' gang to fecht for Charlie.

“Eleven of my bairns oh I hae born
And a twelfth ne'er saw his daddie,
And though I hae gotten as many of them again,
I'd mak sure they gang and fecht for Charlie.

“Gin my gweed lord had been at hame,
As he's awa' for Charlie,
There dursna a Campbell o' a' Argylle
Set a fit on the bonnie hoose o' Airlie.”

“Gin my guid lord had been at hame,
But he's awa' for Charlie,
There wadna be a Campbell in a' Argyll
Set foot on the bonny hoose of Airlie.”

He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
But he did not lead her fairly;
He led her up to the top o' the hill,
Where she saw the burnin' o' Airlie.

He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
But he didna lead her fairly;
And he's led her up to the top o' the hill,
Where she saw the burnin' doon o' Airlie.

The smoke and flame they rose so high,
The walls were blackened fairly;
And the lady laid her doon on the green to dee,
When she saw the burnin' o' Airlie.

The smoke and the flames they rose so high
And the walls they blackened fairly;
And the lady's laid her doon on the green grass to die
When she saw the burnin' doon o' Airlie.

Kate Rusby sings The Bonnie House of Airlie Jon Boden sings The Bonnie House of Airlie

It fell on a day, a bonnie bonnie day,
When the corn grew green and yellow,
That there fell out a great dispute
Between Argyll and Airlie.

It fell on a day and a bright summer's day,
When the corn grew green and yellow,
There fell out a great dispute
Between Argyll and Airlie.

The Duke of Montrose he has written to Argyll
To come in the morning so early
And to lead his men by the back of Dunkeld
And to plunder the bonnie house of Airlie.

The lady was looking over the castle wall,
And oh but she looks weary,
And there she spies the great Argyll
Come to plunder the bonnie house of Airlie.

The lady looked out of the window so high
And oh and she looked weary,
For there she spied the great Argyll
Come to plunder the bonnie house of Airlie.

“Come down the stairs, lady,“ he said,
“Come down and kiss me fairly.”
“I'll not come down nor kiss you,” she said,
“Though you won't leave a standing stone at Airlie.”

“Come down, come down, Lady Margaret,“ he said,
“Come down and kiss me fairly,
Or by the morning's clear daylight
I will not leave a standing stone in Airlie.”

“Oh I would not kiss thee, great Argyll,
And I would not kiss the fairly.
I would not kiss thee, great Argyll,
Though you didn't leave a standing stone in Airlie.”

He has taken her by her left shoulder,
He says, “Madam where is your dowry?”
“Well it's up and it's down the bonny burnside
All among the planting of Airlie.”

Oh they searched east and they searched west
And they searched late and early.
They found in in the bonny burnside
All among the planting of Airlie.”

He's taken her by her left shoulder
and oh but she looks weary.
He led her to the top of the town,
Made her watch the plundering of Airlie.

He has taken her by the middle so small
And oh and she cried sorely.
And he has laid her down on the green, green grass
And he has plundered the bonny house of Airlie.

“Fire on, fire on, my many men all
And see that you fire clearly.
I vow and I swear by this broadsword I wear
I won't leave a standing stone at Airlie.”

“Oh I have eleven broad sons,” she cried,
“And the youngest has never seen his daddy.
But if I had this many more
I would give them all to King Charlie.

“If the great Sir John had been but at home,
As he is this night wi' Prince Charlie,
Neither Argyll nor any Scottish Lord
Dare have plundered the bonnie house of Airlie.

“And if my good lord he had been at home
And not been with King Charlie,
Well there's never a Campbell from out of the west
Could plunder he bonny house of Airlie.”

“Seven, seven sons I've born unto him
And the eigth ne'er saw his daddy.
If I were to bear a hundred more
They'd all draw sword for Prince Charlie.
Oh, if I were to bear a hundred more
They'd all draw sword for Prince Charlie.”