> Martin Carthy > Songs > Handsome Polly-O

Handsome Polly-O / The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie / Peg of Derby

[ Roud 545 ; G/D 1:84 ; Ballad Index SBoA020 ; Bodleian Roud 545 ; Wiltshire Roud 545 ; trad.]

Thomas Moran of Mohill, Co. Leitrim, sang Handsome Polly-O in a recording made by Séamus Ennis in 1954 for the BBC Sound Archive. It was included on A Soldier's Life for Me (The Folk Songs of Britain, Volume 8; Caedmon 1961, Topic 1970) and in 2012 on the Topic anthology Good People, Take Warning (The Voice of the People Series Volume 23). The first album's notes comment:

This tale of the love-lorn captain still enjoys widespread popularity in the English-speaking world. It was published in Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians under the title of Pretty Katie-O and in Scotland it is generally sung as The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie to the air Kelvin Grove.

Ewan MacColl sang The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie in 1962 on his Folkways album Popular Scottish Songs.

Jimmy McBeath sang The Bonnie Lass o' Fyvie in a recording made by Peter Hall in Scotland in July 1971. This was published in 1978 on McBeath's Topic album Bound to Be a Row and in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the Licence (The Voice of the People Series Volume 1).

Martin Carthy sang Handsome Polly-O on his 1972 album Shearwater. He commented in the record's sleeve notes:

Handsome Polly is from the recording made by Séamus Ennis of Thomas Moran of Mohill, Co. [Leitrim] and is a nicely unfussy way of doing a song which in one form at one time was part of every folk guitarist's staple diet (not so much now. God is good).

Martin Carthy sang this song live on Steeleye Span's BBC radio programme “Peel's Sunday Concert” on September 15, 1971. This programme was included as a bonus CD of the 2006 reissue of Steeleye Span's third album, Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again.

Isabel Sutherland sang The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie in 1974 on her eponymous EFDSS album Isabel Sutherland.

Malinky sang The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie in 2000 on their Greentrax album Last Leaves; with the album title referring to Greig and Keith's Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs (Aberdeen 1925).

Gordon Easton sang The Bonnie Lass o' Fyvie at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2003 or May 2004. This recording was included in 2005 on the festival's CD Here's a Health to the Company (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Vol. 1). The album's notes commented:

This song telling of the dragoon captain who died for the love of the bonnie lass o' Fyvie has been and still is widely popular. There are over 20 versions in the Greig-Duncan Collection (GD 1:84) with considerable variation in text and tune. It is clear from the song and local tradition that Fyvie was a staging post on the military route from Aberdeen to Fort George on the Moray Firth.

Muckram Wakes sang a variant called Peg of Derby in 1976 on their eponymous album Muckram Wakes and Roger Watson returned to it in 2009 on his WildGoose album Past and Present.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Handsome Polly-O

Oh a regiment of soldiers came to Mohill O,
A regiment of soldiers came to Mohill O,
When the captain on parade
He fell in love with a lady's maid.
And the name that she was called was handsome Polly O.

“Will you list in the army, handsome Polly O?
Will you list in the army handsome Polly O?
Ah, you'll get a horse to ride
And your rifle by your side
And a whole band of music going afore ye O.”

“Didn't I give you your answer long, long ago?
Didn't I give you your answer long, long ago?
That I ne'er intend to roam
Into any foreign shore
Nor to marry a poor soldier in the army O.”

Now when she come in presence of the captain O,
And she come in presence of the captain O,
Ah, she made him there to stand
With his cap and gun in hand
And she laughed him to scorn to his soldiers O.

The regiment got the rout into Ivy O,
The regiment got the rout into Ivy O,
And the captain he fell sick,
And he died all in a week,
And it was all for the love of handsome Polly O
And all for the love of handsome Polly O.
Ah, the captain he fell sick,
And he died all in a week,
And it was all for the love of handsome Polly O.

The soldiers went to mourn for the captain O,
The soldiers went to mourn for the captain O.
For if Polly wouldn't do,
They would get another view;
For there were far better girls out in Ivy O.

Malinky sing The Bonnie Lass o' Fyvie

There once was a troop of Irish dragoons,
Come marchin' doon through Fyvie O,
The captain's fa'en in love
Wi' anither bonnie quine
An' the name that she had was Pretty Peggy O.

“Come runnin' doon the stairs Pretty Peggy my dear,
Come runnin' doon the stairs Pretty Peggy O,
Come runnin' doon the stairs
And tie back yer yellow hair,
Tak' a last fareweel tae yer daddie O.”

“For it's I'll buy ye ribbons and I'll buy ye rings
And I'll buy ye necklaces o' lammer O.
I'll buy ye silken goon
Tor tae clead ye up an' doon
If ye'd just come doon in tae ma chamber O.”

“Well, I'll hae nane o' yer ribbons, I'll hae nane o' yer rings!
I'll hae nane o' yer necklaces o' lammer O!
An' as for silken goon
I will never put it on
An' I never will enter yer chamber O.”

Well there's mony a bonnie lass in the howe o' Auchterless
An' mony a bonnie lass in the gearie O.
There's mony a bonnie Jean
In the toon o' Aberdeen
But the flo'er o them a' bides in Fyvie O.

The colonel he cried, “Mount boys, mount boys, mount!”
The captain he cried, “Tarry O!
Tarry for a while
Just anither day or twa
For tae see if the bonnie lass will marry O.”

“Well I'll drink nae mare o' yer guid claret wine,
I'll drink nae mare o' yer glasses O,
For the morn is the day
That I maun ride away
Wi' adieu tae ye Fyvie lasses O.”

Syne e'er we got tae Old Meldrum toon
Oor captain we had far tae carry O.
An's syne e'er we
Got tae bonnie Aberdeen
Oor captain we had tae bury O.

So it's green grow the birks on bonnie Ythanside,
And low lie the Lowlands o Fyvie O;
Our captain's name was Ned
An' he's died for a maid,
He's died for the bonnie lass o Fyvie O.

Gordon Easton sings The Bonnie Lass o' Fyvie

Oh there were a troop o Irish dragoons,
And they were stationed in Fyvie O;
And the captain's faan in love
Wi' an awfa bonnie lass,
And her name is caad Pretty Peggy O.

Chorus:
Now there's mony a bonnie lass in the Howe o Auchterless,
There's mony a bonnie lassie in the Gearie O;
Aye there's mony a bonnie Jean
In the toon o Aiberdeen,
But the flooer o them aa lives in Fyvie O.

“Now come doon the stair Pretty Peggy my dear,
Oh come doon the stair Pretty Peggy O;
Aye, come doon the stair,
Bind up yer yeller hair,
Tak a last fareweel o yer daddy O.”

“Now I never did intend a captain's lady tae be,
I never will marry a soldier O;
And I never did intend tae gang
Tae a foreign land,
So I never will marry a soldier O.”

Now it was the early morning that they marched awa,
And oh but our captain was sorry O;
The drums they did beat
O'er the bonnie Braes o Gicht,
And the band played the Lowlands o Fyvie O.

But as we won the length o auld Meldrum toun,
Wir captain we had tae cairry O;
And as we won the length
O bonnie Aiberdeen,
Wir captain we had tae bury O.

Now green grows the birks on bonnie Ythanside,
And low lies the Lowlands o Fyvie O;
Our captain's name was Ned
And he died for a maid,
He died for the bonnie lass o Fyvie O.

(Chorus)