> Shirley Collins > Songs > Ca' the Ewes
> Louis Killen > Songs > Ca' the Yowes
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Ca' the Ewes

Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes / Lovely Molly

[ Roud 857 ; G/D 5:1014 ; Henry H175 ; Ballad Index K124 ; Robert Burns]

Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes is one of Robert Burns' best-known poems. He wrote two quite different versions in 1789 and in 1794.

First Robert Burns version

Shirley Collins sang Burns' first version of Ca' the Ewes in 1969 on her and her sister Dolly's album Anthems in Eden.

Louis Killen sang Ca' the Ewes in 1978 on his LP Old Songs, Old Friends. He commented in his sleeve notes:

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 couldn't resist dubbing in the harmony of the chorus—that was the way we used to sing it at our “ploys” in the Tyne Cruising (boozing?!) Club.

Gordeanna McCulloch sang Cae the Yowes on her 1978 Topic album Sheath and Knife. The album's sleeve notes commented:

This version is based on the traditional song as known to Burns. Verses 1, 2 and 3 were added by him before he contributed the song to Johnson's Scots Musical Museum.
Caw the yowes tae the knowes: drive the sheep to the hills,
dool: grief

Beryl Graeme learned Ca' the Yowes from her mother and sang it in 1999 on her CD Moth to a Flame.

Second Robert Burns version

Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor recorded the second version of Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes in 1962 for their album Two Heids Are Better than Yin!.

Andy M. Stewart sang Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes on his 1991 album Songs of Robert Burns. The liner notes commented:

Mrs Burns, who was fond of singing this song, used to point out that the second verse and the closing verse were by the poet. Burns remodelled it for Thomson's Collection, which is the version used on this album. Tibbie Parks of Muirkirk is the reputed authoress of the old set amended by Burns.

Steeleye Span sang Ca' the Ewes live during their 1991 tour and published this on their CD Tonight's the Night.

The Wilson Family sang Ca' the Yowes live in 1996 at some venue “during the 1996 Festival Season”. This was released in 1997 on their CD Stocking Tops. They commented in their liner notes:

This condensed version of the much longer Robbie Burns' classic provides a clever precis giving the general gist of the song in just four verses! To be honest, we have been offered a lot more verses since we first learned the song but we still prefer it short and sweet.

Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing sang Ca the Yowes on their 1997 WildGoose CD Call & Cry.

Ian Bruce sang Ca' the Yowes in 1997 on the Linn Records anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 3.

Elspeth Cowie sang Ca' the Yowes on the 1998 anthology Scottish Love Songs.

Kerfuffle got their version of Ca' the Ewes “from an old Oxford Scottish Song Book” and recorded it in 2004 for their second album, K2.

Jon Boden sang Ca' the Ewes as the August 9, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in the project blog:

Mick Henry, a wonderful Irish singer resident in Oxford, was very encouraging of my version of this song (which I got off a Steeleye Span album as it happens). He remembers his mother singing it when he was young and says there are several other verses that would be worth learning. Like Kipling, in fact more so, Burns manages to pull off the literary polish without losing touch with the earthiness of traditional song.

Maz O'Connor learned Caw the Yowes “from Karine Polwart during the Folkworks Youth Summer School in 2009”. Her recording on her 2012 album Upon a Stranger Shore, also included on the anthology Folk Awards 2013, starts with this song but then segues into Over Yon Hill There Lives a Lassie (Roud 5121).

The Yowe Lamb / Lovely Molly

According to Robert B. Waltz in the Traditional Ballad Index, The Yowe Lamb or Lovely Molly “is apparently the original of the Burns song Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes, but he changed it so substantially that they must be considered separate songs, and the reader must be careful to distinguish.”

Patsy Seddon sang Lovely Molly in 1984 on Sprangeen's eponymous album, Sprangeen, that uses the Ca' the Yowes line in the refrain only. They commented in their liner notes:

A strange song about a young man who tricks an old shepherd into parting with his daughter instead of a sheep … from Robert Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland.

Gillian Frame sang Lovely Molly in 2016 on her CD Pendulum. She commented:

From the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection Vol. 5. This great song was taught to me at a ballad workshop by Anne Neilson and Gordeanna McCulloch more than a few years ago.

Landless sang Ca' the Yowes on their 2018 CD Bleaching Bones. They noted:

Words by Robert Burns, published in the Scots Musical Museum, Vol. 2, 1790

Ruth Notman and Sam Kelly sang Caw the Yowes on their 2019 CD Changeable Heart.

Lyrics

Robert Burns' first versionShirley Collins sings Ca' the Ewes

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Ca' the ewes to the knowes,
Ca' them where the heather grows,
Ca' them where the burnie rowes,
My bonie dearie


Call the ewes to the knowes,
Call them where the heather grows,
Call them where the burnie rowes,
My bonny dearie

As I gaed down the water-side,
There I met my shepherd lad:
He row'd me sweetly in his plaid,
And he ca'd me his dearie.

As I went down the water-side,
'Twas there I met my shepherd lad;
He rolled me sweetly in his plaid,
And called me I his dearie.

Will ye gang down the water-side,
And see the waves sae sweetly glide
Beneath the hazels spreading wide,
The moon it shines fu' clearly.

Ye sall get gowns and ribbons meet,
Cauf-leather shoen upon your feet,
And in my arms ye'se lie and sleep,
An' ye sall be my dearie.

Will ye come down the water-side,
To see the fishes sweetly glide
Beneath the hazels spreading wide,
And the moon that shines full clearly.

If ye'll but stand to what ye've said,
I'se gang wi' thee, my shepherd lad,
And ye may row me in your plaid,
And I sall be your dearie.

If you'll but stand to what you've said,
I'll come with you, my bonny lad,
And you may roll me in your plaid,
And I shall be your dearie.

You shall get gowns and ribbons meet,
And leather shoen upon your feet,
And in my arms you'll lie and sleep,
My bonny dearie.

While waters wimple to the sea,
While day blinks in the lift sae hie,
Till clay-cauld death sall blin' my e'e,
Ye sall be my dearie.

While waters wimple to the sea,
While day breaks in the sky so high,
Till clay-cold death shall blind my eye,
Ye I shall be my dearie.

Robert Burns' second versionSteeleye Span' sing Ca' the Ewes

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Ca' the ewes to the knowes,
Ca' them where the heather grows,
Ca' them where the burnie rowes,
My bonie dearie

Chorus:
Ca' the ewes tae the knowes
Ca' them whare the heather grows
Ca' them whare the burnie rowes
My bonie dearie

Hark the mavis' e'ening sang,
Sounding Clouden's woods amang;
Then a-faulding let us gang,
My bonie dearie.

Hark, the mavis' evening sang,
Sounding Clouden's woods amang;
Then a-faulding let us gang,
My bonie dearie

We'll gae down by Clouden side,
Thro' the hazels spreading wide,
O'er the waves that sweetly glide,
To the moon sae clearly.

We'll gae down by Clouden side,
Thro' the hazels spreading wide,
O'er the waves that sweetly glide,
Tae the moon sae clearly.

Yonder Clouden's silent towers,
Where, at moonshine's midnight hours,
O'er the dewy-bending flowers,
Fairies dance sae cheery.

Ghaist nor bogle shalt thou fear,
Thou'rt to love and heav'n sae dear,
Nocht of ill may come thee near;
My bonie dearie.

Ghaist nor bogle shalt thou fear,
Thou'rt to love and heav'n sae dear,
Nocht of ill may come thee near;
My bonie dearie.

Chorus

Fair and lovely as thou art,
Thou hast stown my very heart;
I can die - but canna part,
My bonie dearie.

Fair and lovely as thou art,
Thou hast stown my very heart;
I can die - but canna part,
My bonie dearie

Chorus

Sprangeen sing Lovely Molly

As Molly was milking her yowes on a day,
Oh by came young Jamie who to her did say,
“Your fingers go nimbly, your yowes they milk free.”
Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes, lovely Molly!

“Oh where is your father?” the young man he said,
“Oh where is your father my tender young maid?”
“He’s up in yon greenwood a-waiting for me?”
Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes, lovely Molly!

“My father’s a shepherd has sheep on yon hill,
If you get his sanction I’ll be at your will,
And if he does grant it right glad will I be.”
Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes, lovely Molly!

“Good morning old man, you are herding your flock,
I want a yowe lamb to rear a new stock;
I want a yowe lamb and the best she maun be.”
Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes, lovely Molly!

“Go down to yon meadow, choose out your own lamb,
And be sure you’re as welcome an any young man;
You are heartily welcome—the best she maun be.”
Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes, lovely Molly!

He’s down to yon meadow, taen Moll by the hand,
And soon before the old man the couple did stand;
Says, “This is the yowe lamb I purchased from thee.”
Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes, lovely Molly!

“Oh was e’er an auld man so beguiled as I am,
To sell my ae daughter instead of a lamb;
Yet, since I have said it, e’en sae let it be.”
Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes, lovely Molly!

Acknowledgements

Robert Burns' poems copied from Robert Burns Country.