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Bonny Moorhen

[ Roud 2944 ; G/D 7:1246 ; Ballad Index RcMyBoMu ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang The Bonnie Moorhen in 1962 on his Topic album The Jacobite Rebellions. The album's sleeve notes commented:

Nearly all the Jacobite songs were “cried down songs”; that is, they were proscribed. Consequently, songwriters and singers tended to codify their verses. Charles Stuart appears in the songs in a host of disguises; as a blackbird, as “our guidman” and, in this song, as a moorhen. The colours mentioned in the second verse allude to those found in the Clan Stuart tartan.

Steeleye Span recorded Bonny Moorhen in 1973 for their album Parcel of Rogues but it was left out of the final album. It was released four years later on their compilation album Original Masters.

Jim Reid sang My Bonnie Moorhen in 2005 on his Greentrax album Yont the Tay. He commented in his liner notes:

The Bonnie Moorhen is, of course, Bonnie Prince Charlie. I loved Lorna Campbell's version of it and have sung it myself for years.

Note: The Bonny Moorhen that Martin Carthy sang in 2014 on his and Eliza Carthy's duo album, The Moral of the Elephant, is quite another song with just the same title. It's about a fight between starving lead miners and a band of gamekeepers representing the landowners.

Lyrics

Ewan MacColl sings Bonnie Moorhen Steeleye Span sing Bonny Moorhen

My bonnie moorhen, my bonnie moorhen,
Up in the grey hill, doon in the glen;
It's when ye gang butt the house, when ye gang ben,
Aye drink a health to my bonnie moorhen.

My bonny moorhen, my bonny moorhen,
Up in the grey hills, down in the glen;
When ye gang butt the house, when ye gang ben,
For drink a health to my bonny moorhen.

My bonnie moorhen's gane over the main
And it will be simmer or she comes again;
But when he comes back again some folk will ken,
Joy be with thee, my bonnie moorhen.

My bonny moorhen's gane over the main
And it will be summer when he comes again;
But when he comes back again some folk will ken,
For joy be with you, my bonny moorhen.

My bonnie moorhen has feathers anew,
She's a' fine colours, but nane o' them blue.
She's red and she's white and she's green and she's grey,
My bonnie moorhen, come hither away.

My bonny moorhen has feathers anew,
They're all fine colours but nane o' them blue.
He's red and he's white and he's green and he's grey,
My bonny moorhen, come hither away.

Come up by Glenduich and down by Glendee,
And round by Kinclaven and hither to me;
For Ronald and Donald are oot on the fen
Tae break the wing of my bonnie moorhen.

Come up by Glenouicm and down by Glenmore,
Round by Kinclaven and hither tae me;
For Ronald and Donald are oot on the fen
Tae break the wing of my bonny moorhen.

(repeat last two verses)

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr/Chords Req: My Bonny Moorhen.