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Nursery Rhymes and English history: Rock the Kings!

Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomon'

Nursery Rhyme Collection 1 Nursery Rhyme Collection 2Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomon' is one out of nine historical nursery rhymes in this category directly or indirectly related to English Kings and Queens of the Houses Stuart and Tudor. By means of these nine historical nursery rhymes we explain some fascinating historical facts and we show how traditional nursery rhymes were influenced by these facts.

Table of contents


1. Humpty Dumpty - Defeat of Charles I, King of England and Scotland
2. Georgie Porgie - Charles II defeated by Oliver Cromwell
3. Three Blind Mice - Queen Mary and the prosecution of English Protestants
4. Rock-A-Bye-Baby - From Charles II to James II
5. Jack And Jill - The French Revolution
6. Sing A Song Of Sixpence - King Henry VIII
7. Mary Mary Quite Contrary - "Bloody Mary", Queen Mary I
8. Skye Boat Song - The escape of Charles Edward Stuart
9. Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond - The last battle of the House of Stuart


Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond

 
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By yon bonnie banks and
By yon bonnie braes
Where the sun shines bright
On Loch Lomond
Where me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks
o’ Loch Lomon'.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and
I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks
o’ Loch Lomon'.

‘Twas there that we parted
in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep sides o’ Ben Lomon'
Where in purple hue,
The hielan hills we view
And the moon comin’
out in the gloamin’.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and
I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks
o’ Loch Lomon'.


Words & Music: Traditional
Arrangement: Ian J Watts/Mike Wilbury
Orchestral Arrangement: Rick Benbow


traducción española traducción al español

traduction francaise traduction française

deutsche Übersetzung deutsche Übersetzung

traduzione italiano traduzione italiana





The wee birdies sing
And the wild flowers spring
And in sunshine the
Waters are sleeping
But the broken heart,
It kens nae second spring again
Tho’ the waeful may
Cease frae their greetin'.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and
I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks
o’ Loch Lomon'.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and
I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks
o’ Loch Lomon'.

History, origin and meaning of Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond

For the readers who have never been to Scotland -
This is not weird English, this is Scots, which is a different language. The map shows where this language is actually spoken.

This language shouldn’t be confused with Scottish Gaelic, a language which is spoken in the Highlands. Scots is a west-german language, similar to English. Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language and has nothing to do with English. If you compare the two pictures you can see that these languages are spoken in different regions.


We have already seen in the Skye Boat Song that these different languages and different cultures can perhaps explain the difference in attitude, by the Highlanders and Lowlanders, toward Charles Edward Stuart - and the reason why Charles Edward is presented in a positive way in the song Speed, Bonnie Boat. The picture above shows the situation today. Nowadays only 1.2 % of the population speak Scottish Gaelic, and the language runs the risk to be eliminated. The support of the Highlanders to Charles Edward can perhaps be explained by the suppression of the Gaelic culture which started long before the battle of Culloden in April 1746 and got stronger after 1746. The fact that Charles Edward fled to Skye can be explained by the fact that there the Gaelic culture was still dominant and the support for Charles Edward followed the logic ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend‘. The Catholicism of Charles Edward was opposed to the Anglicanism of England and the religious differences were the battlefield of the more real problems.

The first real evidence for the attempts to push back the gaelic culture is the Statutes of Iona, passed in Scotland in 1609. The Clan chiefs of the Highlands were obliged to send their heirs to english and protestants schools in the Lowlands, where they "may be found able sufficiently to speik, reid and wryte Englische".

The intention of that law was the complete suppression of the Gaelic culture, because it stated as well:

- Limitations on the bearing and use of arms,
- The outlawing of bards and other bearers of the traditional culture

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statutes_of_Iona

But both songs, Skye Boat Song and Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond are written in Scots. In such a strange mélange of social, political, cultural and religious interests we cannot exclude that there were Scots speaking Lowlanders fighting in the army of Charles Edward, but it is much more plausible that song is based on a gaelic source. We can read very often that the poem is based on a letter that the soldier Donald McDonald of Clan Keppoch wrote to his beloved Moira. It would be clear therefore, that the source of the poem would be of gaelic origin, as Donald McDonald was a Higlander. The song Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond doesn’ t however give any answer to the fundamental question: Were the soldiers involved in the battle of Culloden just duped or had there been any good and logical reason for them to adhere to the cause of the Stuarts? An answer to this question is given by Andrew Lang, Scottish poet and folklorist who wrote a poem about the song.

THE BONNIE BANKS O' LOCH LOMOND -- 1746 Vocabulary

There's an ending o' the dance, and fair Morag's safe in France,
And the Clans they hae paid the lawing,
And the wuddy has her ain, and we twa are left alane,
Free o' Carlisle gaol in the dawing.

So ye'll tak the high road, and I'll tak the laigh road,
An' I'll be in Scotland before ye:
But me and my true love will never meet again,
By the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

For my love's heart brake in twa, when she kenned the Cause's fa',
And she sleeps where there's never nane shall waken,
Where the glen lies a' in wrack, wi' the houses toom and black,
And her father's ha's forsaken.

While there's heather on the hill shall my vengeance ne'er be still,
While a bush hides the glint o' a gun, lad;
Wi' the men o' Sergeant Mor shall I work to pay the score,
Till I wither on the wuddy in the sun, lad!

So ye'll tak the high road, and I'll tak the laigh road,
An' I'll be in Scotland before ye:
But me and my true love will never meet again,
By the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

Morag => great one
(refers to Charles Edward)
wuddy => gallow
lawing => reckoning
dawing => dawn
Carlisle gaol => prison in Carlisle Castle
(Charles Edward is free, but they are in prison)

When she kenned the Cause’s fa =>
When she comes to know that the cause failed
Never nane shall waken => never someone will awake
glen lies a’ in wrack => the dales are destroyed
toom => empty
Sergeant Mor => Scottish sergeant who fought for Charles Edward. After the defeat he continued the battle until he was hanged. He is therefore a hero in Scotland

A more critical point of view is expressed in the first two lines.

There's an ending o' the dance, and fair Morag's safe in France,
And the Clans they hae paid the lawing,

Charles Edward is free and back in France, and the Clans, the Highlanders, pay the bill.

It can be taken for granted that the song is about the last battle of the house of Stuart to reconquer the throne of England and Scotland, but whether the song is really based on a letter of Donald McDonald, or expresses just the desperate situation of the Highlanders after the battle of Culloden is not clear. In the center of the discussion are these verses:

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon'.

One possible interpretation is that the two soldiers of the defeated army had been captured. One of them was a professional soldier (who were generally sentenced to death), and the other one just adhered to the cause of Charles Edward, and was therefore left free. The soldier sentenced to death will take the low road back to Scotland, in other words under the soil as an errant soul. The other soldier will take the high road, above the soil.




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