Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Willie's Drowned In Yarrow

Anonymous Scottish Song

Willie's Drowned In Yarrow (also known as O Willie's Rare, And Willie's Fair) is the title of the anonymous traditional Scottish song with the second verse starting "O Willie's rare, and Willie's fair" which appears in The Book Of Scottish Song by Alex Whitelaw, printed in 1843.

The Yarrow Water is a river in the Borders in the south east of Scotland. It is a tributary of the Ettrick Water (itself a tributary of the Tweed) and renowned for its high quality trout and salmon fishing. The name "Yarrow" may derive from the Celtic word garw meaning "rough" or possibly share a derivation with the English name "Jarrow".

The valley was the birthplace of Mungo Park and has inspired several well-known songs and poems.

Its traditions and folk tales were well documented by Walter Scott, who spent part of his childhood nearby, and in adult life returned to live in the vicinity at Abbotsford House, near Melrose.

Sir Walter Scott supposed that one of the characters might be John Scott, the sixth son of the Laird of Harden, murdered in Ettrick Forest by his kinsmen the Scotts of Gilmancleugh. There is also a tradition that the hero was murdered by the brother either of his wife or betrothed bride.

Many similar ballads for this song exist, going back to around 1724.


Related Scottish Country Dances

Willie's Rare And Willie's Fair

Willie's Drowned In Yarrow - Anonymous

Doun in yon garden sweet and gay,
Where bonnie grows the lilie,
I heard a fair maid, sighing, say,
"My wish be wi' sweet Willie!

O Willie's rare, and Willie's fair,
And Willie's wondrous bonnie;
And Willie hecht to marry me,
Gin e'er he married ony.

But Willie's gone, whom I thought on,
And does not hear me weeping:
Draws many a tear frae true love's e'e,
When other maids are sleeping.

Yestreen I made my bed fu' braid,
The nicht I'll mak' it narrow,
For, a' the live-lang winter nicht,
I lie twined o' my marrow.

Oh gentle wind, that bloweth south,
From where my love repaireth,
Convey a kiss frae his deir mouth,
And tell me how he fareth!

O tell sweit Willie to come doun,
And bid him no be cruel;
And tell him no to break the heart
Of his love and only jewel.

O tell sweit Willie to come doun,
And hear the mavis singing;
And see the birds on ilka bush,
And leaves around them hinging.

The lav'rock there, wi' her white breist,
And gentle throat sae narrow;
There's sport eneuch for gentlemen,
On Leader haughs and Yarrow.

O Leader haughs are wide find braid,
And Yarrow haughs are bonnie;
There Willie hecht to marry me,
If e'er he married ony.

O came ye by yon water side?
Pou'd you the rose or lilie?
Or cam' ye by yon meadow green?
Or saw ye my sweit Willie?"

She sought him up, she sought him doun,
She sought the braid and narrow;
Syne, in the cleaving o' a craig,
She found him drowned in Yarrow.


Willie's Rare And Willie's Fair Song Video

Willie's Rare And Willie's Fair Song - Information Video
Yarrow Water
Yarrow Water - View Upstream From General's Bridge, Bowhill


The Online Scots Dictionary Translate Scots To English.
Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Willie's Drowned In Yarrow article on Wikipedia.
Text from this original Yarrow Water article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright Richard Webb under this Creative Commons Licence 2.0.

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