> Folk Music > Songs > Ay Waukin, O

Simmer’s a Pleasant Time / Ay Waukin, O

[ Roud 6749 , V16870 ; G/D 5:933 ; Ballad Index GrD5933 ; DT AYEWAKIN ; Mudcat 66062 ; Robert Burns]

Ewan MacColl sang Ay Waukin, O in 1959 on his Folkways album Songs of Robert Burns. The album’s booklet tersely noted:

Just how much this traditional song was touched up [by Robert Burns] is not known.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Ay Waukin O in 1966 on the Australian album A Wench, a Whale and a Pint of Good Ale, and in 1981 on his Fellside album Emu Plains where A.L. Lloyd noted:

[Robert] Burns is credited with the authorship of this, though I’ve seen it disputed. The title means ‘always awake’ (or better: ‘watchful’). Martyn learned it “from some Scots bloke in Melbourne”

Lorna Campbell sang Aye Waukin O on the Ian Campbell Folk Group’s 1967 Transatlantic album New Impressions. Their liner notes commented:

On of these old “Scottish songs” which seem to crop up in every published collection, but which contemporary folksingers seem content to leave in the delicate hands of those tartan-stoled ladies whose refined trilling can be heard so frequently on a certain dismal type of Scottish television programme.

Tony Cuffe sang Ay Waukin, O in 1981 on Ossian’s album Seal Song and in 1996 on the Linn Records anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 1. Ossian’s liner noted commented:

Burns is known to have written the first verse of this song, but the other verses are older and suggest connections with The Hexhamshire Lass (an old Northumbrian song), and a song from the North-East of Scotland called The Lichtbob’s Lassie.

Heather Heywood sang Aye Waukin O in 1993 on her Greentrax CD By Yon Castle Wa’. She noted:

I’m not sure if this is a Burns song although many people would associate him with it. Burns has a hand in many songs having been a collector of traditional song as well as a poet and writer. Many of his songs were influenced by, or reworkings of, traditional songs. This one has always been popular and there are several others with similar verses, a sort of traditional ‘pick & mix’.

Ian Giles sang Aye Waulkin O in 1997 on his WildGoose CD The Amber Triangle. He noted:

An insomniac’s guide to unrequested love, by Robert Burns.

Margaret Bennett sang Aye Waukin O in 2001 on her Foot Stompin’ CD In the Sunny Long Ago…. She noted:

I’ve always loved the songs and poetry of Robert Burns whom I also regard as one of Scotland’s earliest folklorists. His devotion to preserving songs is much more deserving of our praise and gratitude than the common criticism that he altered or ‘improved’ the texts. So what! There are many versions of this very old song but I like to sing the one that first drew me to Burns.

Stairheid Gossip sang Aye Waulkin O in 2002 on their Greentrax album Stirrin’ It Up. They noted:

Sleepless nights pining for unrequited love, a subject Burns knew well (well… maybe not).

Ivan Drever sang Aye Waukin O on his 2004 album Tradition. He noted:

Robert Burns is credited with this song which he “brushed up” from an earlier work. His version is the most commonly known. It shares part of its lyric with a number of other songs including The Hexhamshire Lass as performed by Fairport Convention and others.

Jock Tamson’s Bairns sang Aye Waukin, O in 2005 on their Greentrax CD Rare. They noted:

Dedicated to the memory of Tony Cuffe, a founder member of the Bairns. Tony used to perform it with the band and used a verse

When first she cam’ tae oor toon
They ca’d er Grace McFarlane
Noo she’s changed her name
They ca’ her a’ fowk’s darlin’

which is probably from another, non-Burns version with an altogether different message. [And sounds more like a verse from Katy Cruel.]

Katie Mackenzie sang Fhatast na mo Dhuisg (Ay Waukin, O) in 2009 on Pūr’s album of songs of Robert Burns in Scots and Gaelic, The Lassies’ Reply.

Ed Miller sang Aye Waukin, O in 2009 on his CD Lyrics of Gold. He noted:

A deceptive simple, but greatly moving song of tormented loss… again a reworking of an older song by Burns. The basic message is: “I can’t sleep for thinking about my lover,” clearly a young man’s song!

Ewan McLennan sang Aye Waulkin, O in 2009 on his CD Stories Still Untold. He noted:

Robert Burns has written some of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. I came across this one more recently than most of his and knew right away I had to sing it. The stark imagery used here, the joys of summertime against the pain of unrequited love, are typical of his style and the haunting power of his writing.

But it’s likely that Burns, here as with others, took fragments from a song that he found in Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs and reshaped it into his own.

Eddie Reader sang Aye Waulkin-O in 2009 on her CD The Songs of Robert Burns.

Band of Burns sang Ay Waukin, O on their 2019 CD The Thread.

Sophie Crawford sang Waulking on her 2020 album People I Have Known. She noted:

This is a Robert Burns poem that I first heard set to music by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. I learnt it in Inverness and used to sing it along the river.

Sam Lee sang Aye Walking Oh on his 2024 album Songdreaming. He noted:

A song for those endless miles and those sleepy moments between walking. This is a classic song brought to us by the bard himself, Robert Burns. I’ve mildly adapted this lyrical beauty as a musing on the liminal place we find ourselves in when in-between sleep and wakefulness, where we dwell on the things, places, and people we love; that bittersweet sensation of separation and longing. It’s a floating, wandering, cyclically-composed journey of revelation where emotions express themselves through sound better than any word can. The walking leads us into trance, states of ecstasy, and communion with other realms. Aye Walking Oh is a lullaby for heavy-hearted romantics and restless wanderers.

Fiona Hunter sang Ay Waukin O on her 2024 album Atween the Salt Sea and the Sand. This song was already released in January 2020 as a download single to promote the forthcoming album (which then probably was shelved for four years because of the Corona pandemic).


Ewan MacColl sings Ay Waukin, O

Simmer’s a pleasant time:
Flowers of every colour,
The water rins owre the heugh,
And I long for my true lover.

Chorus (after each verse):
Ay waukin, O,
Waukin still and weary:
Sleep I can get nane
For thinking on my dearie.

When I sleep I dream,
When I wauk I’m eerie,
Sleep I can get nane
For thinking on my dearie.

Lanely night comes on,
A’ the lave are sleepin,
I think on my bonie lad,
And I bleer my een wi greeting.

Jock Tamson’s Bairns sings Aye Waukin, O

Simmer’s a pleasant time:
Floo’ers o’ ev’ry coour,
The water rins ower the haugh
And I long for my true lover.

Chorus (after each verse):
Aye waukin O,
Waukin’ aye and weary,
Sleep I can get nane
For thinkin’ o’ my dearie,
Aye waukin O.

When I sleep I dream,
When I wauk I’m eerie,
Sleep I can get nane
For thinkin’ o’ my dearie.

Lanely night comes on,
A’ the lave are sleepin’.
I think on my bonnie lad
And bleer my een wi’ greetin.

Her faither lo’es her weel,
Her mither lo’es her better,
And I lo’e the lass mysel’
Wae’s me, I canna get her.