> Folk Music > Songs > Bloody Waterloo / Lonely Waterloo

Bloody Waterloo / Lonely Waterloo

[ Roud 622 ; Laws N31 ; Ballad Index LN31 , Moyl190 ; Old Songs BloodyWaterloo ; Bodleian Roud 622 ; Wiltshire 1076 ; trad.]

The Cruel Wars

Willie Scott sang Bloody Waterloo to Bill Leader in the latter's homes in Camden Town, London, on 3 November 1967. This recording was included in 1968 on Scott's Topic album of Border ballads, The Shepherd's Song, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology A Story I'm Just About to Tell (The Voice of the People Volume 8). Maurice Linday noted on the original album:

A once widespread song. Willie got his version from his brother, who first heard it at Westerkirk, near Langholm. It is a strange heartless song about a woman by the banks of Clyde “weepin' for her Willie lad, Who sailed for Waterloo”. A soldier appears to bring her news that he saw her Willie fall before the French, and that “six bayonets were in his side” before Willie`s eyes were closed. Then the soldier reveals himself to be none other than Willie himself, safely returned! After playing such a heartless trick, he hardly deserves the forgiveness he gets. The tune is related to that of the sailor song: Rounding the Horn.

Frank Harte sang both Lonely Waterloo and My Love at Waterloo on his 2001 album My Name Is Napoleon Bonaparte. Steve Roud gives both songs the number 622, but the Traditional Ballad Index catalogues them as different songs.

Sylvia Barnes sang Lonely Waterloo on her 2007 Greentrax CD The Colour of Amber. She noted:

A Newfoundland variant of a 19th century British broadside ballad. I learned this from a recording of the late Frank Harte, inspirational singer and collector from Dublin. The tune comes from Dáithí Sproule of Altan. I think on it as an antidote to the ‘broken token’ songs which abound, when after recounting how his comrade perished in battle, the hero reveals himself to be the self same ‘lost’ true love. In this version, sadly, the news is true.

Mick West sang Bloody Waterloo in 2009 on his Greentrax CD Sark o' Snaw. The album's booklet noted:

The Napoleonic wars proved to be a great source of material that entered the oral tradition, often through broadsides and chapbooks. These songs, like many others, went with migrants. Many versions of this song were found in Canada, principally by Edith Fowke.

As Mick remarked—“I'm a sucker for songs that mention my hometown Glasgow or the River Clyde. I got this from a recording of legendary Scots Borderer Willie Scott of Canonbie.”

Lyrics

Frank Harte sings Lonely Waterloo

A lady fair went walking down by a riverside,
The crystal tears fell from her eye as I walked by her side,
Then from her trembling bosom these words she spoke so true,
Saying, “Friend, I fear my William's slain at lonely Waterloo.”

“What were the clothes your William wore?” a soldier did reply,
“He wore the Highland bonnet with the feather standing high,
A broad bright sword hung by his side, o'er his dark suit of blue,
Those were the clothes my William wore, at lonely Waterloo.”

“If those were the clothes your William wore, I saw his dying day,
When the bayonet pierced his tender breast, as on the ground he lay,
He reached me out his dying hand, a Frenchmen had him slew,
It was I that closed your William's eyes, at lonely Waterloo.”

“Oh Willie dearest Willie,” and she could say no more,
She threw herself down on her knees, as I those tidings bore.
“Had I the wings of a little bird, it is straightway I would fly,
I would fly to lonely Waterloo, where my true love does lie.

“I'd light on my love's bosom, my sorrow to remove,
I'd kiss my William's clay cold lips, as a token of true love.
A single maiden I'll remain, to none I will prove true,
Since my William lies with sightless eyes, on lonely Waterloo.”

Frank Harte sings My Love at Waterloo

Come all you fair young lovers of high and low degree,
I pray you pay attention and listen unto me.
It's all about a young man and his tale I'll tell to you,
How he fought through Spain and Portugal and was slain at Waterloo.

This young man that I speak about was proper tall and trim,
He was mild in his behaviour and complete in every limb,
His cheeks they were a rosy red and his eyes a sparkling blue,
There is not one here that could compare with my love at Waterloo.

My love he was a soldier bold with his knapsack and his gun,
When Ireland fell and tyrants rose his rambles first began,
To Bonaparte he proved faithful and he wore the soldier's blue,
How little he thought it would be his lot to be slain at Waterloo.

When Boney's star was in the sky my love he went away,
He told me that he loved me and he would marry me someday,
He stood upright with his sword so bright like the timeless one so true,
But now he lies with sightless eyes on the plains of Waterloo.

When Badajoz was taken and our leaders all were dead,
The plain around in carnage lay to show how much we bled,
Ten thousand men lay in their gore and those who fled were few,
And we marched on to fight once more on the plains of Waterloo.

And it's many's the river I have crossed through water and through mud,
And many's the battle I have fought though ankle deep in blood,
Though heart and home were calling me I left them all and you,
To fight with Bonaparte once more on the plains of Waterloo.

Now if I can't have the man I love no man on earth I'll take,
Through lonely roads and shady groves I will wander for his sake,
Through lonely roads and shady groves o'er hills and valleys too,
I'll wander far since my love was slain on the plains of Waterloo.

Sylvia Barnes sings Lonely Waterloo

A lady fair was walking down by a riverside,
The crystal tears fell from her eyes as I walked by her side.
And from her trembling bosom these words she spoke so true,
Saying, “Friend, I fear my William's slain, at lonely Waterloo.”

“What were the clothes your William wore?”, a soldier did reply,
“He wore the highland bonnet with the feather standing high,
a bright broadsword hung by his side, his kilt and jacket blue,
These were the clothes my William wore, at lonely Waterloo.”

“If these were the clothes your William wore, I saw his dying day,
When the bayonet pierced his tender breast as on the ground he lay.
He reached to me his dying hand, a Frenchman had him slew,
‘Twas I that closed your William's eyes at lonely Waterloo.”

“Oh Willie, dearest Willie,” then she could speak no more,
She's thrown herself down on her knees, as I these tidings bore.
“Had I the wings of a little bird, it's straightway I would fly,
I'd fly to lonely Waterloo, where my true love does lie.

“I'd light on my love's bosom, my sorrow to remove,
I'd kiss my William's clay cold lips as a token of true love.
A single maiden I'll remain, to none I will prove true
Since my William lies with sightless eyes, on lonely Waterloo.”