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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).

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.”


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.”