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The Braes o’ Gleniffer

[ Roud V5009 ; Robert Tannahill]

Ivan Drever sang Braes o’ Gleniffer on his 1996 album Four Walls. He noted:

I found this in an old song book some years ago. It said there was no melody, but should be sung to the tune of Bonnie Dundee, which I didn’t think would really work. On trying it I found I really liked it.

Jock Tamson’s Bairns sang The Braes o’ Gleniffer on their 2001 Greentrax album May You Never Lack a Stone. They noted:

Paisley’s celebrated weaver-poet Robert Tannahill, born in 1742, had, as a child, a delicate constitution, and loved to wander in the countryside near his home.

As he grew older he extended his rambles to Meikleriggs Muir, Newton Woods and the Braes of Gleniffer. During these delightful excursions he was storing his mind with material, which afterwards broke forth into lyric strains which astonished his companions. (Life of Tannahill, 1875)

Fiona Hunter sang The Braes o’ Gleniffer in 2012 on the anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill Volume III and in 2014 on her eponymous CD Fiona Hunter. She noted:

Robert Tannahill (1774-1810), known as “Paisley’s Son”, left a legacy of songs and poems. The Braes o’ Gleniffer was one of his best-known songs. It refers to the wild and varied Gleniffer Braes in Renfrewshire where Tannahill liked to walk and find inspiration. The song is from a woman’s point of view, recalling happy times with her sweetheart and expressing how different life is now that he has gone to war.


Fiona Hunter sings The Braes o’ Gleniffer

Keen blaws the wind o’er the Braes o’ Gleniffer.
The auld castle’s turrets are cover’d wi’ snaw;
How chang’d frae the time when I met wi’ my lover
Amang the broom bushes by Stanley green shaw:

The wild flow’rs o’ simmer were spread a’ sae bonnie,
The mavis sang sweet frae the green birken tree:
But far to the camp they hae march’d my dear Johnnie,
And now it is winter wi’ nature and me.

Then ilk a thing around us was blithesome and cheery,
Then ilk a thing around us was bonny and braw;
Now naething is heard but the wind whistling dreary,
And naething is seen but the wide-spreading snaw.

The trees are a’ bare, and the birds mute and dowie,
They shake the cauld drift frae their wings as they flee,
And chirp out their plaints, seeming wae for my Johnnie,—
’Tis winter wi’ them, and ’tis winter wi’ me.

Yon cauld sleety cloud skiffs alang the bleak mountain,
And shakes the dark firs on the stey rocky brae,
While down the deep glen bawls the snaw-flooded fountain,
That murmur’d sae sweet to my laddie and me.

’Tis no its loud roar on the wintry wind swellin’,
’Tis no the cauld blast brings the tears i’ my e’e,
For, O gin I saw but my bonny Scotch callan,
The dark days o’ winter were simmer to me!