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The Lass of Glenshee

[ Roud 292 ; Laws O6 ; G/D 5:953 ; Henry H590 ; Ballad Index LO06 ; Bodleian Roud 292 ; Andrew Sharpe (d.1817)]

John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People Alison McMorland, Elizabeth Stewart: Up Yon Wide and Lonely Glen

‘Yankee’ John Galusha of Minerva, New York, sang Lass of Glenshee in 1941 to Anne and Frank Warner. This recording was included in 2000 on their anthology Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still (The Warner Collection Volume 1).

Oliver John Abbott of Hull, Quebec, sang The Lass of Glenshee to Edith Fowke in July 1957. This recording was included in 1961 on his Folkways album Irish and British Songs From the Ottawa Valley. Edith Fowke noted:

This is the only song in Mr. Abbott’s repertoire that is definitely Scottish in origin. John Ord notes: “I do not know a more popular song than this. It has been sung in nearly every farmhouse, cottage, and bothy in Scotland for the past seventy or eighty years. The author of it was a shoemaker named Andrew Sharpe, a native of Perth , who died there on 5 February 1817.” It has been collected in several places in the United States, although it is not very well known on this continent. Mr. Abbott learned it from Mrs. O’Malley, but where that old Irish lady picked it up we can only surmise.

Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Co. Derry, sang Glenshee in July 1968 to Hugh Shields. This recording was included on the 3 CD set that accompanied Shields’ 2011 book on Eddie Butcher, All the Days of His Life.

Lizzie Higgins sang The Maid of Glenshee in a 1968 recording made by Bill Leader in his own home in Camden Town, London, on 5 January 1968. This recording was released in the following year on her Topic album of Scots songs and ballads, Princess of the Thistle. Peter Hall noted:

There are numerous songs centering around a love match between highlander and lowlander. The difficulty of such a union, always rehearsed in detail before being finally overcome, emphasises the wide difference between these two regions of Scotland. The air, in use for many traditional songs, is a variant of The Road and the Miles to Dundee.

Another recording made by Peter Hall in the 1970s was included in 2006 on Higgins’ Musical Traditions anthology In Memory of Lizzie Higgins where Rod Stradling noted:

Roud displays that this is another song better-known in North America, with only 18 of his 67 entries being from Scotland, and Lizzie’s being the only sound recording from here.

There are a number of songs celebrating the crossing of the Highland/Lowland divide by lovers, usually after much consideration of the problems involved. This would place them well after the 1745 Rising, at a later period when kilted Highland men had finally and safely morphed from dangerous savages into romantic, erotic entities in the eyes of the rest of the country. (Songs celebrating Lowland women being carried off/away to the Highlands resemble the Rudolph Valentino-induced feminine craze in the 1920s for swooning abduction by ‘Sheikhs of Araby’). Composed by an Andrew Sharpe of Perth it was widely popular, especially in Aberdeenshire, where Greig and Duncan found 13 versions.

This was a poignant song for Lizzie; she had learned it from her cousin, Mary McDonald, who died young

Len Graham sang The Lass of Glenshee in 1984 on his Claddagh album with Fintan McManus Ye Lovers All. He noted:

Barney McManus was the first person I heard sing this song, and, later, I learned another version from Eddie Butcher. The St. Johnston mentioned in this song is not that in County Donegal but St. Johnstoun, the former name for Perth, Scotland and it is in Perthshire that Glenshee is to be found. According to John Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads (Alex Gardner, Paisley, 1930) it was composed by Andrew Sharpe, a Perth shoemaker, who died in 1817. It appears in The Songs of the People under no. 590.

Mairi Campbell sang The Lass of Glenshee in 2000 on Jack Evans’ Greentrax album Once Upon a Time in the North. They noted:

The original, rather flowery version of this song was hugely popular in the 19th century. This shorter and much improved version comes from Co. Antrim.

Moira Craig sang The Lass of Glenshee on her 2000 album On ae Bonny Day. She noted:

I first heard this from recordings of both Len Graham and Altan and took it to be Irish. When I realised St. Johnson is in Perthshire I looked for a Scottish version and found this in the Greig Duncan Collection.

Graham and Eileen Pratt sang Lass of Glenshee on their 2008 album The Greek King’s Daughter. They noted:

A much loved tune often sung to the Farewell to Whisky lyrics. We came across these lyrics—a Scottish Cinderella story—on an album by American group ‘Sedgefield Fair’. Their version had been collected from Yankee John Galuska in the Adirondack mountains in 1941. Eighteenth century shoemaker, Andrew Sharpe, wrote the original poem.

Niamh Boadle sang The Lass of Glenshee on her 2010 CD Wild Rose. She noted:

Although set in the ‘glen of the faeries’ in Scotland, this song is widely known in Ireland. At last a happy ending! Also, the inspiration behind the album title.

Robert Lawrence sang Lass of Glenshee on his 2010 CD The Journey Home.

Gillian Frame sang The Lass o Glenshee in 2016 on her CD Pendulum. She noted:

I sang this song at Lorient Festival with our family band in 1995. I had learned it from Altan’s Horse With a Heart album. This version is a combination of some archive recordings I found on the fantastic Tobar and Dulchais website.

Jeff Warner sang Lass o Glenshea in 2016 on his WildGoose album Roam the Country Through. He noted:

John Galusha (1859-1950) sang this song to my parents, Anne and Frank Warner, in 1941. John lived in Minerva, New York, deep in the Adirondack Mountains. He spent his life as a logger, later as a guide and forest ranger. Glenshee, widely sung in the lumber camps of the northeast US and Canada, was written by Andrew Sharpe, shoemaker and song-writer of Perth, Scotland, who died there in 1817.


O.J. Abbott sings The Lass of Glenshee

As I roved out on a fine summer’s morning,
Bright Phoebus arose and shone over the lea.
’Twas homeward a-riding I espied a fair damsel
A-herding her flocks on the hills of Glenshee.

Her cheeks were like roses adorned with a dimple,
And bright was the beam of her bonny blue eye;
Her face was enchanting, her form neat and handsome;
My heart soon belonged to the lass of Glenshee.

I stepped up to her and says I, “My fairest creature,
If you will but come to Caledonia with me,
There’s no one but you shall step forth in my castle .
Nor none shall be clothed more costly than thee.

“Believe me, fair creature, Caledonia’s bright waters
Shall alter their course and turn back from the sea;
The bright gleaming sun will be bound down in fetters
E’er I ever prove false to my charming Jenny.

“Come sit down beside me and don’t talk so lightly;
Should bullets fly around me my bride you shall be.
This night in my arms, oh so fondly I’ll treat you.”
She smiled and consented, I took her with me.

It’s seven long years oh since we were united;
There’s many a change since, but no change in she.
My love is as pure as the rose that in winter
Lies out and gets withered on the hills of Glenshee.

Lizzie Higgins sings The Maid of Glenshee

Ae braw summer day when the heather was blooming
And the silent hills hummed wi the honey-laid bee,
It was in my returning I spied a fair maiden
A-tending her flocks on the hills of Glenshee.

The rose in her cheek it was gent wi a dimple
An blithe was the blink o her bonny blue ee.
Her face was enchanting, sae sweet and sae simple;
Ma hairt soon belanged to the lass o Glenshee.

“Believe me, dear lassie, Caledonia’s clear waters
May alter their course and run back frae the sea;
Her brave hardy sons may submit to that fetters,
But alter what will, I’ll be constant to thee.”

“The lark may forget his sweet song in the morning,
The spring may forget to revive o’er the lea,
But never will I, while my senses do govern,
Forget to be kind to the lass o Glenshee.”

“Believe me, dear lad, for I’m sure I would blunder
An set aa the gentry a-laughing at me.
They hae book-taughten manners, baith auld and young yonder,
Aathing we ken nocht on the hills o Glenshee.”

They would say, “Look at him, wi his dull highland lady,
Set up in a show in the windae tae see,
Rollt up like a witch in her hame-spun plaidie.
An laughing they’d jeer at the lass o Glenshee.”

It is several long years since we buskit thegether,
The seasons hae changed but there’s nae change in me;
She’s ever as gay as the fine summer’s weather
When the sun’s at its height on the hills o Glenshee.

To pairt wi my Jenny my life I would venture,
She’s sweet as the echo that rings o’er the lea,
She’s spotless and pure like a snaw robe o winter
When laid out to bleach on the hills of Glenshee.

Len Graham sings The Lass of Glenshee

One morning in springtime as day was a-dawning,
Bright Phoebus had risen from over the lea,
I espied a fair maiden as homeward she wandered
From herding her flocks on the hills o f Glenshee.

I stood in amazement, says I, “Pretty fair maid.
If you will come down to St. Johnston with me,
There’s ne’er been a lady set foot in my castle.
There’s ne’er been a lady dressed grander than thee.

“A coach and six horses to go at your bidding,
And all they that speak shall say ma’am unto thee,
Fine servants to serve you and go at your bidding,
I’ll make you my bride, my sweet lass of Glenshee.”

“Oh, what do I care for your castles and coaches,
And what do I care for your gay conjuring?
I would rather be home in my cot, at my spinning
Or herding my flocks on the hills of Glenshee.”

“Away with such nonsense and get up beside me.
E’er summer comes on my sweet bride you will be
And then in my arms I will gently caress thee.”
‘Twas then she consented, I took her with me.

Seven years have rolled on since we were united,
There’s many a change, but there’s no change on me,
And my love she’s as fair as that morn on the mountain
When I plucked me a wild rose on the hills of Glenshee.

Gillian Frame sings The Lass o Glenshee

One fine summer’s day, when the heather was blooming
And the silent hills hummed wi’ the honey-lade bee
I met a fair maid as hameward was roaming
A herding her sheep on the hills o Glenshee.

I kissed and caressed her, and said, “My dear lassie
If you will but gang to St. Johnstone wi’ me
There’s nane o’ the fair shall set foot on the causeway
Wi’ clothing mair fine than the lass o’ Glenshee.

“A carriage o’ pleasure ye shall hae to ride in
And folks shall say madam when they speak to thee;
An’ servants ye’ll hae for to beck at your biddin’,
I’ll mak you my lady, sweet lass o’ Glenshee.”

“Oh mock nae me, sir, wi’ your carriage to ride in,
Nor think that your grandeur I value a flea.
I would think mysel’ blessed in a coatie o’ plaidin’
Wi’ an innocent herd on the hills o’ Glenshee.

“Oh leave me sweet lad, for I’m sure I would blunder
An’ set a’ the gentry a-laughin’ at me.
They are book-taught ill manners baith auld and young yonder,
A thing we ken nocht o’ up here in Glenshee.”

“Dinna think o’ such stories and get o’er beside me
Ere Phoebus gaes round my sweet bride you will be.
This night, in my arms I will dote on you kindly.”
She smiled, she consented I took her wi me.

Now years hae gane by since we buskit the gither
And seasons hae changed, but nae change iswi’ me.
She’s ever as fair as the fine summer weather
When the sun’s at its height on the hills o’ Glenshee.