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The Wild Geese / Norland Wind

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 45223 ; Violet Jacob, Jim Reid]

Violet Jacob (1863-1946) wrote the poem The Wild Geese in 1915, and Jim Reid (1934-2009) set it to music. The song is also known with the alternative title Norland Wind.

Cilla Fisher sang Norland Wind in 1979 on her and her husband Artie Trezise’s Topic album Cilla & Artie. Their liner notes commented:

Originally a poem by the well-known Angus poet Violet Jacob; the tune, added by Jim Reid from Dundee, seems to convey the same feeling of loneliness.

Jim Reid sang The Wild Geese / Norland Wind as the title track of his 1984 Springthyme album I Saw the Wild Geese Flee. This track was also included in 2010 on the anthology The Rough Guide to Scottish Folk (Second Edition). He recorded it again for his 2005 Greentrax album Yont the Tay, with the album title again taken from this song.

Iain MacGillivray sang Norland Wind in 1986 on his Fellside album Rolling Home. He noted:

A particular beautiful poem by North East poet Violet Jacob, set to haunting melody by Jim Reid from Fife.

Jim Malcolm sang The Wild Geese in 1995 on his Greentrax CD Sconeward. A live recording from Glenfarg Village Hall in November 2003 was released in 2004 on his album Live in Glenfarg. This video published in 2011 shows him singing The Wild Geese:

Davy Steele sang Norland Wind in 1998 on Battlefield Band’s CD Rain, Hail or Shine. They noted:

The Norland Wind was originally a poem entitled The Wild Geese written in 1915 by the great Angus poet Violet Jacob, who was one of the finest Scots language writers this century. The poem was set to music by Jim Reid and included as the title song of his fine album I Saw the Wild Geese Flee. Lovely words and a beautiful tune.

Geordie McIntyre sang The Wild Geese / Norland Wind in 2001 on his and Alison McMorland’s Tradition Bearers CD Rowan in the Rock. They noted:

This conversation between the North wind and a homeland-sick exile is the work of Angus poet Violet Jacob (1863-1946), recognised as one of Scotland’s finest vernacular poets. It was set to music by the fine traditional singer—and Angus man!—Jim Reid.

Ed Miller sang The Wild Geese in 2006 on his CD Never Frae My Mind.

Hector Gilchrist sang Norland Wind in 2007 on his WildGoose CD Ingleneuk. He noted:

A classic. Liz, my “Selkie” partner, encouraged me to learn this ballad and I admit to struggling to fit the couplets to the right verse initially. To an exile, it does paint an indelible picture in the mind, of the straths of Perthshire and Angus in autumn.

Steve Byrne sang The Wild Geese in 2015 on Malinky’s CD Far Better Days. They noted:

This 1915 poem from the pen of Violet Jacob, set to Jim Reid’s tune, has become something of an Angus ‘national anthem’ over the past 40 years. Steve [Byrne]’s shied away from recording a version given the classic renditions by Jim Reid, Jim Malcolm and Davy Steele (with the Battlefield Band). However, he’s now held off for 20 years!

A dialogue with the ‘roaring norland wind’ describing what it has seen on its journey from the north, it’s often sung as a song of exile by a wanderer down south yearning for Scotland. It’s more specifically about the lands lying north of the river Tay, the braes of Angus.

As someone borne in Arbroath, with forebears from Montrose, it’s a song that means a lot to Steve and his family and it’s been sung on occasions happy and sad in recent years.

This video shows Malinky at Elysium Arts Folk Club in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, in the second half of 2009:

Christine Kydd sang The Wild Geese / Norland Wind in 2019 on her Greentrax album of songs from Scotland, Shift and Change. She noted:

This fantastic Violet Jacob poem was set to music by Jim Reid of Angus. She grew up at the House of Dun, and wrote this in 1915. Jim later added the tune in his inimitable way. As poem or song, a classican Angus anthem, even. Published in Songs of Angus (John Murray, 1915) it’s a conversation between the North wind and an exiled Scot, and even as I write, I can hear the geese honking overhead in the sky, flying in skeins over to the lochs and glens. A magical sound and sight.

Iona Fyfe sang The Wild Geese on a March 2021 download single.

Rhona Stevens sang The Wild Geese on her and Joseph Peach’s 2023 album Fragments in Time.


Violet Jacob’s poem The Wild Geese

“Oh tell me fit was on yer road, ye roarin Norland wind?
As ye come blawin frae the land that’s never frae ma mind.
Ma feet they traivel England but I’m deein for the North.”
“Ma man, I saw the siller tides rin up the Firth o Forth.”

“Aye wind, I ken them weel eneuch an fine they fa and rise,
And fain I’d feel the creepin mist on yonder shore that lies.
But tell me as ye pass them by, fit saw ye on the way?”
“Ma man, I rocked the rovin gulls that sail abin the Tay.”

“Bit saw ye naethin leein wind afore ye come tae Fife?
For there’s muckle lyin ’yont the Tay that’s mair tae me nor life.”
“Ma man, I swept the Angus braes that ye hivna trod for years.”
“Oh wind, forgie a hameless loon that canna see for tears.”

“And far abin the Angus straths I saw the wild geese flee,
A lang, lang skein o beatin wings wi their heids toward the sea,
And aye their cryin voices trailed ahint them on the air.”
“Oh wind, hae mercy, haud your wheesht for I daurna listen mair.”