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Up Among the Heather

[ Roud 1506 ; Ballad Index FVS157 ; Mudcat 156417 ; trad.]

Elizabeth Stewart sang Up Among the Heather in 2004 on her CD Binnorie. Thomas A. McKean noted:

This relatively little-known local song, set on the slopes of Bennachie near Inverurie, is a light-hearted account of courtship and mishap. Found almost exclusively in Traveller communities, it has parallels with the more ribald The Cuckoo’s Nest.


In 1960, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, along with Charles Parker, were preparing a “radio ballad”, a montage of interviews, ambient sound of working life, music and new songs, on the life of English and Scottish fisher-folk: Singing the Fishing. Arthur Argo, grandson of Gavin Greig, sent the team a tape of Elizabeth and her sister Jane singing Up Among the Heather, with piano, jazzed-up to quickstep time. Peggy Seeger recalls,

I remember those two aligned voices and the gutsy piano. We were dancing around listening to it; it was so bouncy and full of life.

The resulting tune was used by MacColl for the now classic Come A’ Ye Fisher Lassies, a song now usually assumed to be traditional and which perfectly encapsulates the hard graft of the gutting quines.

Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor sang Up Among the Heather in 1962 on their album with The Galliards, A Rovin’.


Elizabeth Stewart sings Up Among the Heather

Chorus (after each verse):
It’s up among the heather on the hill o Bennachie
Twas there I met a bonnie lassie kilted tae the knee
When a bumbee stung me richt below the knee
And we baith gaed haem a-murnin fae the hill o Bennachie.

Said I tae my lassie, Whaur are ye gaun tae spend the day?
Oh I’m gaun tae spend the day on the hill o Bennachie
Whaur the lads and the lassies they aa sit sae free
Amongst the bloomin heather on the hill o Bennachie.

As I wis a-walkin on the hill o Bennachie
Twas there I sat a bonnie lassie sitting on ma knee
I took her and whurled her and aye she said tae me,
O Jock we’ll ging a-wanderin on the hill o Bennachie.

Said I tae my lassie, Will you tak my advice?
Never let a sodger laddie kiss ye mair than twice
For aa the time he’s kissin ye he’s makin up a plan
For tae hae anither rattle at yer aul tin can.