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Walking All Alane

[Ann Neilson]

Norman Buchan published Ann Neilson's song Walking All Alane in The Scotsman in the late 1950s. He noted:

It would be quite wrong to talk glibly about a revival of folk-song unless it were also accompanied by a revival of the writing of new “folk” or traditional-type songs.

It seems to me that one of the main differences between the present situation and what took place 50 years ago—led by Cecil Sharpe, Kennedy, Fraser, and others—is that this is happening to some extent. At least three valuable traditional-type ballads, for example, were written and are being sung on the recent Manchester United air disaster.

This week, therefore, I have decided to give a new song. It was written by Ann Neilson, a 13-year-old Rutherglen girl, and is based upon a Breton pipe-tune. This tune, a weird and haunting one was brought to Scotland from Brittany by R.M. Blythman three years ago and set to The Twa Corbies.

It is, I think the only successful tune I have heard to that ballad. The words show an astonishing intuitive grasp of the folk-tradition on the part of Ann.

Gillian Frame and Findlay Napier sang Walking All Alane on their 2020 album of songs from Norman Buchan's The Scotsman articles, The Ledger.

Lyrics

Gillian Frame and Findlay Napier sing Walking All Alane

As I was walkin a alane
I heard a young man plead in vain,
And he was following a lassie fair
Tae mak her his forever mair-o,
Tae mak her his forever mair.

The lad untae the lass did say,
“O lassie please be mine the day.”
She tossed her head and tae him said,
“I’d ne’er loe ye though all men were dead-o,
I’d ne’er loe ye though all men were dead.”

He wrung his hands and tore his hair
But he couldna win thon lassie fair.
He threatened he wid tak a knife
And end his ain and his sweet love’s life-o,
And end his ain and his sweet love’s life.

She seemed tae say wi her een sae blue,
“O lad tae ye I couldna be true,
I loe and lad an he loves me.
Fur me tae loe ye wouldna be-o,
Fur me tae loe ye wouldna be.”

An there he stood ablow a tree
And made his mind they baith must dee.
He drew his knife and struck a blow
An reid her young heart’s blood did flow-o,
An reid her young heart’s blood did flow.

He plunged it deep in his ain breast
An fell by her tae his last rest.
He twined his airms roon that lassie fair
An she was his forever mair-o,
An she was his forever mair.