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Bogie's Bonnie Belle

[ Roud 2155 ; G/D 7:1396 ; Ballad Index DTbogieb ; Mudcat 21822 ; trad.]

Bogie's Bonnie Belle was a Scots Travellers' favourite bothy ballad. Jimmy McBeath sang it in a recording made by Alan Lomax in his apartment in London on 14 November 1953. It was included in 2002 on his Rounder Records anthology Tramps and Hawkers. A later recording made by Peter Hall in a private house in Scotland on 19-21 July 1971 was released in 1978 on his Topic album Bound to Be a Row.

Belle Stewart of Blairgowrie sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1955 to Maurice Fleming. This recording was included in 2011 on the Greentrax anthology of Perthshire field recordings of the 1950s, Songs and Ballads from Perthshire (Scottish Tradition 24).

Davie Stewart of Dundee sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1956 to Peter Kennedy or Alan Lomax and in December 1975 to Alan Lomax. Probably one of these recordings was published on the anthology Songs of Courtship (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 1, Caedmon 1961, Topic 1968). Jane Stewart learnt it from her father and sang it in 1968 on the Topic anthology The Travelling Stewarts. Sheila Stewart sang it on 15 October 1998 to Doc Rowe. This recording was included in 2000 on her Topic CD From the Heart of the Tradition. The latter album's note erroneously commented, as the song is Greig/Duncan 7:1396 and was collected in 1905:

A bothy ballad common throughout the north-east of Scotland, relished by Travellers because of its reference to a “tinkler chap”. The fact that it is not included in the Ford, Greig, or Ord Collections suggests that it might be of more recent origin—or certainly after 1925 when Bothy Songs and Ballads was completed by Ord.

The last verse in Sheila's version is unusually boastful and defiant, compared, say, to Davey Stewart's indifferent ending,

Farewell ye lads o' Huntley side and Bogie Bonny Belle.

Winnie Campbell sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1965 on their family's Topic album The Singing Campbells. This track was included a year later on the Topic sampler of songs and pipes tunes in the Scots tradition, A Prospect of Scotland.

Owen Hand sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on his 1966 Transatlantic album I Loved a Lass. He noted:

A beautiful song from Aberdeenshire telling of the love affair between Belle, the farmer's daughter, and her father's labourer. The father will not allow them to marry owing to their different social standing and eventually when a child is born, Belle finds that only the tinkers will accept her.

Archie Fisher sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1968 on his eponymous Transatlantic album Archie Fisher. This track was also included in 1976 on the Transatlantic anthology Folk Sampler.

The Woods sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on their 1969 Traditional Sound Recordings album Early Morning Rain.

Ian Manuel sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1972 on his Topic album of Scots traditional songs, The Frosty Ploughshare.

Bob Davenport sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1975 on his Topic album Down the Long Road.

The Gaugers sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on their 1976 Topic album Beware of the Aberdonian. The liner notes commented:

This is probably one of the best known and certainly one of the loveliest songs to come out of the bothy tradition. It stands out from the rest of the genre as a completely rounded, beautifully and concisely expressed love story whose impact does not depend to the usual extent on the bothy context. It is widely sung in the revival, but the tune variation used here has more minor elements than in the more common versions, and this added to the ‘rightness’ of Tom Spiers’s North-East voice, gives the song a new dimension. The tune is, in fact, based on a version in the Greig manuscripts and the text is a collation from the same source.

Jake Walton sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on Roger Nicholson's, his, and Andrew Cronshaw's 1976 Trailer album Times and Traditions for Dulcimer.

Robin and Barry Dransfield sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1977 on their Free Reed album Popular to Contrary Belief. This track was also included in 1997 on their Free Reed anthology Up to Now.

Jim Reid sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on his 1984 Springthyme album I Saw the Wild Geese Flee. The album's booklet commented:

A powerful love song and bothy ballad well known in various versions throughout North-East Scotland. Jim considers this his all-time favourite folk song.

Andy M. Stewart sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1987 on his and Manus Lunny's Green Linnet album Dublin Lady. He noted:

This is on of the loveliest songs to come from the bothy ballad tradition of the Northeast of Scotland. It is a song I've wanted to sing for many years, as my father came from that part of the country and it was a favourite of his.

June Tabor sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle unaccompanied on the CD issue of her 1988 album Aqaba.

Maggie Boyle and Steve Tilston sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1988 on their album with John Renbourn and Tony Roberts, Ship of Fools.

Louis Killen sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1989 on his album The Rose in June. He commented in his album notes:

From the singing of many Scots singers but especially Davy Stewart. A small tragedy stemming from the class system that determines who is fit to be with whom, with a bitter sting in the tail. In my opinion, this is the grandest of the bothy ballads.

Martin Simpson played the tune of Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1991 on his Shanachie CD When I Was in Horseback. A live recording from the Holywell Music Room, Oxford, on 15 October 1994 was published in 1996 on his Beautiful Jo CD Live.

Richard Thompson sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on his 1993 anthology Watching the Dark: The History of Richard Thompson. This video from probably 2009 shows him accompanied by Dave Swarbrick:

Isla St Clair sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle at the BBC Radio 2 series Tatties & Herrin', transmitted in 1995. It was also released in 1997 on the Greentrax CD Tatties & Herrin': The Land.

Jock Duncan sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on his 1996 Springthyme album Ye Shine Whar Ye Stan!. The album's booklet commented:

Perhaps because of its subject matter Bogie’s Bonnie Belle has rarely been in print but most traditional singers in the North East have a version in their repertoire. The farmer ‘Bogieside o Cairney’ or ‘Bogie’ for short, did not approve when his daughter Belle fell pregnant to one of his fee’d farm servants, and the young lad was ‘sent packing withoot a penny o his fee’ in spite of his love for Belle and his offer to ‘mairry wi Isabella and gie the bairnie his name.’ Instead, in a tragicomic turnaround, Belle runs off with a ‘tinkler lad wha bides in Huntly toun’—and ‘wi pots and pans and ladles they scour the country roun.’

The song is based on an event that took place around 1843. In the 1930s George Morris recorded a version rewritten to exclude some of the sexually explicit details but this did nothing to inhibit the survival of the full story in the oral tradition. The song is sung to a variety of rather beautiful tunes.

Jock: “There was a lassie o the travelling people—that’s her tune—a lassie McPhee. She belonged to Banchory but it wis in Banff that I heard her—at a soiree. It wis more or less a picnic and there wis chapejohns aroun the place an they sell oot bits an pieces and this lassie wis singin that song. I kent aa the song. I kent Morris’s an I didna bloody like it, an I kent a lot o ither eens. I decided tae tak it doun, tae write doun her een. An she gied me the notes [the words] o the last verse, which I thocht wis better nor onything.”

John Kirkpatrick sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 1998 on his CD One Man and His Box.

Jock Tamson's Bairns sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 2001 on their Greentrax CD May You Never Lack a Scone.

Alasdair Roberts sang As I Came in By Huntly Town (Bogie's Bonnie Belle) on his 2001 CD The Crook of My Arm.

Alistair Russell sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle on his 2002 CD A19.

Old Blind Dogs sang Bogie's Bonny Belle on their 2003 CD The Gab o Mey. They noted:

This is a rare bothy ballad in that it's a touching expression of love and regret from a genre more at ease with songs of hard work and hard masters, or slapstick comedy.

Bram Taylor sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle in 2004 on his Fellside CD The Night Is Young.

Jo Aitken sang Bogie's Bonnie Belle at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2005 and Hector Riddell sang it there in May 2007. These recordings were published in 2006 on For Friendship and for Harmony (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 2) and in 2008 on Nick-Knack on the Waa (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 4), respectively.

Hector Gilchrist sang Bogie's Bonny Belle in 2007 on his WildGoose CD Ingleneuk. He noted:

During our time in Aberdeen, I joined the local Folk Club and was made welcome. There, in the Station Hotel, I listened to and joined in with, many fine artists in the years between 1969 and 1972. This song is evocative of those years and also my links with the farming community.

Pete Wood sang Bogie's Bonny Belle on his 2014 CD Young Edwin. He noted:

A classic Scots song. It already head a great tune, but it was made even better by Peter Hall's adaption, which I use here.

Daoirí Farrell sang Bogie's Bonny Belle on his 2016 CD True Born Irishman. He noted:

One of my earliest memories of music was an old tape cassette of Christy Moore's Live in Dublin concert. My father had a green Mini Cooper Estate with a tape deck and I think it was in that car that I learned most of the songs from that album. This is one of those songs.

And of course there is Les Barker's variant in the best folk tradition, Belle's Bonnie Bogey, sung by Alison Younger on the Mrs Ackroyd album Gnus and Roses.


Sheila Stewart sings Bogie's Bonnie Belle

A' Whitsun's day at Huntly toon 'twas there I did agree
Wi' auld Bogieside, a fairmer, a sax-month for to fee.

Noo, Bogie was a greedy man and I did know that well,
But he also had a daughter her name was Isabel.

Noo, Belle she wis the bonniest lass in a' the countryside,
And very soon I lost my hairt to the Belle o' Bogieside.

For often on a simmer's nicht I'd wander wi' my dear,
Tae watch the trooties lowpin' in Bogie's water clear.

And I'd slipped my airms aroond her waist and the feet frae her did slide
'Twas there I ta'en my will o' her at Bogie's bonnie burnside.

Noo, nine long months were past and gone and she brocht forth a son
And aul' Bogie he did send for me to see what could be done.

I said that I would marry her but, oh no, that wadnae dae,
For I'm nae match for Bogie's Belle, and she's nae match for me.

Bot noo she's married tae a tinkler chap and she bides in Huntly toon
And wi' tilly pans and ladles she scoors the country roond.

Oh, maybe she's gotten a better match for that I cannae tell
But 'twas me that ta'en the maidenhead o' Bogie's Bonnie Belle.

Ian Manuel sings Bogie's Bonnie Belle

At market day in Huntly toon, an' it was there I did agree
Wi' Bogieside the farmer a twelvemonth for to fee.
Tae drive his twa best horses, that's a task that I could do,
Tae drive his twa best horses in the harrow and the ploo.

Now Bogie had a dochter, her name was Isabel,
She was the lily o' the valley an' the primrose o' the dell.
An' when she went oot walkin', she chose me for her guide
Doon by the burn at Cairnie, tae watch the fishes glide.

And when three months was scarcely o'er, the lassie lost her bloom
An' the red fell frae her bonnie cheeks an' her eyes began to swoon.
Noo, the neist nine months were past and gone, she brought tae me a son
And I was quickly sent for tae see what could be done.

I said that I would marry her, but oh that widna dae
For, “You're nae match for Bonnie Belle, an' she's nae match for thee.”
He sent me packin' doon the road, wi' nae penny o' my fee,
Sae a' ye lads o' Huntly toon a lang fareweel tae ye.

But noo she's marrit tae a tinker lad, wha bides in Huntly toon,
He mends pots and pans and paraffin lamps, an' scours the country roon.
Maybe she's gotten a better match—auld Bogie canna tell—
But it was me wha's ta'en the maidenheid o' Bogie's bonnie Belle.

Jim Reid sings Bogie's Bonnie Belle

Ae Witsuntide at Huntly toun ʼtwas there I did agree,
Wi auld Bogieside, the fairmer, A sixmonths for tae fee.

Noo Bogie wis a hungery chiel an this I knew fu well;
But he had a lovely dochter An her name wis Isabelle.

Noo Belle she wis the bonniest lass in aa the countryside;
It wis very soon I lost ma hert Tae the Belle o Bogieside.

An often in the summertime Iʼd wander wi ma dear;
Tae watch the trouties loupin by Bogieʼs water clear.

I taen her by the middle sma an I caʼd her ma wee dear;
ʼTwas there I taen ma will o her by Bogieʼs water clear.

Noo nine lang months had passed an gane an she brocht forth a son;
An auld Bogie he sent efter me tae see what could be done.

I said that I wad mairry her, but na, that wad nae dae;
For Iʼm nae match for Bogieʼs Belle an sheʼs nae match for me.

An noo Iʼve left auld Huntlyside, Iʼve even broke ma fee;
For I couldna bear tae see ma dear condemned tae misery.

Noo I hear sheʼs wad tae a tinkler chap that cam ower fae Huntly toun;
An wi jeely pans an ladles she scoors the country roun.

An mebbe sheʼs gotten a better lad, Auld Bogie canna tell;
Sae fareweel ye lads o Huntlyside an Bogieʼs Bonnie Belle.

Andy M. Stewart sings Bogie's Bonnie Belle

Ae Whitsun day in Huntly toon, it’s there I did agree
Wi’ Bogie of Carnie a six-month for tae fee.
Tae drive his twa best horses tae cart and herry and ploo,
And dae ony thing aboot rarm work that I very weel could do.

Noo Bogie he had a daughter, her name was Isabell,
She was the lily o’ the valley and the primrose o’ the dell.
And when she went out walkin’ she chose me for her guide
Doon by the burn o’ Carnie tae watch the sma’ fish glide.

When six lang months had passed and gane, this lassie’s lost her bloom,
The red fell fae her rosy cheeks and her tears came tumblin’doon.
When nine lang months had passed and gane, she brought forth tae me a son
And I was quickly sent for to see what could be done.

I offered for tae marry her, but ah, that would’ny dae.
He said, “You're no a match for my Bonnie Belle and she’s no a match for ye.”
Then he sent me packin’ doon the road wi’ nae penny o’ my fee,
So a’ ye lads o’ Huntly side a lang fareweel tae ye.

Noo she’s married tae a tinkler chap, wha’comes fae Huntly toon,
Wi’ pots and pans and ladles, he scours the country ‘roond.
And maybe she’s gotten a better match, auld Bogie canna tell
But I was first tae win the heart o’ Bogie’s Bonnie Belle.

June Tabor sings Bogie's Bonnie Belle

As I came down to Huntly town, a-searching for a fee
I met with Bogie o' Cairnie and with him I did agree.
To work his two best horses, barrow, cart or plow
Or any kind of good farmwork he knew well that I could do.

He had a lovely daughter, and her name was Isabel,
She was the lily of the valley and the primrose of the dell.
And when she'd go out walking she'd take me for her guide;
Down by the banks of Cairnie we watched those small fish glide.

And when three short months had gone and passed, this lassie lost her bloom.
And the red fell from her rosy cheeks, and her eyes began to swoon.
And when nine long months had gone and passed, she bore to me a son,
And swiftly I was sent for to see what could be done.

I said that I would marry her, but och, that would not dee,
Saying, “You're no match for Isabelle, and she's no match for thee.”
So I took my own son all in my arms, may he bring to me much joy,
And may he mean as much to me as the girl that I adore.

And now she's married to a tinker lad and he comes from Huntly town,
Mending pots and pans and paraffin lamps and he scours the country 'round.
Maybe she's got have a better match, old Bogie can't tell,
Fare ye well, you lads o' Huntly side and Bogie's Bonnie Belle.

Jock Duncan sings Bogie's Bonnie Belle

Ae Witsun fair in Huntly toun, ʼtwas there I did agree,
Wi auld Bogieside o Cairney, a saxmonth for tae fee;
Tae caw his twa best horses, likewise his cairt or ploo,
And dee onything at fairmwark that I be socht tae do.

Noo Bogie hid a dother braw, her name was Isabelle,
The flooer o her nation, there wis neen could her excel;
Wi rosy cheeks and ruby lips an hair a gowden hue,
Oh she was neat, complete an handsome an comely for tae view.

Ae nicht she went a ramblin and she socht me for her guide,
Roun by the woods o Cairney and roun by Bogieside;
I slippit my airm around her waist and tae the grun did slide,
And there I spent a lang lee nicht wi the Belle o Bogieside.

Noo twenty weeks has passed and gone, that lassie lost her bloom,
The roses fell fae aff her cheeks and sheʼs began tae swoon;
Noo forty lang weeks has passed an gone, that lass brocht forth a son,
And I was quickly sent for tae see fit could be done.

Fen Bogie heard the story, he cried, “I am undone,
Since yeʼve beguiled my dother my sorrows are begun.”
I said, “Aul man, yeʼre fairly richt, an I hung my heid wi shame,
But I will mairry wi Isabella the morn an Iʼll gie the bairnie my name.”

Although I said Iʼd wad the lass, “Oh no, that widna dee,
Yeʼre nae a fittin match for Belle, nor she a match for ee.” [i.e. for ye
And he sent me packin doun the road wioot a penny o my fee,
Oh come aa ye lads o Cairney side, a last fareweel tae ee.

Noo Belle has gaen aff wi a tinkler lad and she bides in Huntly toun,
Wi pots and pans and ladles they scour the country roun;
Wi pots and pans and paraffin lamps, aye, and rousers as well, [i.e. watering cans
Aroun aboot be Foggyloan does Bogieʼs Bonnie Belle.