> Louis Killen > Songs > Bonny at Morn

Bonny at Morn

[ Roud 3064 ; Ballad Index Stor066 ; DT BONYMORN ; Mudcat 40539 ; trad.]

Jack Armstrong played Bonny at Morn on his Northumbrian small pipes in a Peter Kennedy recording on the 1964 album Northumbrian Minstrelsy.

Mureen Craik sang Bonny at Morn in 1965 on her Topic album with Harry Boardman and the Watersons, New Voices. The sleeve note commented:

Northumbria is the only part of England with its own regional music-dialect, its own stock of melodies that are distinct in style from tunes anywhere else in the country. And of this style, Bonny at Morn is one of the masterpieces. Its peculiarity no doubt derives from the character of the local northeastern bagpipe, and the tune was surely an instrumental one before words became attached to it. A great, if neglected, pioneer folk song collector, John Bell, noted the song at the outset of the nineteenth century, but it wasn’t printed until 1882, in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy. The poem takes a curious twofold form; in part it’s a lullaby addressed to a baby, and in part it’s reproach to a lazy son who is ’ower lang’ in his bed and won’t get up.

Ray Fisher sang Bonny at Morn accompanied by Colin Ross on Northumbrian small pipes on her 1972 Trailer album The Bonny Birdy. This track was also included on the compilation LP The Folk Trailer.

Louis Killen recorded Bonny at Morn in Winter 1977 at the Eldron Fennig Folk Museum of American Ephemera for his album Old Songs, Old Friends. He wrote in his liner notes:

My oldest friends here are Bonny at Morn and Waltzing Matilda, both learned when I was a boy.

Bob Fox and Stu Luckley recorded Bonny at Morn in 1978 for their LP Nowt So Good’ll Pass, and Bob Fox sang it again in 2003 on his Topic CD Borrowed Moments. He noted:

Bonny at Morn is one of the most beautiful of Northumbrian songs and concerns a mother nursing a baby whilst chastising a lazy son.

Graham Metcalfe with Folly Bridge sang Bonny at Morn in 1991 on their WildGoose cassette All in the Same Tune.

Anni Fentiman sang Bonny at Morn in 1993 on her and Dave Webber’s album Together Solo. They noted:

Most children from the North East learned this song in school.

Bob Davenport and the Rakes sang Bonny at Morn in 1997 on their Fellside CD The Red Haired Lad.

Ushna sang Bonny at Morn on their 1998 Fellside CD of music and song from Northumbria, Twice Brewed. They noted:

An old Northumbrian song which captures, lyrically, a universal and recurring aspect of family life… the baby won’t sleep, the older children won’t get out of bed and, as a result, little household work gets done. As a mother of four children of varying ages, Jackie [Barry] is able to sing this with real feeling.

Carolyn Robson sang Bonny at Morn on her 1999 album All the Fine Young Men. She noted:

Probably Northumberland’s best loved lullaby, I may have sung this to Anna and Freya when they were tiny, but here they join me in harmony.

Lisa Knapp sang Bonnie at Morn in 2002 on Gerry Diver’s CD Diversions. She noted:

This well-known Northumbrian lullaby is unusual in that it is sung to wake a child as opposed to sending it to sleep. The mournful and piercing melody is what first appealed to me in singing this song which lends a bittersweet irony to the tender sentiment of the lyrics.

Wendy Weatherby sang Bonny at Morn in 2002 on her Lochshore album Two Loves.

The Witches of Elswick sang Bonny at Morn in 2003 on their first CD, Out of Bed. They commented in the liner notes:

Our token Geordie song learnt from a Southerner and sung with a Yorkshire accent. Hey ho, that’s oral transmission for you.

Rachel Unthank & The Winterset sang Bonny at Morn in 2005 on their first CD, Cruel Sister. Rachel noted:

The tradition of passing songs down through the generations seems in this day to have found its most comfortable place in the back of the car. A favourite in Northumberland, we learnt this song in the best of traditions; in the car on a long journey, where our parents, in an attempt to keep us quiet for more than five seconds, taught us many a good song.

Johnny Campbell sang Bonny at Morn on his 2024 album True North.


Louis Killen sings Bonny at Morn

𝄆 The yowie’s in the meadow and the kye is in the corn,
Thou’s ower lang in thee bad, bonny at morn. 𝄇

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
But thou’s canny at neet, bonny at morn,
Thou’s ower lang in thee bed, bonny at morn.

𝄆 The bordie’s in the bush and the troot’s in the born,
Thou hinders thee mither at mony’s a torn. 𝄇

𝄆 We’re all laid idle wi’ keeping the bairn,
The lad winnot work and the lass winnot learn. 𝄇

The Witches of Elswick sing Bonny at Morn

𝄆 The sheep in the meadow and the cattle in the corn,
Thou’s over long in thy bed, bonny at morn. 𝄇

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Canny at night, bonny at morn,
Thou’s over long in thy bed, bonny at morn.

𝄆 The bird in the nest and the trout in the burn,
Thou hinders thy mother at many’s a turn. 𝄇

𝄆 We are all idle wi’ keeping the bairn,
The lad he won’t work and the lass she won’t learn. 𝄇

(repeat first verse)

Links and Acknowledgements

I copied Louis Killen’s lyrics from the liner notes of his LP.