> Martin Carthy > Songs > Bonny Woodhall

Bonny Woodhall

[ Roud 3778 ; G/D 5:947 ; Henry H476 ; Ballad Index HHH476 ; trad.]

Bothy Songs and Ballads Sam Henry's Songs of the People

Dick Gaughan sang Bonny Woodha' in 1975 on the High Level Ranters' album The Bonny Pit Laddie. This track was also included in 1991 on the CD reissue of Dick Gaughan's eponymous Topic album Gaughan, in 1993 on the extended CD reissue of the Topic album The Iron Muse, and in 2006 on his CD The Definitive Collection. The original album's notes commented:

Printed in Come All Ye Bold Miners, this version was learned by Dick Gaughan, again, from Geordie Hamilton. In every war pitmen have been among the first to volunteer and have often suffered very heavy casualties. In the First World War, for example, almost a fifth of the total labourforce—191,170 miners—had volunteered between August 1914 and February 1915. What happened to many of them can be seen from inspecting the war memorials of any mining village.

Andy Irvine sang Bonny Woodhall in 1976 on his and Paul Brady's eponymous album Andy Irvine Paul Brady. A live recording from the 4th Irish Folk Festival in Germany on 30 April 1977 was released in the same year on the festival's album; it was also included as a bonus track on the 1989 Wundertüte CD reissue of Irvine's album Rainy Sundays…Windy Dreams. Frank Harte noted on the original album:

The origins of this song are obviously Scottish. I have never heard it sung here although it was collected years ago by Sam Henry in Ulster. Andy first heard it sung to a different air by Dick Gaughan, and it is also sung to a third air similar to that of Erin go Bragh.

Al O'Donnell sang Bonny Woodhall in 1978 on his album Al O'Donnell 2. Tom Munnelly commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Also known as Calder's Clear Streams, this song has been collected in Ireland by Sam Henry (no. 476 in Songs of the People) but even there the language remains very definitely Scots and differs little from this version which Al got from Dick Gaughan.

Niamh Parsons sang Bonny Woodhall in 2000 on her Green Linnet album In My Prime. This track was also included on the anthology BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2001.

Martin Carthy sang Bonny Woodhall in 2004 on his album Waiting for Angels. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Geordie Hamilton was a songwriter and coal miner from around Kirkintilloch who I met in Edinburgh in 1961 through Hamish Henderson. He was an exceptionally graceful singer with a beautiful lyrical sense and I always thought of Bonny Woodhall as his party piece. He would often ask people if they wanted his songs and I am one who gratefully took up the offer although I didn't feel ready to sing it publicly until much more recently, but it's always been lurking. I have no idea which particular war it actually dates from and indeed it could be any one of a dozen or so of those 17th-19th century conflicts in which the British army was engaged. But it doesn't really matter. I think that as a song of an ordinary soldier dying on the field of battle it's just about unique.

Peter Shepheard sang Calder's Clear Stream in 2005 on Shepheard, Spiers & Watson's Springthyme album They Smiled As We Cam In. He noted:

In the early 1960s we would often travel up from St Andrews to visit the Stewart family at New Alyth outside Blairgowrie and, during the berrypicking season in late July/August, we would join the berrypicking and camp beside Belle and Alex or on Marshall's field where many of the traveller families would gather each year for the season. In the evening there was always singing and music around the camp fires and it was on such a night in August 1965 that I recorded this song from traveller Hughie Stewart from Annathill, North Lanarkshire—his favourite song. (GD 5:947; Roud 3778)

The song presumably dates from the early 1800s and may well be based on a historical event. A young miner leaves his sweetheart to fight for the King. When he is wounded in battle he thinks longingly of his sweetheart and wishes she was at his side. The word stound (pain) is pronounced by traditional singers to rhyme with the old pronunciation of wound as wownd. The Bonnie Woodha mentioned in the song (and the title of the text-only version in Greig-Duncan) is on the east bank of the North Calder water in Lanarkshire as it flows north to join the Clyde. I added the last verse myself.

Francy Devine sang Bonnie Wood Green on his 2014 album My Father Told Me. He noted:

This is a variant of the Scottish song Bonnie Woodhall. Interestingly, Bonnie Woodha' appears in the Sam Henry Collection but not Bonnie Wood Green. I first heard it sung by Davy Hammond and later Inishowen's Grace Toland. I liked the imagery, especially that “they all wear white aprons”. John Ross's linen weaving factory was located in Woodgreen, Ballymacveigh, just south of Ballymena, County Antrim. The townland is often cited as Ballymacvea. It is not clear whether the song pre-dates the First World War—this version refers to Flanders—or whether it was adapted to that conflict. I got some of these lyrics from The Orange Songbook website but it surely belongs to all traditions and none. At fiddle player John Kelly's session in The Belfry, Stoneybatter, I was often asked by one regular to “sing that song about the Tube Station”! How people interpret songs is interesting.

Robyn Stapleton sang Bonnie Woodhall on the TMSA Young Trad Tour 2014 and on her 2015 album of songs of the Scottish and Irish folk traditions, Fickle Fortune. The TMSA liner notes commented:

This traditional Scottish song is also well known in Ireland, so much that Robyn actually heard it from Dublin singer, Daoirí Farrell. It tells the story of a miner from North Lanarkshire who leaves his sweetheart behind to fight in war, and whilst on the battlefield thinks back to his happiest days, spent with her near Woodhall Estate, by the banks of North Calder Water.

Andy Turner learned Bonny Woodhall from the album Andy Irvine Paul Brady (who themselves learned it from Dick Gaughan) and from Roy Palmer's book The Rambling Soldier. He sang it as the 20 August 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week, accompanied by Nick Passmore on guitar.


Martin Carthy sings Bonny Woodhall

By Calder's clear valley, by Calder's clear stream,
Where I and my Annie together were seen.
Days they past swiftly and happy were we,
It is little, she thought, that a soldier I'd be.

On the twentieth of August our regiment was lost
When a shot from the enemy our line came across;
Struck me on the forehead, the blood it ran down,
I reeled and I staggered, I fell to the ground.

“Oh come here,” cries the captain, “come here with good speed,
For I fear by a bullet young Dinsmore is dead.”
They brought me the water and the whisky so free,
And they turned me all over my wounds for to see.

If my Annie she were here, she would bind up my wounds,
One kiss from her sweet mouth would staunch all the stouns.
But if fortune smile on me and back I return
I will sport with you, Annie, by Calder's clear dam.

For it's wet and I am weary and I think of lang syne,
When I was a young man and I worked down the mine.
Tears they do trickle and down they do fall,
Like the dew on the daisies in bonny Woodhall.

Peter Shepheard sings Calder's Clear Stream

It was down by yon green bushes by Calder's clear stream,
Where me and my Annie dear had often times been;
Where the hours flew past as quite happy were we,
And it's little did my Annie think a sodger I'd be.

O fare thee weel Annie for I must away,
For the King he needs sodgers and I must obey;
But if fortune shines on me and I do return,
Then I will walk wi ye my Annie dear by Calder's clear burn.

It was on the eighteenth of August our regiment was lost,
When a bullet from the enemy our lines quickly crossed;
Caught me on the forehead and the blood come trickling down,
I reeled and I staggered and I fell unto the ground.

Up then stepped our captain he came up with great speed,
“O I fear by yon bullet young Dinsmore lays deid.”
Two men with a stretcher they quickly appeared,
And they carried me off to a hospital there.

They turned me all over my wownds for to see,
Cold water and brandy they poured around so free;
If I had my Annie dear to wash all my wownds,
Then I know that by her sweet kiss she would soon cure the stound.

When I am alone and I think on lang syne,
When I was a miner and wrocht in the mine;
The tears they do trickle and doun they do fa,
When I think on the gowans roon bonnie Woodha.

Now the fighting is over, the fighting is done,
And I will return to my own native home;
I will walk with my Annie dear, my Annie by my side,
And by the Calder's clear water I'll make her my bride.

Francy Devine sings Bonnie Wood Green

All around the green banks of Bonnie Wood Green
Where me and my true love so oft times were seen,
The hours they flew by us, so happy we were,
It was little I thought that a soldier I'd be,
Oh, a soldier I'd be, a soldier I'd be,
It was little I thought that a soldier I'd be.

Oh, early next morning as the lambs they do play,
It was off to Kells Barracks, it was there made my way.
And there I enlisted to fight for the Queen
To uphold the great cause I left Bonnie Wood Green.

An then came the orders to ship o'er the foam
For soldiers were needed to fight for their homes.
I kissed my girl Mary she appeared like a queen,
Aye and softly she whispered, “Remember Wood Green.”

Away out in Flanders at the end of the line
They were talking of sweethearts that they'd left behind.
Said one Irish soldier, “Sure, I have a queen
and she does works for John Ross's of Bonnie Wood Green.”

It was early one morning while facing the foe,
The bullets were flying and he was laid low.
He called out to his comrades from that terrible scene,
He said, “Kiss my love, Mary, and remember Wood Green.”

So if it's ever to Ireland you chance for to stray,
There's a bonnie wee factory near Ballymacveigh.
Where the weavers and winders are plain to be seen
For they all wear white aprons around Bonnie Wood Green.

Robyn Stapleton sings Bonnie Woodhall

Down by yon green bushes near Calder's clear stream
Where me and my Annie so often have been,
Oh the hours that flew past us, right happy were we,
It was little she thought that a soldier I'd be.

And it's farewell to Annie for I must away,
The King he needs soldiers and I must obey.
But if providence proves kind love then when I return
I will wed with my Annie near Calder's clear burn.

On the fourteenth of August our regiment was lost
And a ball from the enemy our lines came across.
O it struck me in my temple and the blood trickled down,
I reeled and I staggered and I fell to the ground.

“Come here,” said our captain, “come here with good speed,
For I fear by this bullet young Dinsmore lies dead.”
Two men with a stretcher did quickly prepare
And they carried me away to a hospital there.

Cold water and brandy they poured out so free,
They turned me all over my wounds for to see.
But if I had my Annie to bind up my wounds
One kiss from her sweet lips would soon deaden the stoun.

And it's when I am weary and think on lang syne,
When I was a miner and wrought in the mine,
O the tears they do trickle and down they do fall
Like the roses that bloom around bonnie Woodhall.