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Annachie Gordon

[ Roud 102 ; Child 239 ; G/D 5:1021 ; Ballad Index C239 ; MusTrad DB09 ; DT ANGORDON ; Mudcat 77411 ; trad.]

Nic Jones sang the ballad Annachie Gordon on his 1977 album The Noah’s Ark Trap. This track was also included on the Trailer anthology Never the Same. He also recorded it twice for BBC Radio 1 John Peel Sessions, on 8 July 1976, broadcast 23 July 1976, and on 19 April 1977, broadcast 26 April 1977. Probably one of these versions is on his CD Unearthed but the liner notes didn’t mention the actual source of the recording. Nic Jones commented though:

For Annachie Gordon I adapted the tune found in Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs and collated verses from Lord Saltoun & Auchanachie (Buchan’s Ballads of the North of Scotland), Young Annochie (Murison MS), and Lord Saltoun & Annachie (Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs).

Mary Black learned Annachie Gordon from Nic Jones and sang it in 1983 on her eponymous first album, Mary Black.

Loreena McKennitt seems to have learned Annachie Gordon from Mary Black’s recording (“Harking” was Mary’s mis-hearing of “Buchan”). She sang it on her 1989 album Parallel Dreams.

June Tabor and the Oysterband performed Anachie Gordon for a BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session recorded on 27 November 1990 and broadcast 5 January 1991. According to the Always sleeve notes, they weren’t satisfied with this performance though and didn’t use it again. June did perform it again in a duo with Mark Emerson playing drone and viola. A live recording from McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Santa Monica on 21 March 1991 can be found on her 4 CD anthology Always.

John Wesley Harding sang Annachie Gordon on his 1999 Nic Jones tribute album, Trad Arr Jones.

Lord Saltoun and Auchanachie is Child Ballad #239 and the words of Annachie Gordon are very similar though the tune seems to me to be very much Nic’s own. The last song on The Noah’s Ark Trap, I was drawn to it immediately, particularly because of its wonderfully seductive melody. My attention was immediately drawn to the line where her father tells the maidens to “loosen off her gown”: chilling. Annachie Gordon is also a concert staple of Mary Black’s and I presume this was heard first from Nic Jones.

Joe Rae (aka Gutcher on Mudcat) sang Achnachie Gordon on his 2001 Musical Tradition anthology of ballads, songs and stories from Ayrshire, The Broom Blooms Bonny. Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:

This ballad, from the far north-east of Scotland—the Gordon family estate was near Elgin, while the Frasers of Saltoun lived at Philorth, near Fraserborough—tells a story that is relatively common in folksong and folklore; namely the forced marriage of a young girl to a rich suitor, so that her family may benefit from the family’s estate. In this case the girl dies, as does her truelove when he returns from sea and is shown her corpse. John Rogerson, Joe’s grandfather, learnt the ballad in South Africa, where it was sung by a fellow Gordon Highlander sometime during the Boer War.

According to Sheila Douglas: “The pronunciation of Auchanachie has to be seen in the context of Gaelic, from which it comes. A broad vowel must be followed by a broad vowel in the spelling of a word (and a narrow vowel by a narrow) and these extra vowels are not pronounced. The pronunciation today is Annachie—often aspirated consonants disappear in spoken Gaelic.”

And Joe Rae commented on Mudcat in January 2010:

Anent the ballad Achnachie Gordon I have been singing this for more years than I care to remember. Certainly in public since the 1950s, in view of the number of portable tape recorders in use since that time could Mr Jones have heard a recording of this ballad? I doubt this & as I have never heard him singing this. I leave it to the musically gifted among you to compare the traditional tune, as sung by me, to that composed by him. {I use the term traditional as it is now well over a hundred years since my gutcher learned it}

Thanks to all who remember me singing this ballad long before Mr Jones composed a tune to the words.

In the early sixties my, then, new wife would instruct me before appearing in company that I must not sing “that song” {A>G} suffice to say that after near fifty years she has learned to live with the auld ballads.

Corrina Hewat sang Annachie Gordon at Celtic Connections at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in January 2001. A recording of this was included in the following year on the festival’s anthology on the Greentrax label, Scots Women.

The Unthanks sang Annachie Gordon in 2009 on their CD Here’s the Tender Coming. Becky Unthank sang lead and commented in the CD notes:

This is a song I’ve loved for years. The words are just heartbreaking and it’s one of the stories that captured me growing up listening to Nic Jones. I got this version from him.

Jon Boden sang Anachie Gordon as the 29 January 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

In this video, Jackie Oates sings Annachie Gordon accompanied by Belinda O’Hooley on piano as s part of the “In Search of Nic Jones” concert at the Ham Marquee, Sidmouth, on 5 August 2010:

Piers Cawley learned Annachie Gordon from Nic Jones, and sang it in 2020 on his download album Isolation Sessions #1. He noted:

Recorded folk music from the seventies and eighties is annoyingly hard to lay your hands for reasons that have become known as the Celtic Music saga. This means that access to a good contemporary record collection is a very useful thing for a developing folk singer. You get to hear stuff you can’t hear in any other way. Thankfully some recordings of Nic’s have been released since and everyone can hear how very good he was before the accident that left him unable to play guitar.

It took me ages before I worked out how to sing this. Nic’s guitar part was so interwoven with the song in my head that I found it really hard to come up with something that didn’t feel like it was half of a thing. I ended up not listening to the recording for years and worrying away at the song until I’d found a way through it.

Dodgy parents are a thing in ballads, but I reckon Jeannie’s dad in this one is worst father in folk song. You can sort of understand his impatience with his romantic fool of a daughter pining for the landless Annachie, but… bloody hell!


Nic Jones sings Annachie Gordon

Buchan, it’s bonny, oh and there lives my love;
My heart it lies on him, it will not remove.
It will not remove for all that I have done,
Oh never will I forget my love Annachie.

For Annachie Gordon, oh he’s bonny and he’s braw,
He’d entice any woman that ever him saw.
He’d entice any woman and so he has done me,
Oh never will I forget my love Annachie

Down came her father, standing on the floor,
Saying, “Jeanie, you’re trying the tricks of a whore.
You care nothing for a man who cares so very much for thee;
You must marry with Lord Saltoun and leave Young Annachie.

“For Annachie Gordon he’s only but a man
Although he may be pretty but where are all his lands?
Saltoun’s lands are broad and his towers they stand high;
You must marry with Lord Saltoun and forget Young Annachie.”

“With Annachie Gordon oh I’d beg for my bread
Before that I’d marry Saltoun with gold to my head.
With gold to my head and with gowns fringed to the knee,
Oh I’ll die if I don’t get my love Annachie.

“And you that are my parents, oh to church you may me bring,
Ah but unto Lord Saltoun, oh I’ll never bear a son.
Oh, a son or a daughter, oh I’ll never bow my knee,
Oh, I’ll die if I don’t get my love Annachie.”

When Jeanie was married and from church she was brought home,
And she and her maidens so merry should have been,
When she and her maidens so merry should have been
Oh, she’s gone to a chamber and she’s crying all alone.

“Come to bed now Jeanie, oh my honey and my sweet,
For to style you my mistress it would not be meet.”
“Oh it’s mistress or Jeanie, it’s all the same to me,
For it’s in your bed, Lord Saltoun, I never shall be.”

And up and spoke her father and he’s spoken with renown,
“All you who are her maidens won’t you loosen off her gown.”
But she fell down in a swoon, so low down by their knees,
Saying, “Look on, for I’m dying for my love Annachie.”

The day that Jeanie married was the day that Jeanie died
That’s the day that young Annachie come rolling from the tide

And down came her maidens and they’re wringing of their hands,
Saying, “Woe to you, Annachie, for staying from the sands.
So long from the land and so long upon the flood,
Oh they’ve married your Jeanie and now she is dead.”

“All you that are her maidens, won’t you take me by the hand?
Won’t you lead me to the chamber that my love lies in?”
And he’s kissed her cold lips until his heart turned to stone,
And he’s died in the chamber where his true love lay in.

Joe Rae sings Achnachie Gordon

Achnachie Gordon is bonny and braw,
He would tempt ony woman that ever he saw.
He would tempt ony woman, sae has he tempted me,
And I’ll dee if I getna my love Achnachie.

In comes her faither skipping on the floor,
Says, “Jeannie, you are trying the tricks of a whore.
Ye’re carin for them that cares naething for thee.
Ye maun mairry Saltoun, forget Achnachie.”

“Achnachie Gordon he is but a man,
Although he be pretty, whaur lies his free land?
Saltoun’s houms they lie bonny, his toors they stand hie,
Ye maun mairry Saltoun, forget Achnachie.”

“Ye that are my parents to church may me bring,
But unto young Saltoun I’ll ne’er bear a son.
For son or for daughter I’ll ne’er bow my knee,
And I’ll dee if I getna my love Achnachie.”

When Jeannie was mairrit from church was brocht hame,
When wi aa her maidens sae merry should hae been,
When wi aa her maidens sae merry should hae been
She’s called for a chamber to weep there her lane.

“Come to your bed, Jeannie, my honey and my sweet,
For to style you mistress, I do not think it meet.”
“Mistress or Jeannie, it is aa yin tae me,
For it’s in your bed, Saltoun, I never will be.”

Then oot spak her faither, he spak with renown,“
Some o’ you that are her maidens, ye’ll loose aff her goun.
Some o’ you that are her maidens, ye’ll loose aff her goun,
And I’ll mend the mairriage wi ten thousand croon.”

Then yin o’ her maidens they loosed aff her goun,
But bonny Jeannie Gordon she fell in a swoon.
She fell in a swoon low down by their knee,
Sayin, “Look on, I dee for my love Achnachie.”

That very same mornin Miss Jeannie did dee,
Aye and hame come Achnachie, hame frae the sea.
Her faither and mither welcomed him at the yett,
He said, “Where’s Miss Jeannie that she’s nae here yet?”

Then forth come her maidens all wringing their hauns,
Sayin, “Alas for your staying sae lang frae the land.
Sae lang frae the land and sae lang frae the fleed,
They hae wadded your Jeannie and noo she is deid.”

“Some o’ you that are maidens, tak me by the haund,
An show me the chamber that Jeannie dee’d in.”
He’s kissed her cauld lips that were caulder than stane,
An he’s dee’d in the chamber that Jeannie dee’d in.