> Nic Jones > Songs > Annan Water

Annan Water

[ Roud 6562 ; Ballad Index L695 ; DT ANNANWT ; Mudcat 1793 , 44435 ; trad. / Nic Jones]

The River Annan is a fast-flowing river in south-west Scotland running through Dumfries and Galloway into the Firth of Solway.

Nic Jones sang Annan Water in 1970 on his first album on the Trailer label, Ballads and Songs. This track was also included in the Trailer Records anthology CD Never the Same. Julia Jones commented in the Mudcat Café in 2002:

In 1969 Nic altered, simplified and added to the text given in an appendix to Rare Willie Drowned in Yarrow or The Water o Gamrie, found in the Child Ballads Vol. IV, and added the chorus. The first half of the tune is an adaptation of The Brisk Young Lively Lad (Roud 2930), found in The Folk Song Journals, and the second half was composed by Nic. This is the version used by The Voice Squad, Kate Rusby, Niamh Parson, et al.

John Wesley Harding sang this song on his Nic Jones tribute album, Trad Arr Jones.

Bram Taylor sang Annan Water in 1986 on his Fellside album Dreams and Songs to Sing and again in 2004 on his Fellside CD The Night is Young.

The Voice Squad sang Annan Water both on their 1987 album Many’s the Foolish Youth, on their 1992 album Holly Wood. The latter track was included in 2003 on the 25 year anniversary album of the Holmfirth Festival, Roots & Wings. Seán Corcoran noted on the first album:

The Annan Water runs into the Firth of Solway. This is an eighteenth century re-working of an older traditional song. A version was published in Dublin in 1728. This version, however, comes from Nic Jones.

Kate Rusby sang Annan Water in 1997 on her second album, Hourglass. This recording was included in the anthologies New Electric Muse II: The Continuing Story of Folk into Rock and Evolving Tradition 2.

Niamh Parsons sang Annan Waters in 2000 on her Green Linnet album In My Prime. A 2001 live recording from the Arsenaal Theatre in Vlissingen was released in 2021 on her download album So Here’s to You. She noted on her original album:

I accidentally fell upon my first singing session in Ballyvaughan in 1983. It was led by Mike Donoghue, an Englishman living in Galway and married to a Welsh woman. He and his friends from Wales sang great songs. The session was a weekend celebration of his marriage to Amanda Lacey. Two years later on his final return to Wales he was tragically killed in a car crash. Amanda was badly injured. I learnt this song on the day I heard of his death. He was a most wonderful man, and every time I sing Annan Waters I think of him and his great encouragement to all the singers in Ireland and Wales. I chose no accompaniment in his honour.

Jack Crawford sang Annan Water in 2008 on his WildGoose CD Pride of the Season. He noted:

In 1969 Nic Jones found Annan Water in Volume IV of Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads, included as an Appendix to number 215, Rare Willie Drowned in Yarrow, or, The Water o Gamrie. Child had taken this text of fourteen four-line stanzas from Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). Neither publication included a tune. In a masterpiece of contraction, Nic selected eight stanzas and grouped them in pairs, slightly modified and anglicized, with the original final stanza following each pair as a chorus. For a tune he took the first part of an English song called The Brisk Young Lively Lad, collected in Surrey by Lucy Broadwood and published in the Journal of the Folk Song Society Volume 1 (1900), which he extended to suit his eight-line stanza format. The result is nothing short of pure genius.

Lyrics

Nic Jones sings Annan Water

Oh Annan Water’s wondrous deep
And my love Annie’s wondrous bonny.
I’m loathe that she should wet her feet
Because I love her best of any.
Go saddle to me the bonny grey mare,
Go saddle her soon and make her ready,
For I must cross that river tonight
And all to see my bonny lady.

Chorus (after each verse):
And woe betide you Annan Water,
At nights you are a gloomy river,
And over you I’ll build a bridge
That never more true love may sever.

And he has ridden o’er field and fell
O’er moor and moss and many a mire,
His spurs of steel were sore to bide
And from the mare’s feet flew the fire.
The mare flew on o’er moor and moss
And when she’d won the Annan Water,
She couldn’t have ridden a furlong more
Had a thousand whips been laid upon her.

Oh boatman come put off your boat,
Put off your boat for gold and money
For I must cross that stream tonight
Or never more I’ll see my Annie.
The sides are steep, the water’s deep
From bank to brae the water’s pouring,
And your bonny grey mare she sweats for fear,
She stands to hear the water roaring.

And he has tried to swim that stream
And he swam on both strong and steady,
But the river was broad and strength did fail
And he never saw his bonny lady.
Oh woe betide the willow wand
And woe betide the bush of briar,
For it broke beneath her true love’s hands
When strength did fail and limbs did tire.

Niamh Parsons sings Annan Waters

O Annan Water’s wondrous deep
A mile of Annie’s wondrous valleys.
And loathe but she should wet her feet
Because I love her best of any.
Go saddle to me the bonny gray mare,
Go saddle her soon and make her ready,
For I must cross that stream tonight
All for to see my bonny lady.

Chorus (after each verse):
And woe betide you Annan waters,
By night you are a gloomy river.
And over you I’ll build a bridge
That never more true love may sever.

And he has ridden o’er field and fen
O’er moor and moss and many the mire,
And the spurs of steel are sore to bite
And from the mare’s feet flew the fire.
O the mare rode on o’er moor and moss
And when she gained the Annan waters,
She could not ride a furlong more
Though a thousand whips were laid upon her.

O boatman come lay off your boat,
Lay off your boat for gold and money
For I must cross that stream tonight
All for to see my bonny lady.
O the water is deep and the sides are steep
From bank to brae the water’s pouring,
And the bonny gray mare she sweats for fear
All for to hear the waters roaring.

And he has tried to swim that stream
And he swam on both strong and steady,
But the river is wide and strength did fail
And he never more did see his lady.
O woe betide you willow wan
And woe betide you bush and briar,
For it broke beneath that true love’s hand
When strength did fade, and limbs did tire.