Blue Bonnets Over the Border (1)
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BLUE BONNETS OVER THE BORDER . AKA and see "All the Blue Bonnets are over the Border," "Over the Border (1)," "Blue Bonnets Jig," "Blue Bonnets (2)," "Scotch Come Over the Border" (Pa.). Scottish, Slow Air (6/8 time), Jig, Country Dance Tune or March. B Flat Major (Athole, Skye): D Major (Neil, Ross): G Major (Kerr). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB: AABB (Ross). The tune, frequently classified a jig, often appears under the label 'country dance tune' because of its long association with the dance. However, it has just as frequently been employed as a march and song air. 'Blue bonnets' is a euphemism for the Scots, stemming from the supposed custom of Jacobite troops to identify themselves with a white cockade worn on a blue bonnet. The white cockade emblem itself is said to have originated when Bonnie Prince Charlie plucked a wild rose and pinned it to his hat (thus both "White Cockade" and "Blue Bonnets" are tunes with Jacobite associations). The stories seem tied to 19th century Romanticism, perhaps linked Sir Walter Scott's song lyrics (below). However, the song is not so much about Jacobites as it is about Borders reivers (who were both Scottish and English), bandits who crossed the border between Lowland Scotland and the northern English counties in raiding parties for centuries before the civil wars of the Jacobites.
Samuel Bayard thinks the melody was fashioned in the 1740's into a quick dance piece in 6/8 from a slow 3/4 time song tune from about 1710 or earlier called "O/Oh Dear Mother What Shall I Do?" This "Blue Bonnets Over the Border" was in turn the basis for a 4/4 version called "Braes of Auchtertyre (1)/Auchentyre," "Belles of Tipperary" and "Beaus of Albany (1);" out of this group of tunes came "Billy in the Lowground (1)/Low Land." Michael Diack, on the other hand, has written in his Scottish Country Dances that "Blue Bonnets" is derived from a 17th-century Scottish tune called "Lesley's March to Scotland" (see note for that tune for more), although David Murray (Music of the Scottish Regiments, 1994) says the tune first appeared as "General Leslie's March to Longmarston Moor." Murray finds variants in early pipe collections as "The Fusilier's March," and a version in Watts' Musical Miscellany (London, 1731) as "Black, White, Yellow and Red." "Leslie's March" was printed by Oswald (Book 2, 1755) and the aforementioned Watts' Musical Miscellany (1731), however, the resemblance seems obscure to some listeners and based on a few motifs. See also Gow's adaptation as his air "Duplin House." Lyrics to the tune were written by Sir Walter Scott, who based them on an old Cavalier song (Scott also mentions the song in his novel The Monastery, 1830).
March! march! Ettrick and Teviotdale,
Why, my lads dinna ye march forward in order?
March! march! Eskdale and Liddesdale,
All the blue bonnets are over the Border.
Come from the hills where your hirsels (i.e. sheep) are grazing,
Come from the glen of the buck and the roe,
Come with the buckler, the lance and the bow
Trumpets are sounding, war-steeds are bounding
Stand to your arms and march in good order
England shall many a day tell of the bloody frey
When the blue bonnets come over the Border.
The tune is mentioned in William Hamilton Maxwell's Stories of Waterloo and Other Tales (London, 1829), in a chapter on one Frank Kennedy, of Connemara, a junior officer stationed in Ireland. In this passage he has been invited to a ball with several other officers:
The commander's advice was not lost upon me. I took unusual pains in arraying myself for conquest, and in good time found myself in the ball-room, with thirty couples on the floor, all dancing "for the' bare life," that admired tune of "Blue bonnets over the border."
"Blue Bonnets" can be heard in the Hollywood film Mary Queen of Scots, starring Katherine Hepburn. Pipers play it as they march into Edinburgh castle to drown out the cleric John Knox as he rails against her.
Neil's (1991) version is an adaptation of one appearing in Uilleam Ross's Collection of Pipe Music (1869). In fact, the melody was adopted by the Black Watch as their quick time march, arranged for military band, about 1850, and have continued to play it through modern times. It has also been taken up by other Scottish regiments, "not perhaps so much for its words (which apply to the Borders region, not the Highlands)...but for its good rousing tune" (Murray, 1994).