John Hay's Bonny Lassie

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JOHN HAY'S BONNY LASSIE. AKA - "Johnny Hay's Bonnie Lassie." Scottish, Air (3/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABC (Wright): AABBCC (Oswald): AABB (McGibbon). Early printings appear in Alexander Stuart's Musick for Allan Ramsey's Collection of Scots Songs (1724), Adam Craig's Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes (pp. 2-3, 1730), John Watts' Musical Miscellany (vol. 4, pp. 62-64, 1730), and Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius (vol. 1, 1733). The melody also appears in the Gillespie Manuscript of Perth (1768) and other publications throughout the 18th century. According to Robert Burns (The Poetical Works of Robert Burns, 1870, p. 541), "John Hay's "Bonnie Lassie" was the daughter of John Hays, Earl or Marquis of Tweeddale, and the late Countess Dowager of Roxburgh. She died at Broomlands, near Kelso, sometime between the years 1720 and 1740." Stenhouse says the song was often credited to Allen Ramsay, however, he sows some doubt about the identification of the subject, noting that she would be somewhat old to have inspired Ramsey at the time of his Miscellany, although it could have been an early work. "But we cannot depend on traditional accuracy in such matters; and it may have happened that the song was inspired by a much less lordly personage than an earl's daughter and an earl's wife."

The song begins:

By smooth-winding Tay a swain was reclining,
Aft cried he, Oh, hey! Maun I still live pining
Mysell thus away, and daurna discover
To my bonny Hay, that I am her lover!

As "Johnny Hay's Bonnie Lassie" the title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: McGibbon (Scots Tunes, Book 1), c. 1746; p. 7. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion Book 3), 1760; p. 20. Daniel Wright (Aria di Camera), London, 1727; No. 67.

Recorded sources:




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