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MARY MORRISON. AKA - "Mary Morison." AKA and see "Miller (The)." Scottish, Air (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. The air appears in John Johnson's Scots Musical Museum as "Miller (The)." George Farquhar Graham substituted the words of Robert Burns' (1759-1796) poem that begins "O, Mary, at thy window be", which the poet admitted was "one of his juvenile works." The original air Burns used for his piece was "Bide ye yet," but Graham felt the air to "The Miller" more suitable, although he knew nothing of the origins of the music beyond Johnson's use of it.
The identity of Mary Morison is the subject of debate. It has been suggested she was the unfortunate Mary Morison or Mary Morrison (1771-1791), daughter of Adjutant John Morison of Mauchline, whom Burns called "lovely Mary Morison" when he admired her as a girl of sixteen. Mary died young of either tuberculosis or septicaemia consequent to an amputation of her foot after a riding accident. On the other hand, there is evidence that Burns only met her once, at a tea party, and that she was only fourteen at the time, and much younger than the poet. Alison Begbie was identified by Gilbert Burns, Robert's brother, as the subject of the poem, and that Burns was having trouble rhyming her name, finally settling on 'Mary Morrison' as a solution.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Graham (Songs of Scotland), 1848; pp. 8-9. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 133.