O Saw Ye Bonnie Lesley

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O SAW YE BONNIE LESLEY. AKA - "Bonnie Leslie." AKA and see "Collier's bonnie dochter (The)," "Collier's bonnie lassie (The)." Scottish, Air (2/4 time). F Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA. The poet Robert Burns set words to the tune "The Collier's bonie [sic] lassie" AKA "The collier's bonnie dochter" in honor of Miss Lesley Baillie (later Mrs. Cumming of Logie, Ayrshire), who had visited Burns with her father and sister. He must have been taken with her, for after entertaining them he accompanied them on horseback some 14 or 15 miles on their journey south. Neil (1991) remarks that the lyrics are a parody on the old ballad "My bonie Lizie Baillie, I'll rowe thee in my plaidie." Burns's words begin:

O saw ye bonnie Leslie
As she gaed o'er the border?
She's gane, like Alexander,
To spread her conquests farther.
To see her is to love her,
An love but her for ever;
For Nature made her what she is,
And ne'er made sic anither.

The melody is quite old an appears in several guises. Early printings can be found in Henry Playford's Original Scotch Tunes (1700) as "Collier's Lass (The)," in Daniel Wright's Extraordinary Collection of Pleasant and Merry Humours (London, 1713), John Walsh's Compleat Country Dancing Master (1719), and William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius (1725) as "The Collier's Bonny Lassie". As "Coallier's/Collier's Daughter (The)" it can be found in the James Gillespie Castle Drummond Manuscript (1768, No. 33), and, under the same title, set as a strathspey, in Neil Stweart's Reels (1775).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 178, p. 232.

Recorded sources:




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