Back to Onagh's Lock
ONAGH'S LOCK. AKA - "Oonagh's Lock," "Oonagh's Waterfall." Irish, Scottish; Air (6/8 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Scottish national poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) directed his song "She says she lo'es me best of a'" (sometimes the first line is given as a title "Sae flaxen were her ringlets") be sung to this air.
Sae flaxen were her ringlets,
Her eyebrows of a darker hue,
Twa laughing een o' bonie blue.
Her smiling, sae wyling,
Wad make a wretch forget his woe!
What pleasure, what treasure,
Unto those rosy lips to grow!
Such was my Chloris' bonie face,
When first that bonie face I saw.
And ay my Chloris' dearest charm -
She says she lo'es me best of a'!
Burns wrote to his publisher, Thompson, in 1794:
Do you know, my dear sir, a blackguard Irish song called "Oonagh's Waterfall"?...Our friend Cunningham sings it delightfully. The air is charming, and I have often regretted the want of decent verses for it. It is too much, at least for my humble, rustic muse, to expect that every effort of hers must have merit; still I think that it is better to have mediocre verses to a favourite air, than none at all. On this principle I have all along proceeded in the Scots Musical Museum, and, as that publication is at its last volume, I intend the following song, to the air above-mentioned, for that work.
The air was very popular in Burns' day, and the Irish song well-known and quite bawdy, rarely printed due to its title, "Oonagh's Waterfall: or the lock that scattered Oonagh's piss," and explicit lyrics. The second stanza of this song begins:
Sweet Una was the tightest,
Genteelest of the village dames;
Her eyes they were the brightest
That e'er set youthful heart in flames.
Her lover, to move her,
By every art in vain essayed;
In ditty, for pitty,
This lovely maid he often prayed;
But she, perverse, his suit denied.
Sly Darby being enrag'd at this,
Resolved, when they next met, to seize
The lock that scatters Una's piss.
Irish poet Thomas Moore also wrote a song to the melody for Moore's Irish Melodies, published in 1810, called "While gazing on the moon's light."
See also "Una's Lock" and "Downey's Lock or, The Lock Downey Pissed Through," both reels, though apparently unrelated to the songs (as the words do not scan to them). Bruce Olson finds "Una's Lock, or Darby's/Downey's Key to Una's Lock" in volumes called The Giblet Pye (1806) and The Festival of Anacreon (6th ed., 1789). Shield introduced the song in his ballad opera Marian in 1788. "Una's Lock" was published in Watlen, 1798, and a country dance called "Una's Lock" was printed in W. Campbell's Fourth Collection of Country Dances, Cotillions (London, c. 1790-1810).
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Kennedy (Traditional Dance Music of Britain and Ireland: Jigs & Quicksteps, Trips & Humours), 1997; No. 141, p. 34. Scots Musical Museum, 1796; No. 447.
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See collector Bruce Olson's comments []