Willie's Rare and Willie's Fair (1)

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X:1 T:Willy’s rare (and Willy’s fair) [1] M:3/4 L:1/8 R:Air B: William Thomson - Orpheus Caledonius, vol. II (1733, No. 49, p. 215) B: https://digital.nls.uk/special-collections-of-printed-music/archive/91482038 N:Thomson (c. 1695-1753) was a Scottish singer and folk song collector N:who lived in London for most of his adult career. Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:C c d e2-d c|A {GF} E F3G|c d {f}e2d c|e/f/ g z2 z a|g f e3 d/c/| A {GF}E F3 E/D/|E F Ged c|{AB}c2 G3F|E F {ef}g3G |{AB}c2 z2z2|| P:”For the German Flute” K:D de f2- ed|B{AG}F G3A|de {g}f2 ed|f/g/a z2 zb|ag f3 e/d/| B{AG}F G3 F/E/|FGAfed|{Bc}d2 A3G|FG {ef}g3A|{Bc}d2 z2z2||



WILLIE'S RARE AND WILLIE'S FAIR [1]. Scottish, Air (3/4 time). C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. The song refers to the Border ballad also called "Willie's Drowned in Yarrow" (beginning "Willy's rare, and Willy's fair") which tells of the tragic drowning of a young husband. The words were printed in Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius (1733) and go:

Willy's rare, and Willy's fair,
And Willy's wond'rous bony,
And Willy heght to marry me, ..... [heght = to promise or offer]
Gin e'er he marry'd ony.

Yestreen I made my Bed fu' brade,
The Night I'll make it narrow;
For a' the live-ling Winter's Night,
I lie twin'd of my Marrow.


O came you by yon Water-side,
Pu'd you the Rose or Lilly;
Or came you by yon Meadow green,
Or saw you my sweet Willy?

' 'She sought him East, she sought him West,
She sought him brade and narrow;
Sine in the clifting of a Craig,
She found him drown'd in Yarrow.

Musicologist John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900) opintes that a "more simple and beautiful version" of the air can be found as "Sweet Willie" published in the Blaikie and Leyden manuscripts of 1692 [1].


Additional notes



Printed sources : - James Johnson (Scots Musical Museum vol. 6), 1803; Song 525, p. 542. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 32, p. 41. William Thomson (Orpheus Caledonius vol. II), 1733;No. 49, p. 215.






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  1. "Sweet Willie" is also one of the tunes listed in the index of Northumbrian musician William Vickers large 1770 music manuscript, although the section it was in has been lost. It may or may not be a version of the Blaikie/Leyden tune, or a version of the country dance "Sweet Willy-o".