Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional and newer songs sung by Sangschule of Linlithgow

Mormond Braes

printed in the19th century

As I cam roond by Strichen toon
I heard a fair maid mourning
She was makin sair complaint
For her true love ne'er returning

For it's there I've lost my dearie
So fare thee weel ye Mormond Braes
Where aftimes I've been cheery
Fare thee weel ye Mormond Braes

I'll pit on a goon o green
It's a forsaken token
And that will let the young men know
That the bands of love are broken

There's mony a horse that's snappert an
fa'en
An risen and gane fu rarely
Mony's the lass has lost her lad
And gotten anither richt early

There's as guid fish intae the sea
As ever yet's been taken
I'll cast my line an try again
I'm only aince forsaken

And I'll gang back tae Strichen toon
Whaur I was bred and born
And there I'll get another sweetheart
Will marry me the morn

Words:
Braes: hill-sides
Fa’en: fallen
Mormond Braes: Mormond Hill is near Strichen, Aberdeenshire.
Snappert: stumbled

Robert Ford in Vagabond Songs and Ballads 1899 quotes a correspondent who says the song enjoyed an immense popularity in the Buchan district from thirty to forty years ago, not only “among the country people” but as the “full dress effort of a soloist” – on a concert stage in evening dress. This pushes the date back to 1869 or 1859.  He quotes another as saying that the last verse was grafted on to the original between the years 1856 and 1860 and that “many of our older singers refuse to give it a place when singing the song.”

In the Strichen area it was widely believed that the song was written by a local man, Dr Gavin of Strichen  In the Greig-Duncan Collection, vol.6, no.1142  Greig comments : “All traditions of this kind, however, are to be received with extreme caution, even when there exist no specific grounds for doubting or denying them.  And in the present case we are confronted with an awkward problem. There is a Perthshire song, ‘Fareweel to Blairgowrie’, which, mutandis mutandi, (allowing for natural changes), is just our ‘Mormond Braes’.”

Here is the first verse and chorus of the Perthshire song:
As I gaed oot ae May morning / Ae morning very early, /There I spied a pretty fair maid / lamenting o’ her dearie.
So fare-ye-wee l tae Blairgowrie / Whaur oftimes I’ve been cheery / An’ fare-ye-weel to Bromely Brae / For I hae lost my dearie
.

Greig goes on to tell how an unfortunate wandering minstrel who launched into ‘Fareweel to Blairgowrie’ at a Strichen market was “hooted off the ground by the crowd.”  Though he understood this action by the Buchan men, it left the question – who had borrowed from whom? Or was there an earlier source for both?

Greig comments on the tune which is “like all our genuine old folk-tunes, of one strain, repeated to each quatrain (four line verse)”. Where and when the refrain or chorus is put in varies from song to song.    He also refers to “the way in which the versions of our folk-songs vary from one another. The older they are the greater as a rule are the differences. ‘Mormond Braes’ though not very old illustrates this fluidity.”
32 correspondents sent fragments or whole songs, now recorded in the Greig-Duncan Collection, vol.6, no1142. (Most have a different first line to ours: On Mormond braes where heather grows.)

David G Adams quotes “ a plagiarised version of Mormond Braes – Clova’s Braes” where the action takes place near Forfar, in his 1990s book Bothy Nichts and Days.


Verses from other versions in Greig-Duncan include:
He promised for to marry me / I for a while did think it / But he has chosen another sweetheart / And ye see how I’ve been blinkit. (cheated)

Young men are fickle I do know / Young maids should ne’er believe them / For though young maids were e’er sae true, / Young men they would deceive them

I asked him when he’d marry me / and how long we would tarry / When heather cowes( stems) grows ousen boughs (ox-collars) / It’s that’s the day we’ll mairry

But I’ll put on my braw new goon / and lace my middle sma’ / Nae ane will ken be my rosy cheeks / That I wis beguiled ava   (at all)

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