Bessy Bell and Mary Gray

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For those of a similar name, see Mary Grey (disambiguation).

Bessy Bell and Mary Gray are "twa bonnie lassies", the subject of one of the Child Ballads.

According to the ballad, Bessy and Mary were daughters of two Perthshire gentlemen, who in 1666 built themselves a bower to avoid catching a devastating plague. The girls were supplied with food by a lad in love with both of them; the lad caught the plague and gave it to them, and all three sickened and died.

Two similar hills near Omagh, County Tyrone (Northern Ireland) were named after Bessy Bell and Mary Gray by Scottish immigrants who went to Ireland to make their passage to America. Sliabh Troim ('mountain of elder') is the original Irish name of Bessy Bell, also recorded as Sliab Toad. There also exist twin hills in Staunton, Virginia which were named after the girls by Scottish immigrants. Two adjacent volcanic cones in the Auckland Volcanic Field, New Zealand, (Otara Hill and Green Hill) were referred to by 19th-century European settlers as Bessy Bell and Mary Gray (See 1859 map).


  • Ewan MacColl on "The English & Scottish Popular Ballads Vol 2" (1956)
  • Martin Carthy on "Shearwater" (1972)
  • Lal and Norma Waterson on "A True Hearted Girl" (1977)
  • Steeleye Span on "Tempted and Tried" (1989)
  • Steeleye Span on "The 35th Anniversary World Tour 2004" DVD (2005)
  • Maddy Prior on "Ballads and Candles" (2000) (as "Betsy Bell and Mary Gray)
  • Cherish the Ladies on "Woman of the House" (2005)
  • The Foxglove Trio on "Like Diamond Glances" (2013) (as "Betsy Bell and Mary Grey")

External links[edit]

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.