Geordie (ballad)

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"Geordie" is Child ballad 209 (Roud 90), existing in many variants.


The "Geordie" of the title is taken for a crime, to hang; it may be rebellion, murder, horse-stealing, or poaching deer. His wife (or lady) goes to appeal for his life, sometimes refusing offers to marry her, once widowed, along the way.

She pleads for his life, mentioned the children she had borne him, usually seven, or twelve; she may still be pregnant with the youngest, or the youngest has never seen his father. In some versions, a ransom is set, and many people give her money, which adds up to enough to buy his life. In others, the wife's attempts are in vain and he is executed.


As I walked out over London bridge
one misty morning early
I overheard a fair pretty maid
was lamenting for her Geordie
Ah my Geordie will be hanged in a golden chain
This is not the chain of many
he was born of king's royal breed
and lost to a virtuous lady
Go bridle me my milk white steed,
go bridle me my pony,
I will ride to London's court
to plead for the life of Geordie
Ah my Geordie never stole nor cow nor calf
he never hurted any
Stole sixteen of the king's royal deer,
and he sold them in Bohenny.
Two pretty babies have I born
the third lies in my body
I'd freely part with them every one
if you'd spare the life of Geordie
The judge looked over his left shoulder
he said fair maid I'm sorry
he said fair maid you must be gone
for I cannot pardon Geordie.
Ah my Geordie will be hanged in a golden chain
This is not the chain of many
Stole sixteen of the king's royal deer,
and he sold them in Bohenny.

Geordie - An old Ballad (as put down by Robert Burns)

There was a battle in the north,
And nobles there was many,
And they hae kill'd Sir Charlie Hay,
And they laid the wyte on Geordie.

O he has written a lang letter,
He sent it to his lady;
Ye maun cum up to Enbrugh town
To see what words o' Geordie.

When first she look'd the letter on,
She was baith red and rosy;
But she had na read a word but twa,
Till she wallow't like a lily.

Gar get to me my gude grey steed,
My menzie a' gae wi' me;
For I shall neither eat nor drink,
Till Enbrugh town shall see me.

And she has mountit her gude grey steed,
Her menzie a' gaed wi' her;
And she did neither eat nor drink
Till Enbrugh town did see her.

And first appear'd the fatal block,
And syne the aix to head him;
And Geordie cumin down the stair,
And bands o' airn upon him.

But tho' he was chain'd in fetters strang,
O' airn and steel sae heavy,
There was na ane in a' the court,
Sae bra' a man as Geordie.

O she's down on her bended knee,
I wat she's pale and weary,
O pardon, pardon, noble king,
And gie me back my Dearie!

I hae born seven sons to my Geordie dear,
The seventh ne'er saw his daddie:
O pardon, pardon, noble king,
Pity a waefu' lady!

Gar bid the headin-man mak haste!
Our king reply'd fu' lordly:
O noble king, tak a' that's mine,
But gie me back my Geordie.

The Gordons cam and the Gordons ran,
And they were stark and steady;
And ay the word amang them a'
Was, Gordons keep you ready.

An aged lord at the king's right hand
Says, noble king, but hear me;
Gar her tell down five thousand pound
And gie her back her Dearie.

Some gae her marks, some gae her crowns,
Some gae her dollars many;
And she's tell'd down five thousand pound,
And she's gotten again her Dearie.

She blinkit blithe in her Geordie's face,
Says, dear I've brought thee. Geordie:
But there sud been bluidy bouks on the green,
Or I had tint my laddie.

He claspit her by the middle sma',
And he kist her lips sae rosy:
The fairest flower o' woman-kind
Is my sweet, bonie Lady!



One of the earliest recorded versions is by Joan Baez, who included a live performance of the song on her first live album in 1962. The Baez version makes it clear that Geordie's crime was poaching the King's deer, for which the penalty was hanging with a silken rope. It has also been recorded by Ewan MacColl, John Jacob Niles, Doc Watson, Sandy Denny, A. L. Lloyd, Julie Felix, and the British folk rock band Trees, Silly Sisters and Shirley Collins. More recently, Emilie Autumn performed it live.

The ballad became very popular in Italy thanks to Fabrizio de André who translated the ballad into Italian, and this version was later reinterpreted by the folk band Mercanti di Liquore, Angelo Branduardi and the DJ Gabry Ponte.

In September 1965, the ballad was adapted in French by Claude François on his EP "Dona Dona".

Danish band Gasolin recorded an adaptation in 1971 heavily inspired by Baez' rendition. "London Bridge" was translated into "Langebro" - the title of the track. The setting shifts from London to 20th century Copenhagen, though the overall sombre mood of the song remains intact.

Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer perform this song on Child Ballads, released in 2013.

It was also performed by the Russian folk band Sherwood.

In 2015 Galley Beggar recorded a version of Geordie for their album Silence & Tears, with the traditional lyrics being set to original music.


In terms of geography, there are four versions. The Scottish variants mention Geordie being rescued from the scaffold in Edinburgh. This may refer to George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly. One English version mentions Newcastle. This may refer to George Stools, executed in 1610. There are some versions that mention the town "Boheny", but this has never been satisfactorily located. There is a hamlet called Bohenie near Roybridge. Another English version has the execution taking place in London, and the culprit is the Earl of Oxford. The story of the Earl of Oxford was printed in the seventeenth century. The last version is the Danish version taking place in Copenhagen, performed by Gasolin. The Danish title is Langebro.

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