My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean

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"My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" is a traditional Scottish folk song that remains popular in Western culture.


Although the song's origin is uncertain, its original subject could possibly be Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie'):[1] after the defeat of the Prince at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and his subsequent exile, his Jacobite supporters could have sung this song or one like it in his honour; and thanks to the ambiguity of the term "bonnie", which can refer to a woman as well as to a man, they could pretend it was a love song.

The English traditional singing group The Watersons, on their 1975 album "For Pence and Spicy Ale" sing a song from the English tradition called "My Barney Lies over the Ocean" which has a slightly different melody and is said to be an antecedent. In the liner notes for the song, the musicologist A. L. Lloyd says about "My Barney": "A stage song favoured by Irish comedians from the 1860s on. During the 1880s, apparently on American university campuses, close harmony groups remade it into the better-known - and even more preposterous - 'My Bonny Lies over the Ocean'. Watersons had this from Bob Davenport who learnt it from a Frank Quinn 78."[2]

In 1881, under the duo of pseudonyms H.J. Fuller and J.T. Wood, Charles E. Pratt published sheet music for "Bring Back My Bonnie to Me".[3][4][5] Theodore Raph in his 1964 book American song treasury: 100 favorites, writes that people were requesting the song at sheet music stores in the 1870s, and Pratt was convinced to publish a version of it under the pseudonyms, and the song became a big hit, especially popular with college singing groups but also popular for all group singing situations.[4]


My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me...
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me

O blow ye winds over the ocean
o blow ye winds over the sea
O blow ye winds over the ocean
and bring back my bonnie to me

Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me

Last night as I lay on my pillow
Last night as I lay on my bed
Last night as I lay on my pillow
I dreamt that my bonnie was dead

Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me

The winds have blown over the ocean
The winds have blown over the sea
The winds have blown over the ocean
And brought back my bonnie to me

Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me


There are numerous variations and parodies of the song. Many of these are a result of the song being sung often to children and being a common campfire song for organizations such as the Boy Scouts.[6] These campfire versions are occasionally accompanied by interactive movements, such as sitting down or standing up every time a word that begins with the letter "b" is sung[citation needed].

My Bonnie leaned over the gas tank,
The height of its contents to see,
I lit a small match to assist her,
O Bring back my Bonnie to me.

Repeat chorus

Last night as I lay on my pillow,
Last night as I lay on my bed,
I stuck my feet out of the window,
In the morning the neighbors were dead.

Repeat chorus

Oh, Dory swam over the ocean,
Oh, Dory swam over the sea,
Oh, Dory swam over the ocean,
Now Dory has swum back to me.

Repeat chorus

My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,
My Bonnie Lies over the Sea,
My Daddy laid over my Mommy,
And that is how I came to be.

Repeat chorus

My mother, she drowned in the bathtub,
My father, he died from his gin,
My sister she choked on her chocolate,
My stars, what a fix I am in.

Repeat chorus

I tried making beer in the bathtub,
I tried making synthetic gin,
I tried making fudge for a living,
Now look at the shape that I'm in.

Repeat chorus

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Fleischer brothers filmed this song in DeForest Phonofilm, part of their Song Car-Tunes series, released 15 September 1925, and notable as the first film to use the ‘follow the bouncing ball’ technique.[7][8]
  • Arthur Housman's drunken character merrily sings this song in the Laurel & Hardy 1932 short Scram! whilst pouring liquor into a jug.
  • In the Woody Woodpecker 1944 cartoon "The Beach Nut", this song is sung by Woody and by Wally Walrus.
  • My Bunny Lies Over The Sea, a short ‘Bugs Bunnycartoon film whose title parodies the song, was released by Warner Brothers in 1948.[9]
  • In the Abbott and Costello film The Naughty Nineties (June 20, 1945), Costello auditions for Captain Sam's riverboat show by singing "My Bonnie". Behind him, Abbott shouts directions to the stage crew in setting up a backdrop curtain ("Move it to the left", "Lower", "Higher", "Lift up the right leg", etc.) Oblivious to this, Costello thinks Abbott is directing him and follows his every command, moving to the left, singing higher, lower, and so forth.
  • The song plays a prominent role in the I Love Lucy episode "The Quiz Show" (first aired November 10, 1951).
  • Duane Eddy hit the US Top 30 and UK Top 15 in 1960 with an instrumental rock and roll version titled "Bonnie Came Back"
  • A rock n' roll arrangement of the song, entitled just 'My Bonnie', was recorded in 1961 by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers, peaking at #5 on the Hit Parade in West Germany. (The 'Beat Brothers' were actually The Beatles – record executives felt their not-yet-famous real name was too phonetically similar to a German obscenity – and the recording was re-released on the Anthology 1 compilation album in 1995.)[10]
  • Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album On the Sentimental Side (1962).
  • In the 1965 comic story by Carl Barks The Phantom of Notre Duck, Scrooge McDuck installs an electronic door opener for his money bin that only opens to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" played on a special fife.
  • In the 1985 Indonesian film Kesempatan dalam Kesempitan (id), in which the song was sung in a jazz tune.
  • Episode 13 of Season 1 of the television series Murder, She Wrote (1985) is entitled "My Johnny Lies Over The Sea"
  • Episode 17 of Season 15 (My Big Fat Geek Wedding) of the television series The Simpsons (2004) uses "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" with a scene of Principal Skinner.
  • On December 20, 2011, JibJab released a video about the year 2011 in review with a song called "2011, Buh-Bye", to the tune of the title song.[11]
  • Laura Wright recorded a version, featured on her album The Last Rose (2011)
  • MTV's Jackass Present's Bad Grandpa had the character Billy (Jackson Nicoll) and the Grandpa (Johnny Knoxville) decide to enter Billy as a girl into a girls beauty pageant and perform the song with a dance in one of the rounds.
  • In How I Met Your Mother (season 6, episode 10), Barney Stinson and Marshall Eriksen sing "My Blitzy Lies Over the Ocean" in reference to the "Blitz phenomenon" by which the "Blitzed" person misses all the amazing events at a party (they occur after the Blitz abandons the party).
  • In 2016, Disney and sound button book company Play-a-Sound published a musical sound button book based on its 2016 animated feature film Finding Dory, titled "Swim Along with Me". In the book, there is a sound button that features the character Destiny the whale shark. It plays the tune to the song, and the parody is called "Oh, Dory Swam Over the Ocean", that the terms "over the ocean" and "over the sea" is used, though it does not have to do anything with a whale shark. It tells the story about how Dory got lost and how she returned for $6.
  • In The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, the main characters sing a song based on this one called "My Diamonds Lie over the Ocean."
  • In 2012 Hollie Steel starred and sang "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean"[12] in the 55 minute musical docudrama, Children on the Titanic[13] available on Amazon Video.[14]
  • Ray Charles recorded an R&B arrangement of the song in 1958 for Atlantic Records.


  1. ^ Herman Finer (1956). Governments of greater European powers: a comparative study of the governments and political culture of Great Britain, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union, Volume 1. Holt. p. 178.
  2. ^ The Watersons, "For Pence and Spicy Ale", Topic Records, catalogue no. 12TS265, 1975, UK
  3. ^ Burton, Jack. The blue book of Tin Pan Alley: a human interest encyclopedia of American popular music, Volume 1, p. 9, 47 (1965)
  4. ^ a b Raph, Theodore. The American song treasury: 100 favorites, pp. 201–03 (1964)
  5. ^ Herder, Ronald. 500 best-loved song lyrics, p. 231 (1998)
  6. ^ Campfire Song Book - Audience participation songs
  7. ^ John Grant (2001). Masters of Animation. Watson–Guptill. ISBN 0-8230-3041-5.
  8. ^ IMDb entry
  9. ^ Warner Brothers (1948) My Bunny Lies Over The Sea on IMDb ; Animation, Short, Comedy
  10. ^ Everett, Walter (2001). The Beatles As Musicians: The Quarry Men through Rubber Soul. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514105-4.
  11. ^
  12. ^ 10 song 34 minute album from BB5 Records Ltd. available as mp3 download. Retrieved 20 June 2012
  13. ^ website for "Children on the Titanic" accessed 11 August 2013.
  14. ^ Amazon listing for "Children on the Titanic" accessed 26 December 2014