The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond
"The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond", or "Loch Lomond" for short, is a Scottish song (Roud No. 9598). The song prominently features Loch Lomond, the largest Scottish loch, located between the council areas of West Dunbartonshire, Stirling and Argyll and Bute. In Scots, "bonnie" means "attractive", "beloved", or "dear".
By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond,
Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.
O ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland a'fore ye,
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.
'Twas there that we parted, in yon shady glen,
On the steep, steep side o' Ben Lomond,
Where in soft purple hue, the highland hills we view,
And the moon coming out in the gloaming.
The wee birdies sing and the wildflowers spring,
And in sunshine the waters are sleeping.
But the broken heart it kens nae second spring again,
Though the waeful may cease frae their grieving.
Historian Murray G. H. Pittock writes that the song "is a Jacobite adaptation of an eighteenth-century erotic song, with the lover dying for his king, and taking only the 'low road' of death back to Scotland." It is one of many poems and songs that emerged from Jacobite political culture in Scotland.
About 1876, the Scottish poet and folklorist Andrew Lang wrote a poem based on the song titled "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond". The title sometimes has the date "1746" appended—the year of the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's rebellion and the hanging of some of his captured supporters. Lang's poem begins:
There's an ending o' the dance, and fair Morag's safe in France,
And the Clans they hae paid the lawing,
And the wuddy has her ain, and we twa are left alane,
Free o' Carlisle gaol in the dawing.
Wuddy means hangman's rope, according to Lang's own notes on the poem; dawing is dawn. The poem continues with the song's well-known chorus, then explains why the narrator and his true love will never meet again:
For my love's heart brake in twa, when she kenned the Cause's fa',
And she sleeps where there's never nane shall waken
The poem's narrator vows to take violent revenge on the English:
While there's heather on the hill shall my vengeance ne'er be still,
While a bush hides the glint o' a gun, lad;
Wi' the men o' Sergeant Môr shall I work to pay the score,
Till I wither on the wuddy in the sun, lad!
The Irish variant of the song is called "Red Is the Rose" and is sung with the same melody but different (although similarly themed) lyrics. It was popularized by Irish folk musician Tommy Makem. Even though many people mistakenly believe that Makem wrote "Red Is the Rose", it is a traditional Irish folk song.
Arrangements and recordings
Ralph Vaughan Williams made an arrangement for baritone solo and unaccompanied male choir in 1921. It has been recorded several times, notably by the tenor Ian Partridge and the London Madrigal Singers for EMI in 1970.
Scottish folk-rock band Runrig have made the song their unofficial anthem, closing their concerts with a rendition for over 25 years. Two verses of the song and the chorus are now a favourite anthem of the supporters of the Scotland rugby team and also of the Tartan Army, the supporters of the Scotland football team, and as such are fixtures including at the respective teams' home games at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh and Hampden Park in Glasgow. One re-recorded version in 2007 for BBC Children in Need that featured both Runrig and the Tartan Army peaked at number nine on the UK singles chart and number one in Scotland. In April 2022, their recording was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for sales and streams exceeding 200,000 units. Possibly taking a cue from Runrig, and sung at a faster marching pace, the original sad lament is enthusiastically bellowed out by thousands of Scots to celebrate a score and to spur on the team.
The Jazz Discography, an online index of studio recordings, live recordings, and broadcast transcriptions of jazz – as of May 22, 2019 – lists 106 recordings of "Loch Lomond" and one recording of "Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond".
A notable big band version of "Loch Lomond", arranged by Claude Thornhill, was recorded in a live performance on January 16, 1938, by the Benny Goodman and His Orchestra on the album, The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert, on January 16, 1938, featuring Martha Tilton on vocals (Columbia SL 160).
Jazz singer Maxine Sullivan, for whom it was a career-defining hit, recorded it at least 14 times:
- Her first on August 6, 1937, with Claude Thornhill (piano), Frankie Newton (trumpet), Buster Bailey (clarinet), Pete Brown (alto sax), Babe Russin (tenor sax), John Kirby (bass), and O'Neil Spencer (drums) (matrix 21472-1; Vocalion-OKeh 364); and
- Her last, in a live performance at the Fujitsu-Concord Jazz Festival in Tokyo, on September 28, 1986, with the Scott Hamilton Quintet. It was her second to last recording. She died 6 months later, on April 7, 1987.
TV and film
In the 1945 Sherlock Holmes film, Pursuit to Algiers, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) sings a rendition of "Loch Lomond" accompanied by Sheila Woodbury (Marjorie Riordan) on the piano.
In the 1955 Disney animated classic Lady and the Tramp, one of its characters, Jock, a Scottish terrier, renders his own version of "The Bonny Banks Of Loch Lomond" when collecting his bones "in the back yard".
It is also heard in Wakko's Wish.
It is sung by the cast during a pub scene in A Castle for Christmas.
In the Hal Roach short comedy film Tit for Tat, Stan Laurel sings a verse of this song after Oliver Hardy declares in a verbal altercation with his neighbor that he will take the "high road" and walk away.
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