Wild Mountain Thyme
"Wild Mountain Thyme" (also known as "Purple Heather" and "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?") is a Scottish/Irish folk song. The lyrics and melody are a variant of the song "The Braes of Balquhither" by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill (1774–1810) and Scottish composer Robert Archibald Smith (1780–1829), but were adapted by Belfast musician Francis McPeake (1885–1971) into "Wild Mountain Thyme" and first recorded by his family in the 1950s.
Tannahill's original song, first published in Robert Archibald Smith's Scottish Minstrel (1821–24), is about the hills (braes) around Balquhidder near Lochearnhead. Tannahill collected and adapted traditional songs, and "The Braes of Balquhither" may have been based on the traditional song "The Braes o' Bowhether".
The existing tune of "Wild Mountain Thyme" is significantly different from Tannahill's "The Braes of Balquhither", which was most likely based on a traditional air. In an 1854 publication, George Farquhar Graham notes that Tannahill's song was set to the air "Bochuiddar" (Balquidder), as found in Captain Simon Fraser's Collection of Melodies of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (1816). Other scholars suggest the melody is based on an old Scottish traditional tune "The Three Carls o' Buchanan".
McPeake is said to have dedicated the song to his first wife, but his son wrote an additional verse in order to celebrate his father's remarriage. "Wild Mountain Thyme" was first recorded by McPeake's nephew, also named Francis McPeake, in 1957 for the BBC series As I Roved Out.
While Francis McPeake holds the copyright to the song, it is generally believed that rather than writing the song, he arranged an existing travelling folk version and popularised the song as his father's. When interviewed on radio, Francis McPeake said it was based on a song he heard whilst travelling in Scotland, and he rewrote it later. Bob Dylan's recording of the song cited it as traditional, with the arranger unknown, though Dylan's copyright records indicate that the song is sometimes "attributed to" McPeake.
The original version of the song, published in 1957, closely paraphrases the Tannahill version, which was published posthumously in 1822. Tannahill's original lyrics include a number of phrases that McPeake carried over into his song, including the lines "Let us go, lassie, go" and "And the wild mountain thyme" as he rewrote the song.
In her book Fragrance and Wellbeing: Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche, author Jennifer Peace Rhind describes "Wild Mountain Thyme" as essentially a love song, with the line, "Wild Mountain Thyme grows among the Scottish heather" perhaps being an indirect reference to the old custom of young women wearing a sprig of thyme, mint or lavender to attract a suitor. Rhind also notes that, in British folklore, the thyme plant was the fairies' playground and often the herb would be left undisturbed for their use.
The following is a chronological list of recordings of the song.
- Francis McPeake for the BBC series As I Roved Out (1957)
- David Hammond on I Am the Wee Falorie Man (1958)
- Sandy Paton on Many Sides of Sandy Paton (1959)
- The McPeake Family on McPeake Family of Belfast (1961)
- Judy Collins on A Maid of Constant Sorrow (1961)
- The Clancy Brothers (as "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?") on The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone (1962), Live on St. Patrick's Day (1973), and Reunion (1984), and the video/DVD Farewell to Ireland (1996)
- The Courriers on Carry On (1963)
- Paul Clayton on Folk Singer (1965)
- Joan Baez on Farewell, Angelina (1965)
- The New Christy Minstrels (as "Go, Lassie, Go") on Wandering Minstrels (1965)
- Lee Mallory on unreleased recording with producer Curt Boettcher & The Ballroom (1966), later released on Mallory's collections "That's the Way It's Gonna Be" and "Many Are the Times" (2003)
- The Byrds on Fifth Dimension (1966)
- Marianne Faithfull on North Country Maid (1966)
- The Corries on The Corries: In Concert (1969)
- Bob Dylan performed the song with The Band at the Isle of Wight festival on August 31, 1969. This performance was eventually released in 2013 on the Deluxe Edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971). Dylan and Joan Baez sang "Wild Mountain Thyme" together on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour and two live performances of the song from that tour were released in 2019 on the box set The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings.
- Nana Mouskouri on Turn on the Sun (1970)
- Long John Baldry on Everything Stops for Tea (1972)
- The Alexander Brothers on Married by the Bible (1972)
- Van Morrison (as "Purple Heather") on Hard Nose the Highway (1973)
- Strawbs (as "Will You Go") on the B Side of the single Part of the Union (1973), Bursting at the Seams (Bonus Track) and Halcyon Days
- Brenda Wootton and Robert Bartlett (as Brenda and Robert) on Tin In The Stream (1974)
- Buddy Emmons on Steel Guitar (1975)
- Thin Lizzy on Black Rose: A Rock Legend; arrangement by Gary Moore and Phil Lynott (1979)
- George Hamilton IV on Forever Young (1979)
- Bert Jansch on Heartbreak (1982)
- Marianne Faithfull on North Country Maid Faithfull Sings Folk Songs (1983)
- Rick Stanley on On English Hills (1983)
- Bernadette on Back on the Road Again (1984)
- Penelope Houston on Birdboys (1987)
- The Tannahill Weavers on Dancing Feet (1987)
- Nigel & the Crosses on Time Between – A Tribute to The Byrds (1989)
- Nancy Cassidy on Kid Songs Jubilee (1990)
- Meg Davis on Meg Davis Live at Dennos (1992)
- Tommy Makem, Barley Bree, Cherish the Ladies, and Ronnie D'addario (as "Go Lassie Go") on Tommy Makem and Friends in Concert (1992)
- Glenn Frey on Glenn Frey Live (1993)
- The Silencers on So Be It (1994) and Real (2008)
- Jim Diamond on Sugarolly Days (1994)
- Viva Brother (as "Will You Go") on Pipe Dreams (1994)
- Rod Stewart (as "Purple Heather") on A Spanner in the Works (1995)
- The Irish Rovers on The Irish Rovers' Gems (1996)
- John McDermott on When I Grow Too Old to Dream (1997)
- Lisa Lynne on Quiet Heart (1997)
- Big Country (instrumental) on "Fields of Fire" on the Final Fling Tour (1999–2000)
- Real McKenzies on Clash of the Tartans (2000)
- The Masterless Men on Back on Track (2000)
- Mark Knopfler on A Shot at Glory (2001)
- Enter the Haggis on Live! (2002)
- Papa M on Three (2003)
- The Chieftains on Further Down the Old Plank Road (2003)
- Emerald Rose on Celtic Crescent (2003)
- Jim McCann on Ireland's Greatest Love Songs (2003)
- James Taylor on Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Reflections, Vol. 1 (2003)
- Brian Kennedy (as "Will Ye Go Lassie Go") on On Song (2003)
- Broadside Electric on Black-edged Visiting Card
- Albert Kuvezin and Yat-Kha on Re-Covers (2005)
- Keltik Elektrik with Jim Malcolm on Putumayo Presents Celtic Crossroads (2005)
- Kate Rusby (as "Blooming Heather") on Awkward Annie (2007)
- Lucy Wainwright Roche on 8 Songs (2007)
- Moira Nelson on Echoes of Another Time (2007)
- Maggie Reilly on Rowan (2007)
- The High Kings (as "Will Ye Go, Lassie Go") on their first, self-titled album (2008)
- Lauren Yason, Richard Fox, and Caroline Dale for the film Stone of Destiny (2008)
- Blake on And So it Goes (2008)
- Fotheringay on Fotheringay 2 (2008)
- Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians on Luminous Groove (2008)
- Lark & Spur on Once in France (2008)
- Ronan Keating on Songs for My Mother (2009)
- Robin Pecknold (as White Antelope) (2009)
- Denis Ryan on Denis Ryan Mist Covered Mountains
- Jean Redpath
- Amanda on Amanda: Tres (2005)
- Damh the Bard on Tales from the Crow Man (2009)
- Stuart Murdoch recorded the song with another set of lyrics, on the "Dark Was the Night" compilation (2009)
- The Real McKenzies on Shine Not Burn (2010)
- Chelsea House Orchestra on Crossing the Border (2010)
- Ben Folds on Download for Good (2011)
- Mudmen on Donegal Danny (2012)
- The Rumjacks on Crosses for Eyes (2012)
- The Dolmen on Whispering Winds (2012)
- Lauren Yason on Stone of Destiny (2013)
- Derek Ryan on The Simple Things (2014)
- Devin Townsend (adaptation/new lyrics) on Synchestra 2006
- 10,000 Maniacs, on the album Twice Told Tales (2015)
- James Taylor, on the album Before This World (2015)
- The Bombadils, on the album New Shoes (2016, Borealis Records)
- Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band, on the album "Adiós Señor Pussycat" (2017, Violette)
- Angelo Kelly & Family, on the album "Irish Heart" (2018)
- The Longest Johns, on the album "Between Wind and Water" (2018)
- Marc Gunn, on the album "The Bridge" (2010). It was released also on "Best of the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast" (2009)
- Emmet Cahill, on the album “Emmet Cahill’s Ireland” (2017)
- Ferguson, Jim (2011). "A weaver in wartime: a biographical study and the letters of Paisley weaver-poet Robert Tannahill (1774–1810)" (PDF). University of Glasgow.
- "The Braes o' Balquhidder" arr. J.T. Surrene, in The Songs of Scotland vol. 1 (1865) George Farquhar Graham (ed.) pp. 112-113
- "Bochuiddar" as performed by Major Logan. no.77 in The Airs and Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland and the Isles Captain Simon Fraser (ed.)
- Grant, Stewart. "Wild Mountain Thyme". More Roots of Bob. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
- Hickerson, Joe (March 2008). "New questions with answers". Sing Out!. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013.
- BBC Radio 2 program "Folk on Two", broadcast in the 1970s by Jim Lloyd
- Dunn, Tim (2008). The Bob Dylan Copyright Files, 1962–2007. AuthorHouse. p. 397. ISBN 978-1438915890.
- Smith, R. A. (1821). Scottish Minstrel.
- Graham, George Farquhar (1850). Scottish Songs.
- "Cantaria: Traditional: Wild Mountain Thyme". Chivalry. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
- "Renaissance Festival Lyrics: The Braes of Balquhidder (Wild Mountain Thyme)". Renaissance Festival Music. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
- Tannahill, Robert (1877). Complete Songs and Poems of Robert Tannahill. Paisley: William Wilson. pp. 6–7. OCLC 262462998.
- Rhind, Jennifer Peace (21 October 2013). Fragrance and Wellbeing: Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche. London: Singing Dragon. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-85701-073-5.
- "Wild Mountain Thyme". Discogs. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- "Fifth Dimension". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
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- Wild Mountain Thyme (lyrics and MP3 file)