Wild Mountain Thyme

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"Purple Heather" redirects here. For the European plant, see Calluna. For the American plant, see Krameria erecta.

"Wild Mountain Thyme" (also known as "Purple Heather" and "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?") is a folk song written by Francis McPeake, a member of a well known musical family in Belfast, Ireland, and is of Scottish origin.[1] McPeake's lyrics and melody are a variant of the song "The Braes of Balquhither" by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill (1774–1810), a contemporary of Robert Burns. Tannahill's original song, first published in Robert Archibald Smith's Scottish Minstrel (1821–24), is about the hills (braes) around Balquhidder near Lochearnhead. Like Burns, Tannahill collected and adapted traditional songs, and "The Braes of Balquhither" may have been based on the traditional song "The Braes o' Bowhether".


The tune of McPeake's "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).[2][3] Others scholars suggest the melody is based on an old Scottish traditional tune "The Three Carls o' Buchanan".[4]

McPeake dedicated "Wild Mountain Thyme" to his first wife. Many years after she died, McPeake remarried, and his son, Francis McPeake II, wrote an extra verse to celebrate the marriage. "Wild Mountain Thyme" was first recorded by McPeake's nephew, also named Francis McPeake, in 1957 for the BBC series As I Roved Out.[4]

While Francis McPeake holds the copyright to the song, it is generally believed that rather than writing the song, he arranged an already-extant folk version based on traditional lyrics into a version with a different melody that he popularised.[5] When interviewed on radio,[6] Francis McPeake said it was based on a song he heard whilst travelling in Scotland, and he rewrote it later when back in Ireland. 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.[7]


McPeake's version of the song, published in 1957, closely paraphrases the Tannahill version, which was published posthumously in 1821.[1] 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".[8][9][10][11][12]


The following is a list of recordings of the song.[13]


  1. ^ a b Ferguson, Jim (2011). "A weaver in wartime: a biographical study and the letters of Paisley weaver-poet Robert Tannahill (1774–1810).". University of Glasgow. 
  2. ^ "The Braes o' Balquhidder" arr. J.T. Surrene, in The Songs of Scotland vol. 1 (1865) George Farquhar Graham (ed.) pp. 112-113
  3. ^ "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.)
  4. ^ a b Grant, Stewart. "Wild Mountain Thyme (Francis McPeake)". More Roots of Bob. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Hickerson, Joe (March 2008). "New questions with answers.". Sing Out!. 
  6. ^ BBC Radio 2 program "Folk on Two", broadcast in the 1970s by Jim Lloyd
  7. ^ Dunn, Tim (2008). The Bob Dylan Copyright Files, 1962–2007. AuthorHouse. p. 397. ISBN 1438915896. 
  8. ^ Smith, R. A. (1821). Scottish Minstrel. 
  9. ^ Graham, George Farquhar (1850). Scottish Songs. 
  10. ^ "Cantaria: Traditional: Wild Mountain Thyme". Chivalry. Retrieved 23 January 2008. 
  11. ^ "Renaissance Festival Lyrics: The Braes of Balquhidder (Wild Mountain Thyme)". Renaissance Festival Music. Retrieved 23 January 2008. 
  12. ^ Tannahill, Robert (1877). Complete Songs and Poems of Robert Tannahill. Paisley: William Wilson. pp. 6–7. OCLC 262462998. 
  13. ^ "Wild Mountain Thyme". Discogs. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "Fifth Dimension". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  15. ^ "The Minnesota Tapes". Agent EB's Bob Dylan Page. Archived from the original on 6 August 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2009. 
  16. ^ "Bob Dylan & The Band – 31 August 1969 Isle of Wight". The Bootleg Zone. Retrieved 24 July 2009. 

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