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Highland Mary
(Roud 1095)
Martin Reidy
Tullaghaboy, Connolly
Recorded in singer’s home, July 1983

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Reidy

Your banks, and briars, and streams around
The castle of Montgomery.
Green be your fields, and fair your flowers,
Your water never drumlie!

Where the summer sunsets unfold her robes,
And there the lovers tarry:
’Twas there I broke my last farewell
On my sweet Highland Mary.

With many vows, and soft embrace,
Our parting was so tender.
And pledging yours, to meet again,
We tore ourselves asunder.

Whilst up on deck, our time well struck,
Which mars my thoughts right clearly.
Oh green God speeds, and countless men,
That wraps my Highland Mary.

And in the lonely hours of night,
To the green churchyard I’ll wander.
Oh fare thee well, I know the spot,
Where Mary dear lies under.

I’ll weep her in her silent grief,
I’ll sit there and there be wary.
For pleasure there, is none for me,
Without my Highland Mary.


Conversation after the song between Martin Reidy, Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll:
Martin: That’s it!
Jim: That’s grand. Where did you have that from Martin?
Martin: I learned that from the old records on the old gramophone.
Jim: Did you?
Martin: I did. A lot of songs I had off of the old gramophone. Didn’t you ever hear of the old gramophones?
Pat: Yes.

“Robert Burns wrote this in 1786 as a tribute to his lover, Mary Campbell of Auchamore; she is said to have been referred to as ‘Highland Mary’ because of her broad Scots manner of speech. The poem has been included in most of Burns collections and is thought to have been one of his finest. It appeared in many broadsides, chapbooks and song anthologies throughout the 19th century, including Irish American songbooks in the 1800s. Its first appearance in oral tradition in Ireland was a version taken down from the singing of Mrs Brigid Geary of Camphire, County Waterford in 1906, and it was recorded again by the BBC from Mrs Brigid Tunney of Belleek, Co. Fermanagh. Later, another song appeared on the same subject entitled ‘Burns and His Highland Mary’ (Roud 820; Laws O34). Burns wrote of the poem:

‘This was a composition of mine in very early life, before I was known at all in the world. My Highland lassie was a warm-hearted charming young creature as ever blessed a man with generous love. After a pretty long tract of the most ardent reciprocal attachment we met by appointment, on the second Sunday of May, in a sequestered spot by the Banks of Ayr, where we spent the day in taking farewell, before she should embark for the West Highlands to arrange matters among her friends for our projected change of life. At the close of autumn following she crossed the sea to meet me at Greenock, where she had scarce landed when she was seized with a malignant fever, which hurried my dear girl to the grave in a few days, before I could even hear of her illness.’”
Jim Carroll

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