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Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder

DigiTrad:
BRAES OF BALQUIDDER
FLOWERS OF PEACE
GO, LASSIE, GO
HIGHLANDS OF HEAVEN
PEGGY ALISON
THE BRAES OF BELQUETHER
THE FAIR O' BALAMINNA
THE WILD MOUNTING TIME
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME


Related threads:
wild mountain thyme (30)
Chord Req: Braes o Balquhidder (47)
Wild mountain thyme (63)
Lyr Req: Fourth verse for Wild Mountain Thyme (41)
Lyr/Chords Req: Wild Mountain Thyme (43)
Wild Mountain Thyme - Why doesn't it rhyme (97)
(origins) Origins: And Holy Is His Name (12)
(origins) Origin: Wild Mountain Thyme (56)
Lyr/Chords Req: Wild Mountain Thyme (6)
Name that tune? (16)
Lyr Req: Go, Lassie, Go (15)
Lyr Add: Braes o' Balquidder (27)
Wild Mountain Thyme as Tuvan throat (9)
Tablature needed for Wild Mountain Thyme (7)
Chords Req: Go Lassie Go (4)
Mrs Pavane sings Wild Mountain Thyme (7)
Lyr Req: woman pulling wild mountain thyme (17)
Lyr Req: Will ye go Lassie, go. OTHER PARODY (13)
Lyr Req: Will ya go lassie go. (19)
Lyr/Chords Req: wild moutain thyme (7)
Lyr Req: Wild Mountain Thyme / Braes o' Balquidder (8)
Lyr Add: Braes o' Balquither (13)
Lyr Add: Wild Mountain Thyme--Variation (32)
Lyr/Tune Req: Wild Mountain Thyme (17)
we'll all go together,neath bloomi'n heather (9)
Scottish poem on which Wild Mtn.Thyme based? (3)
source req: Wild Mtn. Thyme (4)
Wild Mtn. Thyme print source (1)


Dave Rado 16 Jan 20 - 07:12 PM
Dave Rado 17 Jan 20 - 10:56 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 17 Jan 20 - 11:00 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 17 Jan 20 - 11:04 AM
Dave Rado 17 Jan 20 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 17 Jan 20 - 11:19 AM
Dave Rado 17 Jan 20 - 11:21 AM
Dave Rado 17 Jan 20 - 11:31 AM
Dave Rado 17 Jan 20 - 11:38 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 17 Jan 20 - 11:47 AM
Dave Rado 17 Jan 20 - 04:57 PM
gillymor 17 Jan 20 - 06:25 PM
rich-joy 17 Jan 20 - 07:17 PM
rich-joy 17 Jan 20 - 08:30 PM
GUEST,Rossey 18 Jan 20 - 03:39 AM
GUEST,Rossey 18 Jan 20 - 03:41 AM
Jim McLean 18 Jan 20 - 05:41 AM
GUEST,Jerry 18 Jan 20 - 07:33 AM
leeneia 18 Jan 20 - 02:06 PM
Jim McLean 18 Jan 20 - 03:54 PM
Jack Campin 18 Jan 20 - 04:47 PM
Jim McLean 18 Jan 20 - 06:07 PM
Jim McLean 18 Jan 20 - 06:13 PM
Dave Rado 05 Feb 20 - 08:19 PM
Jim McLean 06 Feb 20 - 03:43 AM
Jim McLean 06 Feb 20 - 05:17 AM
Jim McLean 07 Feb 20 - 11:33 AM
Bill D 07 Feb 20 - 12:25 PM
Jim McLean 07 Feb 20 - 02:34 PM
GUEST,Bill Ogden 07 Feb 20 - 03:57 PM
GUEST 07 Feb 20 - 04:08 PM
Jim McLean 09 Feb 20 - 04:05 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 10 Feb 20 - 10:33 AM
Bill D 10 Feb 20 - 02:26 PM
Jack Campin 10 Feb 20 - 02:59 PM
Jim McLean 10 Feb 20 - 04:37 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 11 Feb 20 - 10:44 AM
Jim McLean 11 Feb 20 - 04:06 PM
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Subject: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 16 Jan 20 - 07:12 PM

1) Although I've heard the Braes o' Balquhidder sung to a tune very similar to that of Wild Mountain Thyme (e.g. here), the tune it is is usually sung to, e.g. by Kenneth McKellar, Alma Gluck, Carl Peterson among others, is very different from the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme.

I presume this must therefore be the tune that Tannahill set his song to, although I can't find a definitive confirmation of that - according to many sources, he set it to the tune of a traditional air called "The Three Carls o' Buchanan," but I can't find any recordings of "The Three Carls o' Buchanan". So my first question is whether I'm right in thinking that the tune that McKellar, Gluck and Peterson sang it to is in fact the tune that Tannahill set it to.

2) If the answer to my first question is "yes", then whereas words of Wild Mountain Thyme are clearly derived from those of The Braes o' Balquhidder, their tunes are completely unrelated; in which case, what's the origin of Wild Mountain Thyme's tune? Did Francis McPeake compose it from scratch, or is it derived from yet another traditional tune?

I've read loads of mudcat threads about both songs but to my surprise I can't find any discussion of the origin of WMT's tune - and the Wikipedia article about Wild Mountain Thyme doesn't mention this either, despite the fact that it does discuss the origin of The Braes o' Balquhidder's tune!

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Dave

PS - The Tannahill Weavers also sing The Braes of Balquhidder to a tune very similar to the one that McKellar, Gluck and Peterson sang it to, but not quite the same and I don't like theirs as much.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 10:56 AM

By the way, another folk singer who has recorded The Braes of Balquhidder to the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme is John MacDonald, whose recording of it is on Amazon and Spotify among other places.

Also, the rampantscotland website claims here that the The Braes o' Balquhidder has the same tune as Wild Mountain Thyme.

But it seems unlikely to me that Robert Tannahill set it to that tune, given that McKellar, Gluck, Peterson and The Tannahill Weavers all sing it to the same, very different, tune (or almost the same in the case of The Tannahill Weavers) - especially as Gluck recorded it in 1910, long before Wild Mountain Thyme was written.

So I'm guessing that after Wild Mountain Thyme was written, some people started singing The Braes o' Balquhidder to the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme because of the fact that they share such similar words.

Another possibility, though, is that The Braes o' Balquhidder had acquired two different tunes even before Wild Mountain Thyme was written, and that Francis McPeake used one of those for Wild Mountain Thyme.

Can anyone clarify?

Many thanks

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:00 AM

Dave on the very first recording of the song McPeake says that he learned the song as a child from an old uncle. He says he played about on the tune with the pipes. Not very clear really as to how much he changed it as I suppose we don't know what tune his uncle used before McPeake played around with it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:04 AM

Scroll on the recording to 39:40 and you hear McPeake talking about the song before and after playing it


https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Peter-Kennedy-Collection/025M-C0604X0556XX-0001V0?fbclid=IwAR2UA7cjRJ9ECD8FI000


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:06 AM

Hi Allan

In other interviews he has said that he heard a similar song while visiting Scotland as an adult (presumably The Braes o' Balquhidder) and adapted the Scottish song - so I'm not sure that his memory on this is reliable.

In any case, the tune that McKellar, Gluck, Peterson and The Tannahill Weavers all sing it to doesn't seem to me to have any relationship at all with the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme - I don't see how one could have been derived from the other.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:19 AM

I think that you might be right in that folks nowadays realise the words to WMT are from TBOB and just then fit the words from Tannahill to the newer tune.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:21 AM

Hi again Allan

I've just listened to the recording you've linked to, which is very interesting (although as I said he apparently told a different story in other interviews).

It doesn't help much, though, in getting to the bottom of which tune The The Braes o' Balquhidder was originally set to. It is supposed to have been set to the tune of "The Three Carls o' Buchanan," but I can't find that tune anywhere. Any thoughts?

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:31 AM

Hi again Allan

I've just seen your most recent post, which you posted while I was writing my previous post.

Well assuming that the tune that McKellar et al sing The Braes to is its original tune, I wonder how it evolved into The Wild Mountain Thyme?

Interestingly, although Francis McPeake is generally credited as having written WMT (albeit somewhat plagiarised from TBOB), in the interview you linked to he takes no credit at all for having written it, and says he thinks it's a traditional folk song - which begs the questions of 1) why he copyrighted it, 2) why at least one of his close relatives have posted in past mudcat threads and said that he did indeed write it, and 3) why he has apparently said in other interviews that he first heard it in Scotland and adapted it.

Many thanks again for linking to that interview - it was fascinating to hear the man.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:38 AM

Also, if we take what he says in the interview you linked to at face value, WMT isn't a plagiarised variant of TBOB as is generally thought, but rather is a variant of of TBOB that has evolved naturally in Ireland as part of the folk process.

Does anyone else have any insights into this? Or into where the tune of WMT might have come from, given that it (if the above discussions are correct) it is too different from the original tune of TBOB to have evolved from it?

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 11:47 AM

As far as I have heard he was encouraged by Kennedy (the interviewer) to copyright it. As you say he doesn't even claim to have actually written the words apart from a couple of lines. The "if my true love can not come" bit. Apart from that the verses are just mixed up a bit and the words "all go together" inserted for "Braes of Balquhidder". I remember reading the McPeake website and his younger family make the claim that the words are his and purely biographical which obviously doesn't hold true at all. Re the whole thing yes I'd agree it seems to be a new tune to an existing but adapted lyric.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 04:57 PM

Thanks Allan, that's very helpful. But do you - or does anyone - have any idea whether the new tune was written by McPeake or by an anonymous Irishman? (AFAIK that tune wasn't sung in Scotland until McPeake popularised it). And also whether that tune was written specifically for Wild Mountain Thyme or whether it's a traditional air that someone set to WMT?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: gillymor
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 06:25 PM

Connie Dover put together verses from both songs in her arrangement and used a melody similar to the one McPeake used.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: rich-joy
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 07:17 PM

FWIW :
One of the many recordings of this song and its variants now on YouTube, mentions that Tannahill: "apparently adapted it from a song written by John Hamilton, c.1792" .... (wonder if this could be the "3 Carles ...." number???)

Ewan MacColl's 1964 recording of "The Braes o' Balquither" found here :   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tyYZLeVrLs
is slower and different to the Alma Gluck, Jock Tamson's Bairns et al version, but I can't lay my hands on the liner notes of his LP at present to add detail.

Geordie McIntyre and Alison McMorland though, are noted as singing their variant from the Greig-Duncan folk song collection.

R-J


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: rich-joy
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 08:30 PM

Re my last post,
I just located the liner notes for Ewan's LP and he learnt the song from his mother (Betsy Henry/Hendry of Auchterarder) and it seems to be one of the trove of songs his parents brought from Scotland when they moved to England c.1910, for work.

This page also adds to the Tannahill/McPeake origin stories :
https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Braes_of_Balquidder_(The)

But! Sorry, no closer to the origins of the McPeake tune .....

R-J


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Rossey
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 03:39 AM

Great link here a fantastic summary of the known history. I am desperate to hear 'the three carls.'. Although numerous early printings say 'the braes.'.was set to the melody I can't find an aural recording or printing combining the two to see what that melody was. How can it be so famous, that people didn't need to print it - yet now completely 'lost?

http://jopiepopie.blogspot.com/search/label/Will%20You%20Go%20Lassie%20Go%20%281960%29


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Rossey
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 03:41 AM

Oops sorry Blue clicky didn't work

http://jopiepopie.blogspot.com/search/label/Will%20You%20Go%20Lassie%20Go%20%281960%29


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 05:41 AM

In 2008 I received an MSc in Scottish Ethnology from Edinburgh University for a thesis titled "A Study of Two Tunes: the Three Carles o' Buchanan and the Braes o' Balquhither in their Cultural Contexts from 1740 to the Present Day".
I come from Paisley, the birthplace of Robert Tannahill, and was always intrigued by the designation of The Three Carles... as the melody of his poem hence my research.

The argument is basically about oral transmission verses the printed page.

I reckon I can answer the points raised but very, very briefly here.

The McPeake's tune is entirely original and entirely different from the tune commonly sung by Alma Gluck et al although the the lyrics are obviously based on Tannahill's.

R A Smith printed in the Scotish (sic) Minstrel Vol 1 1821 the melody sung by Alma Gluck which very closely resembles the melody Burns used for And I'll kiss Ye Yet, Yet, Johnson's Musical Museum, 1788. Both melodies were variants of an old dance tune The Braes of Balquhider, John Walsh 1741, .....

I found an untitled sheet music dated 1810 for "The Braes o' Balquither.. Written by Robert Tannahill" and this is different from any of the above. Tannahill died in 1810 so his lyrics were set to music before R A Smith.
However Smith printed this tune under the title of The Three Carles ... In his Vol lV 1824 2nd edition.

It would seem that Smith's first version was copied by subsequent music publishers and Alma Gluck et al used this version.

The oral transmitted versions are much closer to the Three Carles ..... and Betsy Miller's, McColl's mother, is one such version.

Hamish Henderson wrote on the sleeve notes to John MacDonald's version that the tune was the Three Carles.... but in fact MacDonald sang the McPeake's tune.

Geordie McIntyre and Alison MacMorland sang their own tune as told to me by Geordie.

The Tannahill Weavers's tune is hybrid and doesn't cover the range of the Three Carles....

Greig/Duncan didn't pick up on the Irish songwriter Hugh McWilliams song The Lass Among the Heather whose lyrics became entangled with Tannahill's so much so that Jeannie Robertson recorded a verse from each song but called it the Braes o' Balquidder.

Hugh McWilliam's set his lyrics to Saint Helena which has great similarities to The Three Carles....

As I said this is a very, very, brief response to the points raised and my dissertation is too long to publish here.

I could loan someone a copy if required.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 07:33 AM

I think that clears it up well, thanks. I can recall years ago being surprised to find sheet music for this song that was well pre-dating the copyrighted McPeake version. In pop music circles there would have been lawsuits, but in folk circles we just call it the Folk process and let it go.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: leeneia
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 02:06 PM

carl - a peasant, a man of low birth

carle - noun. Scot. a strong, robust fellow, especially a strong manual laborer. a miser; an extremely thrifty person.

It's good to have that cleared up.
===============
I clicked on the Braes of Balquidder in the DT (see near the top of this page). At first I thought it was a strathspey, but then I noticed that it changes from 2/4 to 3/4 and back. This is an unusual tune for a folk song. Interesting!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 03:54 PM

Leeneia, that's a hybrid version and the 3/4 is suggesting a pause. The foirst known print version of the tune is Douglas Young's 1740 and the timing is 4/4 (also subsequent printings).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 04:47 PM

Can't easily check on this old phone, but I posted John Hamilton's 1792 version in another thread. All I can remember about it is that it wasn't McPeake's tune, wasn't very good, and had some notational booboos. Was it the same as any of these other tunes?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 06:07 PM

John Hamilton's tune of 1796 is almost identical to Burns's And I'll Kiss Ye Yet, Yet JSMM 1788.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 18 Jan 20 - 06:13 PM

PS Jack, Hamilton also copied lines from Burns' song so he like more than the melody, The Braes o' Bowhether.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Dave Rado
Date: 05 Feb 20 - 08:19 PM

Apologies for taking so long to reply to this thread and to all your wonderful posts. I can’t read music and it’s taken me until now to make sense of it all with the help of a friend, James Eisner, who can. He’s made and uploaded a couple of recordings – which I’ve linked to below – from some of the sheet music that was linked to previously.

Many thanks in particular to Rossey for his fabulous link to the Joop’s Musical Flowers blog post; to “rich-joy” for his two links: to Ewan MacColl’s recording of the song (which I’d never have found on my own); and to the sheet music of the traditional air called The Braes of Balwhither. Most of all, many thanks to Jim McLean for his very helpful post. (I’ve already thanked Allan Conn in a previous post for his link to Peter Kennedy’s fascinating interview with Francis McPeake).

I still have some important questions that I don’t think have been answered yet. However, I’ll write a summary of my understanding of all that is known about the various tunes that both songs have been sung to, as I think it would be useful to have all this information and all the important links (which are currently scattered across many different posts and web pages) laid out in a single post; and I’ll include my remaining questions, marked in bold, within the following summary.

I'm afraid that makes this a rather long post! I couldn't think of anything that I could leave out without losing some important information.

As well as answering my questions, if Jim or anyone else thinks I’ve got any of my facts wrong, please could you put me right.

1) Wild Mountain Thyme


A) Wild Mountain Thyme was first recorded in 1952 with the title Will Ye Go, Lassie Go, sung by Francis McPeake (1885–1971), during the course of an interview with Peter Kennedy. The interview can be played on the British Library website here and the relevant section starts 39m 40s into the recording. (If you have an ad blocker you may have to disable it for this site in order to be able to play the interview).

In the interview, Francis McPeake said he learnt the song from an uncle and that he thought it was a traditional song. However, I’m wondering whether he might have meant that he learnt The Braes of Balquhidder from an uncle: more on this below.


B) Later in the same year, 1952, Francis McPeake and his son (also called Francis), recorded a 10” LP featuring the song – again with the title Will Ye Go, Lassie Go. There is a photo of the front cover of the LP here; of the back cover here; and of the liner notes for the song here. (There is also an MP3 recording of it here). The liner notes state that ‘their song is a version of “The Braes of Balquidder”’. So the McPeakes were happy to acknowledge in 1952 that their song was based on The Braes of Balquhidder. And yet Francis McPeake Snr copyrighted Wild Mountain Thyme in 1957, which is puzzling if you take his statement about his uncle at face value.

C) Contrary to the claims on many websites – and even the liner notes of some recordings – the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme/ Will Ye Go, Lassie Go was never published or recorded before Francis McPeake Snr sang it in 1952; and the tune he sang it to bears no relationship whatsoever to any of the tunes that The Braes of Balquhidder had ever been sung to prior to 1952. So either Francis McPeake wrote the tune and that version of the words; or his uncle did; or else Wild Mountain Thyme – including its tune – must surely be a traditional Irish variant of The Braes of Balquhidder that was passed to them through the oral tradition. Question to Jim or anyone else who can throw any light on this: do you know which of these three alternative possibilities is the closest to the truth?

D) Subsequently to 1952, a number of people have recorded The Braes of Balquhidder to the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme, most notably John MacDonald in 1975. It seems to me that these people must have realised that the words of Wild Mountain Thyme were derived from those of The Braes of Balquhidder, and must therefore have assumed – wrongly – that its tune was also derived from that: but it wasn’t. This misunderstanding on their part was particularly understandable given that the words of The Braes of Balquhidder and the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme work very well together.

The Traditional Tune Archive
href="https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Braes_of_Balquidder_(The)">states that:

“The song "Wild Mountain Thyme" is derived from "Braes of Balquidder," as is "Will You Go, Lassie, Go," reworked by Frank McPeake of Belfast. When the melody was employed in an advertisement for Irish television the McPeakes threatened legal action for coypright [sic] infringement. After some public discussion in the press, followed by a bit of research, the conclusion was that the McPeakes did not compose either the words or the music. The threat of a suit never materialized and the matter was quickly forgotten, according to Harry O'Prey."



But if the McPeakes didn’t write that version of the words, or that tune, then who did? The writer of the above quote doesn’t address this – so I suspect he wasn’t aware that the words of The Braes of Balquhidder had never been set to the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme in any recording or sheet music prior to 1952.

I suspect that the McPeakes did in fact write both the tune of, and the version of the words used in, the song Wild Mountain Thyme – which would explain why Francis McPeake copyrighted the song; and I suspect that when he said it was a traditional song, he probably meant that The Braes o’ Balquhidder, which Wild Mountain Thyme’s words (but not its tune) are based on, is a traditional song.

2) The Braes o’ Balquhidder


Robert Tannahill was a depressive who committed suicide in 1810 at the age of 36, after first burning all his manuscripts. Those texts which have survived despite not being published in his lifetime presumably did so thanks to his friends preserving copies of them.

Wikipedia states incorrectly that the song was first published in Robert Archibald Smith's Scottish Minstrel (1821–24) – but in fact it had already been published several times before that.

A) According to Jim Mclean, it was first published in 1810 (the year Tannahill died – so possibly it was published while Tannahill was still alive?). Jim states that while writing his dissertation he saw a copy of this 1810 publication; and that its melody, although untitled in the document, is identical to that of The Three Carls o' Buchanan (the sheet music for which appeared in Vol 4 of RA Smith’s Minstrel – see below).

Jim, do you know where this 1810 sheet music is now held and who the publisher was – and can you lay your hands on a scanned copy of the manuscript that you could upload to somewhere and link to? I would then be able to update the Wikipedia article so that it states that the song was first published in 1810, with a link to the manuscript.


B) The Joop's Musical Flowers blog states that the song was first published in 1814 without a melody, at Falkirk, together with "Jamie frae Dundee", "Blyth was she", "M’Pherson’s farewel", and "Highland Rover" – and that this publication is held in the British Library at shelfmark 11621.b.10.(35.). So this was, presumably, actually the second publication of the song.


C) More significantly, it was then published in 1815 in the 3rd edition of Poems and Songs, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect by Robert Tannahill. The Braes Of Balquhither is on page 154, with The Three Carls o' Buchanan clearly mentioned as its accompanying air.



D) It was also published in New York by J.A. and W. Geib between 1818-1821, with sheet music which, although it doesn’t say so in the manuscript, also turns out to be the melody of The Three Carls o' Buchanan (more on this below). The catalogue record is here and the sheet music is here.


So Tannahill’s song had already been published four times before RA Smith first published it: once with no melody, and three times set to the melody of The Three Carls o' Buchanan.


E) Robert Archibald Smith then published the song twice in his series of books The Scotish minstrel : a selection from the vocal melodies of Scotland, ancient and modern.

i) In Volume 1, published in 1821, the song is listed in the index as Will ye go, lassie, go – set to the air Braes o’ Balquhither; and the song is shown on page 49 along with the sheet music for this melody. This was the first time this song had ever been published to that tune – but the melody itself dates back to at least 1742 – more on this below.

ii) In Volume 4, published in 1823, the song is listed in the index as Will ye go, lassie, go – set to the air The Three Carls o Buchanan; and the song is shown on page 89 along with the sheet music for this melody. The melody shown in the sheet music in this volume is identical to the melody shown in the sheet music for the song in the J.A. and W. Geib New York publication that had been published shortly before – and according to Jim MacLean, is also identical to the sheet music in the 1810 manuscript that he found while writing his dissertation.


Incidentally, several sources have claimed that RA Smith himself wrote the tune for Tannahill’s song, but this claim is based on a misunderstanding – Smith makes it clear in his own index in both volumes that he didn’t. He did write tunes for some other Tannahill songs, which is presumably how the misunderstanding arose.



G) There doesn’t appear to be any surviving copy of the sheet music for the air The Three Carls o Buchanan on its own (as opposed the sheet music for that tune when set to Tannahill’s song); and nor does it appear to be known when the air was written or when it was first published. But the original air must have pre-dated Tannahill’s song and must have been very similar – almost certainly identical – to that shown in the sheet music in RA Smith Vol 4; and in J.A. and W. Geib’s sheet music; and in the untitled sheet music for the song that was published in 1810.


G) Until now, no one ever seems to have made a recording of The Braes o’ Balquhidder sung to the melody of The Three Carls o Buchanan, so for the benefit of all those who, like me, can’t read music, James Eisner has now made a recording of the song set to that tune, and has uploaded it to here.


H) Before Tannahill wrote his poem, there already existed a traditional air, originally published under the name The Braes o’ Balquhider; which was collected and published by John Walsh in 1741 or 1742 in a collection called 24 Country Dances – and the tune is presumably even older than that.



I) In 1780 Robert Burns set his song And I'll Kiss Thee Yet, Yet (also known as Bonny Peggy Alison), to this tune. The original sheet music for the Burns song is here, and there is a recording of it sung to that air here. The tune of the Burns song is almost identical to the tune shown in the sheet music of Tannahill’s song in RA Smith’s Minstrel Vol. 1.


J) In 1796, John Hamilton wrote and published a song called The Braes o' Bowhether, which he also set to the traditional air The Braes o’ Balquhider. This song, with its sheet music, is held in the National Library of Scotland and can be viewed online here. Although the manuscript doesn’t state that it is set to the air The Braes o’ Balquhider, the tune in its sheet music is almost identical to that of the Burns song.


Many websites, including the Wikipedia article about Wild Mountain Thyme, claim that Tannahill may have based his song on The Braes o' Bowhether, but this seems highly unlikely. Other than the title, the words of the two songs have almost nothing in common; and although many recordings of Tannahill’s song are set to the same tune as The Braes o' Bowhether, that is almost certainly not the tune that Tannahill intended it to be set to; and the tune pre-dates The Braes o' Bowhether by more than 50 years.


K) It seems clear, therefore, that what must have happened is as follows:

i) RA Smith, although he was a friend of Tannahill’s, didn’t become aware of this song until several years after Tannahill had died (hence he didn’t publish the song until 1821).

ii) When he found the words of Tannahill’s poem he initially assumed – wrongly – that Tannahill had intended it to be set to the traditional air of the same name. So he published Tannahill’s song set to the air Braes o’ Balquhither in Vol 1 of his Scotish Minstrel series.

iii) Subsequently he realised that Tannahill had intended it to be sung to the air The Three Carls o Buchanan; so he published the song again in 1823 in Volume 4 of his Scotish Minstrel series, this time set to the melody The Three Carls o Buchanan.

iv) However, when Alma Gluck decided to record the song in 1910, she saw it in RA Smith’s Minstrel Volume 1, set to the traditional air Braes o’ Balquhither. So she sang it to that tune – not noticing that the song had subsequently been republished by Smith, set to a different tune, in his Minstrel Volume 4.

v) Every recording of the song between 1910, when Alma Gluck recorded it, and 1952, when the McPeakes first recorded Wild Mountain Thyme, was set to the traditional air Braes o’ Balquhither – presumably as a result of Alma Gluck recording it to that tune. The vast majority of recordings of Tannahill’s song made since 1952 have also been set to that tune (including those by Kenneth McKellar and Carl Peterson); but a few have been set to the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme, most notably John MacDonald’s 1975 recording. Several of these recordings, including John MacDonald’s, have stated incorrectly that the tune they were singing it to was The Three Carls o' Buchanan.

vi) However, in the oral tradition the song was sung to the tune of The Three Carls o' Buchanan; although the orally transmitted version of the tune evolved over time, as is often the case with folk tunes. Ewan MacColl learnt the song from his mother Betsy Miller, who learnt it through the oral tradition; and the tune they sung it to is clearly derived from the tune of The Three Carls o' Buchanan, although it’s so different (after nearly 200 years of evolving) that you have to listen quite carefully to hear the relationship. Ewan MacColl’s 1964 recording of the song can be played here, and Betsy Miller’s 1960 recording (made when she was 74 years old!) can be played here.

(I would like to thank Callum MacColl, who uploaded the album A Garland of Scots Folksong, in which the Betsy Miller track appears, to Bandcamp in record time – thus enabling me to link to it from this post).

vii) There is a copy of the sheet music for a version of the traditional Braes o’ Balquhidder air in the Traditional Tune Archive, here (under the title Braes o’ Balwhither). For the benefit of those who, like me, can’t read music, James Eisner has created a midi file recording from this sheet music, which he’s uploaded in mp3 format to Soundcloud, here.

The Traditional Tune Archive took the sheet music from the book Robert Petrie – Third Collection of Strathspey Reels (1802, p. 9).

This is a highly ornamented version of the melody; and given that the much simpler version of the tune which appears in the sheet music for the Burns song And I'll kiss thee yet, yet; and in the sheet music for the John Hamilton song; and in the sheet music in RA Smith Vol. 1; are almost identical to each other, I suspect that the version of The Braes o’ Balquhider air that was published by John Walsh in 1741 or 1742 is probably closer to the simpler version of the tune used in these songs than to the highly ornamented version of the air published in 1802.

Questions for Jim: please could you confirm whether I’m

right about this; and do you have access to a scanned copy of the sheet music

of the air as it was published by John Walsh? If you do, would it be possible

to upload it to somewhere and link to it?


3) Summary


Either the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme was written by Francis McPeake Snr, or by his uncle – or else Wild Mountain Thyme is an orally transmitted Irish variant of The Braes o’ Balquhidder. If the latter is true, its tune must have been written anonymously and passed orally to the McPeakes. In any case this tune bears no relationship to any of the tunes that The Braes o’ Balquhidder had ever been sung to prior to 1952.

The words of Wild Mountain Thyme are a variant of The Braes o’ Balquhidder but are significantly different from the Tannahill poem; and again, must either have been written by one of the McPeake family, or are an orally transmitted Irish variant of The Braes o’ Balquhidder that was passed down to the McPeakes. I suspect that one of the McPeake family wrote both the tune and this variant of the words, and I think it was probably Francis McPeake Snr who did so.

Tannahill clearly intended his poem to be sung to the air The Three Carls o' Buchanan, but due to a quirk of history, it seems never to have been recorded being sung to that tune – until James Eisner recorded it a few days ago for the purposes of this thread.

The vast majority of recordings of Tannahill’s song have set it to a traditional air called The Braes o’ Balquhider, which was first published in 1741 or 1742.

A few recordings have set it to the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme, which works really well – but that tune was first recorded in 1952, set to the words of Wild Mountain Thyme.

And Ewan MacColl and Betsy Miller have recorded it to a tune that they learnt through the oral tradition, which is clearly based on – but is significantly different from – The Three Carls o' Buchanan; which in turn is almost certainly the tune that Tannahill set it to.


Finally, I wanted to say how very honoured I feel that Jim McLean has already made such a crucial contribution to this thread (with more to come, I hope!). Hush, Hush/Smile in your Sleep (which Jim wrote) is one of my very favourite songs. I have sung it several times in public, usually also singing Johnny’s So Long at the Fair, followed by Three Old Ladies, followed by the chorus of Chi Mi Na Morbheanna, followed by the whole of The Mist Covered Mountains of Home; and ending up with Smile in your Sleep – all to illustrate how folk songs evolve over time!

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 06 Feb 20 - 03:43 AM

Hi Dave, I have addresses almost all your questions in my dissertation of 2008 and if you PM me an address I will send you a copy ... It reproduces scans of sheet music etcetera and far too big to copy here or elsewhere.
Thanks for your kind comments on Smile in your Sleep.
My email is jawmac@aol.com


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 06 Feb 20 - 05:17 AM

PS Dave, I have just listened/read the James Eisner version but it's not The Three Carles, purely an ornamental version of the Braes tune found in various manuscripts ... I quote and print these in my dissertation.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 07 Feb 20 - 11:33 AM

I should add that I was commenting on James Eisner's excellent playing of the Braes tune as I hadn't noticed there was also a vocal version of the Three Carles..... sorry to James for my misunderstanding.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Feb 20 - 12:25 PM

The James Eisner recording of the song was very nice indeed. He sings it 'just right' for my taste.
I hear similarities to the WMT tune in it, but even more of the John McDonald version.
I really appreciate the scholarship and dedication all the contributors have done to give us a new perspective into the history of Tannahill's words.

    Now to get a portable recording of it that I can play anytime.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 07 Feb 20 - 02:34 PM

Bill, the John MacDonald version IS the WMT melody and not related the the Braes or Three Carlin melodies.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,Bill Ogden
Date: 07 Feb 20 - 03:57 PM

Might the melody you are looking for be that of the Hymn "How Deep the Father's Love for Us"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Feb 20 - 04:08 PM

Sorry...this is a relatively new hymn. No doubt the melody we seek (I also sang "Wild Mountain Thyme" back in the 60s) is much older.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 09 Feb 20 - 04:05 PM

Further to Dave's post, I have also come to the conclusion that Francis McPeake obviously adapted Tannahill's lyrics but his tune is either traditional but noted nowhere else, or that he composed it himself. He had a great deal of old tunes in his head as a traditional musician so he could easily have composed it as an original work.
I knew The McPeakes personally and have always considered the song as an original by them with lyrics based on Tannahill's.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 10 Feb 20 - 10:33 AM

The late Bruce Olsen, a frequent early contributor and a great researcher commented on this is his "Scarce Songs 2" file in his website which is preserved as "Bruce Olsen's Website"

http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/Olson/SONGTXT2.HTM#BRAESBAL

at the University of California at Fresno. Some of what I paste here refers to another page on his site that contains tunes.

[Begin Quotation]
How do we get from the first tune below to Francis McPeake's
"Will you go lassie go"? Evolution.

First tune, 1740. No verses of that date known:
Play S2: BRAESBAL1- Braes o' Balquhidder

Dance "Braes o' Balquhidder", to the 1740 calls as follows:

FIRST Couple Right hands across with 2nd Couple quite round and
cast off 2nd Couple's place. first Couple right hands across with
3rd Couple and cast off quite round, and cast off below them.
Lead up to the left, and cast off; down thire[?] the 3rd Couple,
and cast up. SETT across & turn. Lead out at the sides, & turn in
the middle.

Here's what Jack Campin discovered in a rare book of 1796, song
and tune:

The Braes o' Bowhether.

Now the day's growin' lang lass,
an' sweet shines the weather,
an' we'll owre a' the hills,
to the Braes o' Bowhether.
Amang the Glens an' Rashy dens,
I'll prize thee without measure,
Within my arms, wi' a' thy charms,
I'll clasp my lovely treasure,
In sweetest Love, our time will move,
wi' mair than earthly pleasure;
By the little limpid streams,
On the Braes o' Bowhether.

An' I'll ay loe thee dearly,
Ilk day wes' forgather,
Syne we'll row on the fog,
By the Braes o' Bowhether;
To Pipe or Flute, when time will suit,
We'll dance like ony feather,
An', skip the knowes where Claver grows,
or stray amang the Heather;
Ay free frae strife in sic a life,
There, weary shall we never,
By the limpid little streams,
On the Braes o' Bowhether.

Play S2:BRAESBAL2- The Braes o' Bowhether
    S2:BRAESBAL4- Braes o' Balquhidder

Robert Tannahil seems to have known a bit of the old song, but he
either didn't know, or didn't like it's tune. From Graham's
'Songs of Scotland' we get Robert Tannahill's "The Braes of
Balquhidder"

Will you go lassie, go,
To the Braes o' Balquhidder?
Where the blaeberries grow,
'Mang the bonnie bloomin' heather;
Where the deer and the rae,
Lightly bounding together,
Sport the lang summer day
'Mang the braes o' Balquhidder,
[Cho:] Will you go lassie go,
To the braes o' Balquhidder?
Where the blaeberries grow,
'Mang the bonnie bloomin' heather.

I will twine thee a bower
By the clear siller fountain,
An' I'll cover it o'er
Wi' the flowers o' the mountain:
I will range through the wilds,
An' the deep glens sae dreary,
An' return wi' their spoils
To the bower o' my deary.
Will ye go, &c.

When the rude winty win'
Idly raves round our dwellin',
An' the roar o' the linn
On the night breeze is swellin',
Sae merrily we'll sing,
As the storm rattles o'er us,
Till the dear sheeling ring
Wi' the light liltin' chorus.
Will ye go, &c.

Now the summer time is in prime,
Wi' the flowers richly bloomin',
An' the wild mountain thyme
A' the moorlands perfumin',
To our dear native scenes
Let us journey together,
Where glad innocence reigns
'Mang the braes o' Balquhidder.
Will ye go, &c.

Graham said the tune was in Capt. Fraser's 'Highland Melodies',
1816, #77, with slight differenes from that (later) in R. A.
Smith's 'Scottish Minstrel' I, p. 49 (I don't have).

Capt. Fraser's heading to the tune is:

Bochuidear      Balquhidder. As performed by Major Logan

Play S2: BRAESBAL3-Bochuidear...Balquhidder.



WILD MOUNTAIN THYME
(Jimmy McPeake)
1. Oh, the summer time is coming,
   And the trees are sweetly blooming,
   And the wild mountain thyme
   grows around the blooming heather.
[Cho: Will you go, lassie, go?
   And we'll all go together
   To pull wild mountain thyme
   All around the blooming heather,
   Will you go lassie, go?

2. I will build my love a bower
   By yon clear and crystal fountain,
   And on it I will pile
   All the flowers of the mountain.

3. If my true love, she won't have me,
   I will surely find another
   To pull wild mountain thyme
   All around the blooming heather.

4. Oh, the summer time is coming
   And the trees are sweetly blooming
   And the wild mountain thyme
   Grows around the blooming heather.

Transcribed by Sondra Stigen
[End Quotation]

It adds a bit and Olsen's references are almost invariably accurate.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Bill D
Date: 10 Feb 20 - 02:26 PM

I almost forgot about Bruce Olsen's page, though I knew Bruce locally for many years and helped press Max to host it on Mudcat when Bruce died.
Bruce was beyond amazing in several ways and his scholarship contributed a great deal when Mudcat was young. He was a regular at the Library of Congress and a couple of other Wash DC repositories of old manuscripts.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Feb 20 - 02:59 PM

I just tried Simon Fraser's tune out. A perfectly functional strathspey but that's all you can say for it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 10 Feb 20 - 04:37 PM

John Moulden, I covered all these tunes and lyrics in my dissertation which looked for the comparison between Tannahill's chosen tune 'The Three Carl's o' Buchannan' and the tune set to it about 10 years later by R A Smith The Braes O' Balquhither '
I got a copy of Tannahill's letter to in his own hand to Smith with all the lyrics including a verse not usually sung.
I also found a music sheet of the Three Carles tune printed in 1810 and pointed out the hybrid version of the Braes and McWilliams 'Lass among the Heather' sung by Jeannie Robertson. Greig-Duncan didn't seem to know about McWilliams which was surprising and Hamish Hemderson said that John MacDonald sang the Three Carles where in fact the tune was McPeake's Wild Mountain Thyme! That was a mild shock.
John, your booklet, The songs of Hugh McWilliams, was a great help and I managed to compare the tune Saint Helena to the Three Carls by oral transmission.
.... and much more, the research was great fun.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 10:44 AM

Jim McLean - thanks; My discovery of Hugh McWilliams was accidental - I was going through popular 19th century poetry books that had 'songs' in their title in the Linenhall Library of Belfast when I started finding 'traditional songs' in McWilliams' 1831 book. Later research proved his authorship of them.
It's not surprising that Gavin Greig didn't know about it - the Linenhall's copy is unique as is the National Library of Ireland's copy of McWilliams' 1816 volume though there is another incomplete one


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wild Mountain Thyme/Braes o' Balquhidder
From: Jim McLean
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 04:06 PM

John, I got a copy of the Linen Halls poem by McWilliams wh I let me compare all the recorded versions held in the School of Scottish Studies... some are quite hilarious... proving the oral tradition, words and lines all mixed up.


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