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Lyr Add: The Border Widow's Lament / Glencoe

Bruce O. 01 Mar 98 - 05:31 PM
Jim Dixon 15 Feb 10 - 12:45 PM
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Subject: LYR ADD: The Border Widow's Lament / Glencoe
From: Bruce O.
Date: 01 Mar 98 - 05:31 PM

[Oh Onochie O - The Border Widow's Lament]

On the murder of Glencoe Febr 1692

Was not I a weary May ohon ochie ho ohno ochie ho
A widow on my bridle day ohon &c

That on that dark and fatal night [interlaced burden]
They brake my bower & slew my Knight

Just in my soft & Longing arms
Where I believ'd him safe from harms

They perced his senser[?] gentle breast
And Left me with sad grief opprest

And was but I a Weary wight
A Maid, wife, widow all in a night

And after that my knight was slain
I could no longer there remain

With a fair suit of his yellow hair
Which bound my heart for ever mare

I cut my hair & chang'd my name
From fair Alice to sweet William

No soft tongued youth nor flattering swain
Shall e're unloose that knot again

But through this wood or world I'le roam
To seek the joyes I lost at home O hon &c.

This earliest (unpublished) text is from NLS MS 23.3.24. The manuscript, c 1715, is entitled "A Choice Collection of Several Scots Miscellanie POEMS and songs," and appears to be a manuscript for a work never published. The whole manuscript was carefully printed by hand, but there as are still letters here and there that are difficult to decipher.

F. J. Child, 'The English and Scottish Popular Ballads', #106, prints three later versions of our song here, including 'Scots Musical Museum', #89, in his prefactory comments to "The Famous Flower of Serving Men." The latter is Laurence Price's ballad entered in the Stationers' Register on July 14, 1656. (Euing, #111, is original issue with Price's initials.) Price's ballad was undoubtably based on an even earlier tale, but not, as has been speculated, on that above. The heading of the text here confirms the note by Robert Burns (in the interleaved Scots Musical Museum) of the statement by Dr. Blacklock that the song was on the Glencoe massacre (James Dick, 'Notes on Scottish Song by Robert Burns', 1908, reprint, 1962). The version here appears to be over 70 years earlier than any other version noted.

The tune in the SMM was given earlier as "Oh Onochie O", in J. Oswald's 'A Curious Collection of Scots Tunes', #19, Edinburgh, 1740. Same, "Oh Onochie O," is in J. Oswald's 'Caledonian Pocket Companion', book 9, p. 4 (c 1758). Apparently the first time a verse of the song was set to music was in Vol. I, page 22, of D. Corri's 'A New and Complete Collection of the most Favourite Scots Songs', Edinburgh, n.d. (1783). The tune and the single verse given there is here annexed. Corri's statement is that his tune is Irish. [Cf. also SMM #498, "The Highland widow's lament"]

Corri's verse:

Oh was nae I a weary wight,
Oh oh Onochie oh
They braik my bower and slew my knight,
Oh Onochie Onochie Onochie oh.

T:Oh Onochie O
N:Caledonian Pocket Companion
{B/}AA(B/A/)|G3/2 e/F|G2||(f/g/)|a3/2 g/f|(ef)g|f/e/^de|\
B2(G/4A/4B/4c/4)|dd(g/f/)|e3/2 f/g|d(e/d/)(c/B/)|\
{B/}A2 (d/c/)|(Bc)d|eFG|d3/4B/4AG|d2g3/4f/4|\
e3/2 d/ (B/4d/4e/)|d3/2 B/ (A/4B/4d/)|\
.B3/2 A/ (B/4A/4G/4A/4)|G2|]

T:Onochie Oh .. Irish Air
N:Corri's Collection
{G/B/}(A3/2 G/ A)|A/ B3/2 d|e2E3/4F/4|G2G3/4A/4|Gg2|\
d/ B3/2 d{e/}|.e2 e{f/g/}|d/ B3/2 G|{G/A/}B3/2 A/B|\
G/E 3/2 G3/4D/4|{D/F/}E2|]

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Subject: Lyr Add: OH ONO CHRIO
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 12:45 PM

From Select Scottish Songs, Ancient and Modern, Volume 1 edited by Robert Hartley Cromek (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1810), page 90:


Dr. Blacklock informed me that this song was composed on the infamous massacre of Glencoe.

Oh! was not I a weary wight!
    Oh! ono chri, oh! ono chri—
Maid, wife, and widow, in one night!
When in my soft and yielding arms,
O! when most I thought him free from harms.
Even at the dead time of the night,
They broke my bower, and slew my knight.
With ae lock of his jet black hair,
I'll tye my heart for evermair;
Nae sly-tongued youth, or flatt'ring swain,
Shall e'er untye this knot again;
Thine still, dear youth, that heart shall be,
Nor pant for aught, save heaven and thee.

(The chorus repeated at the end of each line.)

* A corruption of O hone a rie' signifying—Alas for the prince, or chief.

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