DESCRIPTION: Singer laments parting from his/her love by Loch Lomond, noting "the broken heart it kens nae second spring." Chorus: "You'll take the high road and I'll take the low road And I'll be in Scotland before ye But me and my true love will never meet again..."
EARLIEST DATE: 1841 ("Vocal Melodies of Scotland")
KEYWORDS: loneliness love parting separation Scotland lyric
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber)) US(MW)
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Ford-VagabondSongsAndBalladsOfScotland, pp. 145-148, "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" (2 texts, 1 tune; the first is the common version and the second a variant without chorus which may have inspired the popular piece)
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #91, pp. 1-2, "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" (2 texts, including both of Ford's versions)
Greig/Duncan8 1528, "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" (3 fragments, 3 tunes)
Dean-FlyingCloud, pp. 122-123, "Loch Lomond" (1 text)
Fireside-Book-of-Folk-Songs, p. 80, "Loch Lomond" (1 text, 1 tune)
Heart-Songs, pp. 216-217, "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomon'"; pp. 406-407, "Loch Lomond" (2 texts, 2 tune; the texts are not quite identical and the tunes are in different keys)
Jolly-Miller-Songster-5thEd, #103, "Loch Lomond" (1 text)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 257, "Loch Lomond" (1 text)
Fuld-BookOfWorldFamousMusic, pp. 336-337, "Loch Lomond"
DT, LOCHLMND LOCHMOM (LOCHLOM2)
George Alexander, "Loch Lomond" (Columbia 3294, 1906)
Henry Burr, "Loch Lomond" (Victor 4240, 1905; Victor 16062, 1908)
Unidentified baritone, "Star of Eve/Loch Lomand [medley]" (Climax [Columbia] X-88, c. 1901)
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(17a), "Bonnie Banks of Lochlomond," unknown (probably Poet's Box ) (Dundee), n.d.
cf. "Red Is the Rose" (tune)
cf. "The Waddin o McPhee" (tune)
cf. "The Passing of the Helvetia" (tune)
cf. "The Babcock Bedtime Story" (tune, some lyrics)
cf. "Flora's Lament for her Charlie" (verses)
Red is the Rose (File: So28n3a)
The Waddin o McPhee (File: McSc093)
The Passing of the Helvetia (File: 147)
Paint Ship Song (I) (File: Tawn005)
Flora's Lament for her Charlie (broadside NLScotland, RB.m.168(178), "Flora's Lament for her Charlie," Robert MacIntosh (Glasgow), after 1849; probably the same broadside as Murray, Mu23-y3:013)
NOTES [341 words]: The song (or at least the chorus) seems to have entered oral tradition in the US, probably through the recording by Benny Goodman's band. (Benny Goodman & his Orchestra, vocal by Maxine Sullivan, "Loch Lomond" (Victor 25717, 1937)). - PJS
Legends about this song are numerous. One has it that it was heard and/or composed by Lady John Scott in the 1840s. Another (supported by the Clancy family) is that it is derived from the Irish "Red Is the Rose," with which it shares a tune. ("Red Is the Rose" sounds more recent and more composed, though, at least to my ears.)
Legend has it that the "low road" is the road of death, and that the song was made by a Scottish prisoner following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion: The condemned soldier tells his comrade that (following his execution), he will take the low road back to Scotland and arrive first.
One real connection with the Jacobite rebellion is a broadside, NLScotland RB.m.168(178), "Flora's Lament for her Charlie," printed by Robert McIntosh, beginning "It's yon bonny banks and yon bonny braise, Where the sun shines bright and bonny, Where I and my true love went out for to gaze On the bonny, bonny banks of Benlomond." The next verse is standard "Loch Lomond." But it looks like a patch-up job, and no tune is listed.
More explicit, and perhaps more traditional, is Ford's second text, said to have been found by Lady Jane Scott in Edinborough; it has a terminal verse, "The thistle shall bloom, an' the King hae his ain" and an explicit complaint in the second verse that "My Ranald... the morrow he marches to Edinburgh toun, To fecht for the King an Prince Charlie!"
Both these items, however, look like patch jobs as well. The connection with the '45 remains uncertain.
Fuld offers a list of possible antecedants of the tune; all show noticeable differences. I think the matter must be regarded as unsettled.
Loch Lomond, one of the largest Scottish lakes, is a short way north of Dumbarton, and not far north and west of Glasgow; its outlet flows into the Clyde in Dumbarton. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.0
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.