[DWJ] waly waly

Ven vendersleighc at yahoo.com
Fri Sep 1 19:41:08 EDT 2006

On Wed, 30 Aug 2006, Dorian E. Gray wrote:

> Talking of folk-songs, does anyone happen to
have a full set of
> verses for "The Water Is Wide" and an idea of
what order they go in?
> That's a seriously disjointed song.

Paul Andinach wrote

Two possibilities:



(I notice that the second one doesn't include the
"water is wide"
verse at all, suggesting that it accumulated from
somewhere else.
I am not surprised; it always did seem the odd
one out.)>

The second link contained the following

<The unfortunate heroine of this song is said to
have been Lady Barbara Erskine, daughter of the
9th Earl of Mar, who was deserted by her husband,
James, Marquis of Douglas in the reign of Charles

Intrigued by this poor lady I did some more
googling and discovered the following here:

<At the foot of the rock there once bubbled up a
little spring named St Anthoney’s Well which
flowed down through the grass to the valley
below. Originally the spring flowed under a arch
. The well is referred to in an old song which
begins “O waly, waly” the Scottish expression of
“Alas”. This beautiful song was supposed to refer
to some circumstance in the life of Queen Mary or
some unfortunate love affair at her court. It has
now been discovered from a copy found in the
Pepysian Library at Cambridge (published in
motherwells “Minstrelsy 1827, under the title of
“Lord Jamie Douglas”) to have been created by the
sad tale of Lady Barbara Erskine daughter of John
(sixteenth Lord Erskine) ninth Earl of Mar and
wife of James II Marquis of Mar. The lady who was
married in 1670 was divorced or at least expelled
from Society by her husband on the bases of lies
being told about her by Lowrie of Blackwood. The
marquis remarried Mary,daughter of the Marquis of
Lothian. Lady Barbara returned to her father.

Two verses run thus-
” Oh Waly Waly gin love be bonnie
A little time while it is new
but when its auld it waxeth cauld
And fades away like morning dew
Oh, wherefore should I busk my heid
or wherefore should I kame my hai
for my true love has me forsook
and says he’ll never love me mair

Now Arthur Seat shall be my bed
The sheets shall ne’er be pressed by me
St Antin’s Well shall be my drink
Since my true love’s forsaken me
Martimmas wind when wilt thou blaw
An shake the green leaves aft the tree
O gentle death when wilt thou come
For o my life I am wearie”>
And here: 
in the intriguing Domestic Annals of Scotland:

<<The Marquis of Douglas, a young man, after
being engaged for marriage with the daughter of
one Widow Jack, a taverner at Perth, was wedded
at Aba House to Lady Barbara Erskine, daughter of
the Earl of Mar.—Lam.

This was an unfortunate marriage for the lady.
The marquis, a man of profligate conduct, was
subsequently led by his factor, Lowrie of
Blackwood (said to have been a rejected suitor of
the lady), to suspect his marchioness of
infidelity, and they were consequently separated,
after she had born him one child. The sorrows of
the Marchioness of Douglas were described in a
popular ballad of the day, some verses of which
constitute the favourite song of Waly, waly!

The prose reality of all this was, that the
marchioness by and by obtained a decree of the
Privy Council, allowing her a provision out of
her husband’s estate.

The marquis, by a subsequent marriage, was the
father of the semi-mad Duke of Douglas and of the
celebrated Lady Jane Douglas.>>

I'm still left wondering  if the previous
engagement to the daughter of  Widow Jack had
anything to do with it all........ and whether
Lowrie of Blackwood may in fact have been telling
the truth. At any rate the songs do a fine job of
garnering sympathy for the lady. I was
particularly struck by these lines:

Oh, oh, if my young babe were born,
And set upon the nurse's knee,
And I mysel' were dead and gone,
And the green grass growin' ower me!

>From the version here:



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