The Rowan Tree reel

Also known as Bantry Girls Lament.

There are 13 recordings of a tune by this name.

A tune by this name has been recorded together with Bonnie Galloway (a few times), Highland Cradle Song (a few times) and My Home (a few times).

The Rowan Tree has been added to 3 tune sets.

The Rowan Tree has been added to 114 tunebooks.

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Three settings

X: 1
T: The Rowan Tree
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
u(DE) | "D"F3FF2E2 | "D"(FA3)"D7"A2d2 | "G"B3AB2d2 | "G"B2A4 "A7"(DE)| "D"F3F"A7"F2E2 |
"D7"(FA3)"G"(B3A) | "D"A2F2 "A7"(E3D) | "D"D6 A2u | "D"A2d2"Bm"d3c | "G"(c2B2) (B2d2) |
"D"A3A "Bm"(BA)(GF) | "E7"(F2E4) "A7"(DE) | "D"F3F"A7"F2E2 | "D7"(FA3) "G"(B3A) |
"D"A2F2"A7"E3D | "Bm"D6 "E7"(DE) | "D"F4"A"E4 | "D"D6 ||
X: 2
T: The Rowan Tree
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
DE| "D"F3FF2E2 |FA3A2d2 | "G"B3AB2d2 | "A"B3A A2 DE|
"D"F3FF2E2 |FA3"G"B3A | "D"AF3 "A"E3D | "D"D6 A2 ||
||"D"A2d2 d3c | "G"c4 B2d2 |"D"A3B A2F2 | "A"E6 DE |
"D"F3FF2E2 | FA3 "G"B3A |"D"AF3"A"E3D | "D"D6|]
X: 3
T: The Rowan Tree
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amix
A>B||c3c c2B2|ce3e2a2|f3ef2a2|f3ee2A>B|
c3cc2B2|ce3f3e|ec3B3A|A4A2e2||
||e2a2a3g|g2f2f2a2|e3f fedc|c4B2A>B|
c3c c2B2|ce3f3e|ec3B3A|A4A2|]

Seventeen comments

This is an Air, not a Reel

This is really an Air not a Reel, but the Tune Submission list box does not allow selection of an Air. In order to get the ABC header to come out correctly, I had to plant it as reel. ‘Scraper’

From the most clichéed part of the marching pipe-band’s repertoire.

This is a Scottish air, and I have often danced a strathspey to it. I’m sorry to hear that it’s become clichéed in marching bands, as it has a lovely elegiac quality when you dance to it.

Bantry Girls Lament

Interesting to see the claim that this is also known as The Bantry Girls Lament. It certainly sounds similar in the first part, but less so in the second to the Bantry Girls Lament that I’m familiar with, as sung by Tommy Fleming, Mary Black and many others.

Just because…..

…..some unknown person adds an "alternative" title here - and there’s no justification for it mentioned above - doesn’t make it true.

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The Rowan Tree, X:2

A simple, mournful rendition in various keys.

The Rowan Tree, X:3

Pipe version without ornaments.

Re: The Rowan Tree

Lyrics by Lady Nairne (Caroline Oliphant) 1766-1845 - a very soulful and sad song. (At a slower pace than marching pipe bands!) Listen to the late Jean Redpath singing it.

Re: The Rowan Tree

My thoughs are that it’s a song about memories of a happy childhood and yes, there are wistful thoughts of those days which are gone, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a "very … sad song". Having said that, the majority of performers sing it as if it’s the saddest song in history.

In a band I play with we have a melodeon player who turns everything into a march, and we play "The Rowan Tree" fairly briskly. At one event after we’d played it, a woman stood up at the back and let everyone know of her disapproval.

Re: The Rowan Tree

Rowan Tree was one of the first things learned in my group fiddle class. We all got to know it by heart and I think it can be played both slowly or fairly fast. I’d put it beside "The Four Marys" as an easy tune to play - and that is also a song.

Re: The Rowan Tree

Yes, lovely version by Jim Reid too: certainly no faster than that for singing it! As for dancing a strathspey to it? Tricky as it isn’t in strathspey timing, tho’ I suppose you could if it’s played slowly: we do play a faster version in a Gay Gordons set.

The last verse of the song is IMHO at least, fairly sad, although, I agree, Nigel, the earlier verses are more nostalgic:

The Rowan Tree Lady Nairne (Caroline Oliphant)
Oh! Rowan Tree Oh! Rowan Tree!
Thou’lt aye be dear to me,
Entwined thou art wi mony ties,
O’ hame and infancy.
Thy leaves were aye the first o’ spring,
Thy flow’rs the simmer’s pride;
There was nae sic a bonny tree
In a’ the countrieside
Oh! Rowan tree!

How fair wert thou in simmer time,
Wi’ a’ thy clusters white
How rich and gay thy autumn dress,
Wi’ berries red and bright.
On thy fair stem were many names,
Which now nae mair I see,
But they’re engraven on my heart.
Forgot they ne’er can be!
Oh! Rowan tree!

We sat aneath thy spreading shade,
The bairnies round thee ran,
They pu’d thy bonny berries red,
And necklaces they strang.
My Mother! Oh, I see her still,
She smil’d oor sports to see,
Wi’ little Jeanie on her lap,
And Jamie at her knee!
Oh! Rowan tree!

Oh! there arose my Father’s pray’r,
In holy evening’s calm,
How sweet was then my Mither’s voice,
In the Martyr’s psalm;
Now a’ are gane! we meet nae mair
Aneath the Rowan Tree;
But hallowed thoughts around thee twine
O’ hame and infancy. Oh! Rowan tree!

And FWIW, we did plant a small rowan bush close to my parents’ grave in Aberdeenshire: it is now a
thriving tree, 17 years since my mother died and 9 years since Dad went. I have been known to play either Rowan Tree or Highland Cathedral (one of their favourites) by their graveside.

Re: The Rowan Tree

Though I don’t personally think this tune would work well as a strathspey it’s certainly possible with adapted 4/4 marches. Here’s Phil Cunningham playing Lord Lovat’s Lament as a scottiche, more commonly played by Fergie MacDonald. From 7.45 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB7FtBv8f_0

Re: The Rowan Tree

Yes, Fergie does that to a number of tunes: notably Flett Frae Flotta also.

Re: The Rowan Tree

That is Flett from Flotta Phil is playing of course, I wasn’t thinking straight!

Re: The Rowan Tree

Ha-ha! Just shows how bad my hearing is now! " The eyebrow tune".