The Bonny Earl Of Moray waltz

Also known as The Bonnie Earl O’ Moray, The Bonny Earl Of Murray.

There are 4 recordings of this tune.

The Bonny Earl Of Moray has been added to 17 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: The Bonny Earl Of Moray
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
DE|G3A B>A|G2 D2 dc|B3A BD|=F4 ED|
G3E ED|E2 G2 DE|G2 d>B A>G|E4 DE|
B3A ED|E2 G2 DE|G2 d>B A<B|G4||

Seven comments

The Bonny Earl of Murray

This is the tune of the old Scottish ballad referred to by Jack Gilder in the thread, where he was discussing the origin of the literary term "mondegreen". A subsequent posting to that thread has come up with a delightful mondegreen alternative to "The Earl of Murray".
The ballad, which dates back centuries, is basically about the Earl and how he came to a sticky end, as most of ‘em did in those days. The ballad goes on and on, with about 60-70 stanzas.
I’ve played the tune occasionally in a session, to bafflement of all around: "Go on, play the rest of it, then" (etc). So I say that’s all it is and do they want to hear 60-odd repeats? "No".
Short though the tune is, it could be developed further as a slow air, or as a set of variations.


Here is a version of the words to the tune. Briefly, the story is that Huntly was commissioned by James VI of Scotland in 1592 to arrest the popular Earl of Murray, who was in disgrace, but instead killed him and burnt his house.

* * *

Ye Highlands, and ye Lawlands
Oh where have you been?
They have slain the Earl of Murray,
And they layd him on the green.

"Now wae be to thee, Huntly!
And wherefore did you sae?
I bade you bring him wi you,
But forbade you him to slay."

He was a braw gallant,
And he rid at the ring;
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Oh he might have been a King!

He was a braw gallant,
And he playd at the ba;
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Was the flower amang them a’.

He was a braw gallant,
And he playd at the glove;
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Oh he was the Queen’s love!

Oh lang will his lady
Look oer the castle Down,
Eer she see the Earl of Murray
Come sounding thro the town!
Eer she, etc.

"Open the gates
and let him come in;
He is my brother Huntly,
he’ll do him nae harm."

The gates they were opent,
they let him come in,
But fause traitor Huntly,
he did him great harm.

He’s ben and ben,
and ben to his bed,
And with a sharp rapier
he stabbed him dead.

The lady came down the stair,
wringing her hands:
"He has slain the Earl o Murray,
the flower o Scotland."

But Huntly lap on his horse,
rade to the King:
"Ye’re welcome hame, Huntly,
and whare hae ye been?

"Where hae ye been?
and how hae ye sped?"
"I’ve killed the Earl o Murray
dead in his bed."

"Foul fa you, Huntly!
and why did ye so?
You might have taen the Earl o Murray,
and saved his life too."

"Her bread it’s to bake,
her yill is to brew;
My sister’s a widow,
and sair do I rue.

"Her corn grows ripe,
her meadows grow green,
But in bonnie Dinnibristle
I darena be seen."

* * *

I’ve been told there’s a longer version, but I haven’t seen it.

Brilliant! Thanks Trevor, I’ve never seen the actual lyrics or heard the melody.

I have a recording of this on an Old Blind Dogs cd and always thought that in verse 6 Lady Murray was looking for him to be "zooming thru the town" - many thanks for putting that to rest at last.


It’s funny you should mention a mishearing in connection with this song.

This song is responsible for adding a word to the English language: mondegreen. It’s basically a term for any misheard lyric. Like when you swear that Jimi Hendrix is singing "’scuse me while I kiss this guy".

To explain, here’s a quote from Mondegreen Central:

"The term ‘mondegreen’ was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines ‘They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen.’ As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn’t realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: ‘They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green.’"

I think my favourite must be hearing about someone who grew up thinking they were singing a hymn every Sunday about a bear called Gladly who was cross-eyed (gladly, the cross I’d bear).


My first hearing of the word is on an album of Jean Ritchie and Oscar Brand "Live at Town Hall" or some other venue, and I think it predated the 1954 quote by Sylvia Wright.
Of course we can argue for ever over such attributions as "Glady, my cross-eyed bear" and "Jose, can you see, by the rocket’s red glare ?".


PS when I was a young man, there were two lovely northern lasses who sang this in London folk clubs in immaculate harmony, which wasn’t so common then. Where are they now ? some much time has elapsed I can’t even remember their names, only the image of a taller, and a petite lady, singing their hearts out at such venues as the Enterprise……ah, nostalgia !

I have the Clancy brother’s book which is where I first saw this tune. Their version is shorter than the one Trevor posted. I like his version better.

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