Louden’s Bonnie Woods and Braes


By James E. Scott

This strathspey takes its name from a song written by Robert Tannahill, the Paisley poet, who was born in 1774 and died in 1810. He wrote some fine songs, and it is a pity that we do not hear them sung today. He did not compose the air.

The tune was composed by Duncan MacIntyre, who is not to be confused with the Gaelic bard of the same name, familiarly known as Donnacha bàn nan Orain. MacIntyre was born about 1765 and, apparently finding the land of his nativity did not offer enough scope for his talents, he migrated to London, where he died round about 1807.

Robert Tannahill (1774-1810), Paisley’s famous weaver poet, was a near contemporary of Robert Burns.

MacIntyre taught Scottish dancing and also compiled a collection of Scottish dance music, which contained some of his own compositions, and published it in 1794.

The original name of Louden’s Bonnie Woods and Braes was the Earl of Moira’s Welcome. I cannot say what incident inspired the tune, but there may be some significance in Tannahill adopting it as the air for his words.

The tune crossed the Highland border and some unknown Gaelic rhymster penned a couple of verses to it.

Siream sios, Siream suas,
Cha robh cnaimh de Ruairidh agam;
Siream sios, siteam suas,
Cha robh cnaimh de Ruairidh.

’Nuair a dhuisg mi anns a’ mhaduinn,
Cha robh cnaimh de Ruairidh agam;
‘S ann bha Ruairidh anns an leaba,
‘Gearan gu’n robh fuachd air.

Though these verses suit the melody beautifully, it is difficult to find much point in them. Some man of the name of Rory had disappeared, and a most thorough search had been instituted. East and west were searched in vain; not a bone of Rory could be found. The following morning Rory was still amissing, but the searchers had not gone to the right place to seek him, for Rory was found in his bed, complaining that he had a cold.

• From the November 1966, Piping Times.

Here is a clip of the tune from the 1970 movie, Waterloo: