The Swan Swims

from Away From My Window by Iona Fyfe

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about

I met Pete Coe at The Star Folk Club in Glasgow in 2016 and was taken a-back by the similarities, differences and links between English and Scottish folksong. I discovered his project with Alice Jones, The Search For Frank Kidson and was drawn to their version of The Swans Swim So Bonny. The melody was collected by Frank Kidson from Alfred Mooney of Liverpool. This version is relatively close to the version which was taught to me by Fiona Hunter at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

One of the most popular ballads, The Twa Sisters is found in several song traditions the world over. Child was given twenty-seven versions of this ballad from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland – the largest number he obtained of any ballad. The ballad has several different titles; The Twa Sisters, Binnorie, The Swan Swims Sae Bonnie, The Wind and Rain, Bows of London. A muckle ballad, many source singers of Aberdeenshire such as Betsy Whyte, Elizabeth Stewart, Lucy Stewart and John Strachan have recorded a variant of the ballad. The earliest record of the ballad in Britain is a broadside from the 17th century. Paul Bewster is of the opinion that the ballad originated in Norway prior to the 17th century and travelled to other Scandinavian countries before reaching Scotland and England.

Found in Northumbrian Minstrelsy, Greig Last Leaves, Greig-Duncan (2:213) Child 10, Roud 8

lyrics

There bade a lord in the North Country
Hey o, my bonnie o
He had twa dochters, ane fair ane mean
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

A young man cam a wooin’ them
Hey o, my bonnie o
An’ he made the choice o‘ the youngest fair
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

The sisters went to see the boats cam in
Hey o, my bonnie o
And they walked till they cam tae the waters brim
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

The eldest sister pushed the youngest in
Hey o, my bonnie o
For she kent her sister she couldna swim
And the swan aye swims bonnie o

Sister sister lend tae me yer glove
Hey o, my bonnie o
And ye shall hae my ain true love
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

I’ll ne’er lend you neither haun nor glove
Hey o, my bonnie o
But I will hae yer ain true love
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

Sometime she sank sometime she swam
Hey o, my bonnie o
Till she cam tae rest in the millers dam
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

The miller drew her body to the shore
Hey o, my bonnie o
And there he stripped her of all she wore
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

He made a harp oot o’ her breist bane
Hey o, my bonnie o
The soond could o’ melted a hairt o’ stane
And the swan aye swims bonnie o

He cut locks oot o’ her yalla hair
Hey o, my bonnie o
An wi them he strung the harp sae rare
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

He’s taen the harp tae the lords high haa
Hey o, my bonnie o
An’ there was the faimily assembled all
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

It wis the eldest sister’s waddin’ day
Hey o, my bonnie o
But the only tune that the harp would play
Was the swan swims sae bonnie oh

There dis sit my faither the king
Hey o, my bonnie o
And there dis sit my mither the queen
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

There dis sit my false sister, Anne
Hey o, my bonnie o
Fa’s droont me all in sake o‘ a man
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

The miller wis hung upon the gallows high
Hey o, my bonnie o
And the sister wis burnt at the steak nearby
And the swan aye swims bonnie o

credits

from Away From My Window, released March 24, 2018

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Iona Fyfe Scotland, UK

Aberdeenshire folksinger, Iona Fyfe, has become one of Scotland’s finest young folk singers, rooted deeply in the singing traditions of the North East of Scotland.The youngest ever winner of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2018, Iona has been described as “one of the best Scotland has to offer.” (Global-Music.de)

www.ionafyfe.com
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