Grateful Dead- “Peggy-O” – 12/31/83- San Francisco Civic Auditorium (OFFICIAL)

April 21, 2017 8:41 pm Published by 12 Comments

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“The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie

The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie (Roud # 545) is a Scottish folk song about a thwarted romance between a soldier and a girl. Like many folk songs, the authorship is unattributed, there is no strict version of the lyrics, and it is often referred to by its opening line “There once was a troop o’ Irish dragoons”. The song is also known by a variety of other names, the most common of them being “Peggy-O”, “Fennario”, and “The Maid of Fife”.

Of the many versions, one of the most intricate is:
There once was a troop o’ Irish dragoons
Cam marching doon through Fyvie-o
And the captain’s fa’en in love wi’ a very bonnie lass
And her name it was ca’d pretty Peggy-o

There’s many a bonnie lass in the Howe o Auchterless
There’s many a bonnie lass in the Garioch
There’s many a bonnie Jean in the streets of Aiberdeen
But the floower o’ them aw lies in Fyvie-o

O come doon the stairs, Pretty Peggy, my dear
Come doon the stairs, Pretty Peggy-o
Come doon the stairs, comb back your yellow hair
Bid a last farewell to your mammy-o

It’s braw, aye it’s braw, a captain’s lady for to be
And it’s braw to be a captain’s lady-o
It’s braw to ride around and to follow the camp
And to ride when your captain he is ready-o

O I’ll give you ribbons, love, and I’ll give you rings
I’ll give you a necklace of amber-o
I’ll give you a silken petticoat with flounces to the knee
If you’ll convey me doon to your chamber-o

What would your mother think if she heard the guineas clink
And saw the haut-boys marching all before you o
O little would she think gin she heard the guineas clink
If I followed a soldier laddie-o

I never did intend a soldier’s lady for to be
A soldier shall never enjoy me-o
I never did intend to gae tae a foreign land
And I never will marry a soldier-o

I’ll drink nae more o your claret wine
I’ll drink nae more o your glasses-o
Tomorrow is the day when we maun ride away
So farewell tae your Fyvie lasses-o

The colonel he cried, mount, boys, mount, boys, mount
The captain, he cried, tarry-o
O tarry yet a while, just another day or twa
Til I see if the bonnie lass will marry-o

Twas in the early morning, when we marched awa
And O but the captain he was sorry-o
The drums they did beat o’er the bonnie braes o’ Gight
And the band played the bonnie lass of Fyvie-o

Long ere we came to Oldmeldrum toon
We had our captain to carry-o
And long ere we won into the streets of Aberdeen
We had our captain to bury-o

Green grow the birks on bonnie Ythanside
And low lie the lowlands of Fyvie-o
The captain’s name was Ned and he died for a maid
He died for the bonnie lass of Fyvie-o


The song is about the unrequited love of a captain of Irish dragoons for a beautiful Scottish girl in Fyvie. The narration is in the third person, through the voice of one of the captain’s soldiers. The captain promises the girl material comfort and happiness, but the girl refuses the captain’s advances saying she would not marry a foreigner or a soldier. The captain subsequently leaves Fyvie. In two different variations of the song, he threatens to burn the town(s) if his offer is rejected, or alternately save the town if his offer is accepted. He later dies of a broken heart, or battle wounds, or possibly both.
Several variations on this theme exist. The soldier also proposes marriage in some versions. Some versions have the girl declare her love for the soldier, but only to be stopped short by a reluctant mother.
You’re the one that I adore, Sweet Willy-o,
You’re the one that I adore, Sweet Willy-o,
But your fortune is too low,
And I fear my mother would be angry-o.

Geographical and historical allusions[edit]

The song is set in Fyvie, a small town with a historic castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Some sources claim that the original song suggests the region of Fife (as the “Fair Maid of Fife”), but the references to the River Ythan, Aberdeen and other locations near Fyvie like Gight, confirm that the original song was set in Fyvie, Scotland.
It is probably better not to read strong historical associations into the song, although it is just possible that the song refers to the capture of the Fyvie Castle by Montrose’s Royalist army in 1644. (A large part of this army was Irish, but they were not dragoons.) [1]

Variants across time and space

The oldest known version of the Scottish ballad is called “The Bonnie Lass O’ Fyvie”.[2] Another early transcribed version is given under the title “Bonnie Barbara-O”.[3] An early English version “Handsome Polly-O” is also present, though in slightly different settings. Another English version is called “Pretty Peggy of Derby”. The song probably travelled with Scottish immigrants to America.[4] It is recorded in the classic English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians by Cecil Sharp.[5] Variants of the song refer to the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. A Dixie version of the song makes the final resting place of the captain to be Louisiana.”

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All Text from WIKIPEDIA, the Free Encyclopedia

I was a lit major in college.  I love to hear the history of the bards and the spoken tradition  which gives rise to literature.  



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