Dowie Dens o Yarrow [V1]

by Lori Watson

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johnpomerville thumbnail
johnpomerville I first heard Lori on a compilation of Scottish traditional music I picked up in “Scotland” at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA. Wow ! I loved her version of James Hogg’s “Maggie”. I was hooked! I can’t wait for the release of this project. Her voice is absolutely wonderful and I particularly enjoy listening to songs in the Scottish dialect. Thank you Lori!


This version of Dowie Dens came to me from Willie Scott, a shepherd and wonderful traditional singer from the Borders. He sang at events all over the Borders, and in the halls around the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys.

This was a song that, as a young musician, I didn't think I would ever be able to sing. I have three different melodies to this tragic tale, this one I associate more with my local community - where the story is set. As usual, the song has changed shape a bit in my hands. This melody, in isolation, is actually very happy sounding. This is often the case in Scottish songs and sometimes you get a shock when lyrics emerge from a musical first impression.

(Child 214, Roud 13)


There lived a lady in the North
Ye cuid scarcely fin her marrow
She wis coorted by nine noblemen
An a plooboy lad fae Yarrow

As he gaed owre yon high, high hill
An doon yon path sae narrow
It’s there he saw nine noblemen
Cam tae fecht wi him on Yarrow

Three he slew and three they flew
An three lay dyin wounded
When her fause brither John cam in ahint
An he’s pierced his body through

"Gae hame, gae hame ye fause young man
Gae tell yer sister sorrow:
Her true love John lies dead an gone
An a bluidy corpse on Yarrow"

As he gaed ower yon high, high hill
An doon yon path sae narrow
It’s there he spied his sister dear
She wis comin fast for Yarrow

"O brother dear I dreamt a dream
A dream o dule an sorrow
I dreamt that ye were spillin blood
On the dowie dens o Yarrow"

"Sister dear I’ll read yer dream
An I maun read it in tae sorrow
Yer true love John lies dead and gone
On the dowie dens o Yarrow"

The young maid’s hair wis three quarters lang
An the colour o it yella
She’s tied it roon his middle sma
An she’s brocht him hame tae Yarrow

"Dochter dear dry up yer tears
An dwell nae mair in sorrow
I’ll wed ye tae a better man
Than yer plooboy lad o Yarrow"

"Faither dear ye’ve seven sons
Ye can wed them a the morrow
But the fairest floor that ne’er did bloom
Wis ma plooboy lad o Yarrow"


released September 29, 2017
Traditional song arranged by Lori Watson and Duncan Lyall
Vocal by Lori Watson
Piano by Duncan Lyall
Recorded and mixed by Duncan Lyall at Red Deer
Mastered by Iain Hutchison at Glo Worm Studios


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Lori Watson Glasgow, UK

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