Subscribe to our Newsletter

My Boy Willie

Back to browse page

Alternative title: A Sailor's Life

Performer: Brazil, Danny
Place Collected: Staverton
Date collected: 1977 (30 Sep)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 293

When Percy Grainger heard Mrs Wixey sing this song, he was enchanted with the song itself and with the melodic variations that Mrs Wixey employed. As a song, the words are similar to the song “The Grey Hawk”, i.e. the story of a person lamenting that their lover has gone off with another. In fact the two songs share the same Roud number. It is in fact a very old song, with a version “Cupid’s Trepan, the Bonny Bird”, published in the mid 17th century. English versions are plentiful but it is little found elsewhere. The “Grey Hawk” version has continued in oral tradition until recent times whereas My Bonny Boy seems to have died out.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 5 May 2015