Willie Williamson          [The Banks of Nairn   or   Nairn’s River Banks]      SA1971.213.13

Willie learned this from his father. The song relates to the Napoleonic war in Spain around 1808-9. Numerous similar versions were collected in north-east Scotland and Gavin Greig noted in the Buchan Observer (no. 28, 1907 ) that it had been composed by “A Mr Gordon whose widow was living in Nairn some 30 or 40 years ago”.  Roud no. 3780

‘Twas on the merry Month of June delightful fresh and fair
For fishing sport I rose in time to take the country air;
It so delighted me to hear that charming blackbird’s song,
While near to Nairn’s river bank I slowly walked along.

Cheered by the warm summer’s sun I still kept on my walk
And coming to some spreading trees I thought I heard some talk;
I turned me quickly round about to hear the words were said
And there beneath a bramble bush I spied a pretty maid.

Her fleecy flocks around her upon the grass they fed
As she did lie lamenting upon a primrose bed
And as she vanquished forth her grief the little birds they sang
Upon the trees whose branches out o’er the river hang.

But just as she was grieving there came a little boy,
who had a letter in his hand that turned her grief to joy,
And seeing it was her lover’s write and opening it with speed
Thinking no one was near her she thus began to read.

“Sweet Kitty from the coast of Spain this letter I have sent
With my dear wounded comrade who to Great Britain went;
I write you this to let you know I’m still alive and well
Hoping fair Scotland yet to see, but when I cannot tell.

Each day and night we are in field our enemy to subdue
And when the bloody bullets fly oft times I think of you
And of the happy days we spent among the grass so green,
While near to Nairn’s river banks how happy we have been.

Grieve not for me my darling dear, though I far distant be
I hope all dangers will me pass and I’ll return to thee;
And if kind Providence allots who guides the flying ball,
No danger rise, I will be safe when thousands round me fall.

And though I am far distant I here must take my lot
While when among the shot and shell my love you’re not forgot;
And as I trample o’er the dead as oft times I may do
Deep in my mind I still can find your image in my view.

Soon may the happy day arrive when our love will be complete
And then we’ll join our heart and hand in happiness we’ll meet
And then we’ll join our heart and hands as happy as before,
While louder now the bugle sounds and I can sing no more”.

“That’s the whole lot … I think that’s where Sir John Moore was killed at, you see”.