“Queen Among the Heather”

Alternate titles: “Skippin' Barfit thro the Heather”; “Queen Amang the Heather”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1910 (recording, Harry Lauder)
Keywords: courting love beauty farming lover nobility worker
Found in: Britain(Scotland) US(MW) Canada(Mar)

Description

Young man, hunting, spies a girl herding sheep among the heather. He is smitten; she is "the bonniest lassie that e'er I saw." He asks her to go with him; she demurs, saying he's a squire and she but a shepherd's daughter. He perseveres and succeeds.

Notes

This song is very close to "Heather Down the Moor (Among the Heather; Down the Moor)"; they have similar plots and occasional common lyrics. Roud lumps them. There will be versions where it is almost impossible to tell which is which. I thought about listing them as one song.

But on consideration, "Heather Down the Moor" has two characteristics rarely seen in "Queen among the Heather." First, "Heather Down the Moor" tends to follow a complex stanza pattern of eight-line stanzas with complex internal chorus and repeats (see sample with that song). "Queen among the Heather" usually has simple four-line stanzas.

"Heather down the Moor" also tends to end with the lines

But if I were a king, I would make her a queen,

The bonnie lass I met among the heather

Down the moor.

In "Queen Among the Heather," he *is* a nobleman, so that obviously isn't a concern. - RBW

Note that the Lauder recording predates not only the otherwise-earliest collection we have found for this song, but also the earliest citation we've found for its sibling, "Heather Down the Moor". - PJS

Also collected and sung by Ellen Mitchell, "Queen Amang the Heather" (on Kevin and Ellen Mitchell, "Have a Drop Mair," Musical Tradition Records MTCD315-6 CD (2001)) - BS

Cross references

Broadsides

Recordings

References

  1. Kennedy 141, "The Queen Among the Heather" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Ord, p. 433, "My Lovely Nancy" (1 text)
  3. Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 115-117, "Herding Lambs Among the Heather" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Manny/Wilson 74, "Herding Lambs Amongst the Heather" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Gardner/Chickering 51, "The Laird o' Drum" (1 fragment, listed as Child #236 but clearly a version either of this or "Heather Down the Moor"; the stanza form tentatively places it here)
  6. Roud #375
  7. BI, K141