“Locks and Bolts”


The singer misses his love. Her parents, learning she loved a poor man, locked her away (in her uncle's house). The young man breaks the locks and rescues her (possibly fighting a battle along the way). The two are married


"Rainbow 'Mid Life's Willows" is a truncated version of the song, ending with the singer's lamenting his separation from his true love; his breaking down the door is omitted. It does contain the key line, "Locks and chains [bolts] doth hinder," which places it as a version of this song.

The versions of "Locks and Bolts" found in MacSeegTrav, "The Lass o' Bennachie" and "At the Back o' Bennachie" should not be confused with the song indexed as "Where Gadie Rins", although the latter is also called "The Back o' Bennachie" and was collected from the same singer as MacColl/Seeger's "B" text. The songs are different. - PJS

Belden notes a song from Martin Parker called "The Lover's Joy and Grief" with the burden "but locks and bolts doe hinder." It is not clear what is its relation with the present song. - RBW

Cross references


  • George Maynard, "Locks and Bolts" (on Maynard1)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Locks and Bolts" (on NLCR16)
  • Almeda Riddle, "Locks and Bolts" (Vanguard VRS-9158, n.d.); "Rainbow 'Mid Life's Willows" (on LomaxCD1707)


  1. Laws M13, "Locks and Bolts"
  2. Belden, pp. 168-169, "Locks and Bolts" (1 text, a fragment)
  3. Randolph 110, "I Dreamed of My True Lover" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  4. McNeil-SFB1, p. 74, "Rainbow Willow"; pp. 75-76, "I Dreamt Last Night of My True Love" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  5. BrownII 84, "Locks and Bolts" (1 text)
  6. Chappell-FSRA 74, "Sylvania Lester" (1 text)
  7. Brewster 65, "Locks and Bolts" (1 text from tradition plus a text from the Pepys Ballads)
  8. SharpAp 80, "Locks and Bolts" (5 texts, 5 tunes)
  9. Sandburg, p. 149, "I Dreamed Last Night of My True Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Kennedy 162, "Locks and Bolts" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 31, "Locks and Bolts" (1 text, 1 tune -- a composite version)
  12. MacSeegTrav 79, "Locks and Bolts" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  13. Chase, pp. 132-133, "Locks and Bolts" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Ord, pp. 438-441, "The Lass o' Bennochie" (3 texts, very diverse; the second is mixed with this song)
  15. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 111-112, "Rainbow Willow" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Silber-FSWB, p. 145, "Locks And Bolts" (1 text)
  17. DT 328, LOCKBOLT*
  18. Roud #406
  19. BI, LM13


Alternate titles: “The Lass o' Bennachie”; “At the Back o' Bennachie”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1876 (Christie, _Traditional Ballad Airs I_)
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,SE,So) Britain(England)