“Rose Connoley”


The singer kills Rose by drugging her (with "burglar's wine"), stabbing her, and throwing her in the river. He commits the crime on his father's assurance that "money would set [him] free," but the assurance was false; he is to be hanged


Almost every version of this song contains a crux: Just *what* did the killer cause Rose to drink? Burglar's wine? Burgundy wine? Something else (Texas Gladden sung either "virgin" or "Persian"; one of Cox's informants had something like "merkley").

Burgundy, frankly, makes no sense. The usual tune (as sung, e.g., by Grayson and Gladden) calls for two syllables, and burgundy isn't going to knock a girl out, either.

Problem is, no one knows what "burglar's wine" is. But that, of course, invites correction, perhaps to "burgundy." It makes no sense to assume that "burgundy" is original and corrected to "burglar's"; this produces a paradox. If "burglar's wine" is meaningless, a listener is not likely to hear the song as to make nonsense (it might happen once, but not several times, and Cox and Grayson show "burglar's wine" to be widespread). And if "burglar's wine" does exist, then it could be an original reading.

Thus I do not doubt that "burglar's wine" is the earliest extant reading in the tradition. It may even be original; I seem to recall reading somewhere that it was a drugged wine. But I can't find the reference.

Lyle Lofgren, who has studied the piece, proposed an emendation which makes reasonable sense: "[Russell Bartlett's "Dictionary of Americanisms"] gave me a candidate: 'burgaloo,' a popular pear variety at the time, identified in the dictionary as a variant of 'virgelieu.'" - RBW


  • Texas Gladden with Hobart Smith, "Down in the Willow Garden" (Disc 6081, 1940s)
  • [G. B.] Grayson & [Henry] Whitter, "Rose Conley" (Victor 21625, 1927; on GraysonWhitter01)
  • Charlie Higgins, Wade Ward & Dave Poe, "Willow Garden" [instrumental] (on LomaxCD1702)
  • J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers [or Wade Mainer & Zeke Morris], "Down in the Willow" (Bluebird B-7298/Montgomery Ward M-7307, 1937)
  • Charlie Monroe & His Kentucky Pardners, "Down in the Willow Garden" (Victor 20-2416, 1947)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Down in the Willow Garden" (on NLCR16)
  • Osborne Brothers & Red Allen, "Down in the Willow Garden" (MGM 12420, 1957)


  1. Laws F6, "Rose Connoley"
  2. Warner 110, "Rose Connally" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. BrownII 249, "Rose Connally" (1 text plus excerpts from 1 more)
  4. Lomax-FSUSA 83, "Down in the Willow Garden" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Lomax-FSNA 137, "Rose Connelly" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. JHCox 91, "Rose Connoley" (2 texts)
  7. Darling-NAS, pp. 202-203, "Willow Garden" (1 text)
  8. Silber-FSWB, p. 223, "Down In The Willow Garden" (1 text)
  9. DT (311), WLLWGRDN*
  10. Roud #446
  11. BI, LF06


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1917 (Cox)
Found in: US(Ap,SE)