“The Water of Tyne”


"I cannot get to my love, if I would dee, The waters of Tyne stand between him and me, And here I must stand with a tear in my e'e, Both sighing and sickly my true love to see." She begs for a boatman to carry her across the river


I've never seen this mentioned as an explanation for this song, but for much of history the Tyne, not the Tweed, marked the eastern boundary between Scotland and England -- Hadrian's Wall ended at the Tyne, and the border still stood there into the second millennium C.E. (with the complication that the independent kingdoms of Northumbria for a long time stood between what would become England and what would become Scotland, occupying what we would now call the Scottish lowlands, Cumbria, Northumbria, and even as far down as Yorkshire). The city of Newcastle, in fact, was founded in the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087) as the New Castle on the Tyne after Northumbria was claimed by Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland (see Magnus Magnusson's_Scotland: The Story of a Nation_, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000, p. 66).

The current Solway-to-Tweed border was finally settled in the reign of Alexander II in the first half of the thirteenth century (Magnusson, pp. 90-92). From that time on, the Tyne no longer divided nations. Obviously this song cannot have existed in its present form at that time. But perhaps it's just possible that this represents a memory of that time. - RBW


  1. Stokoe/Reay, pp. 30-31, "The Waters of Tyne" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #1364
  4. BI, StoR030


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1812 (Bell)
Keywords: love separation river
Found in: Britain(England(North))