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Braw Lads O Galla Water


Braw, braw lads on Yarrow-braes, They rove amang the blooming heather; But Yarrow braes, nor Ettrick shaws Can match the lads o' Galla Water. But there is ane, a secret ane, Aboon them a' I loe him better; And I'll be his, and he'll be mine, The bonie lad o' Galla Water. Altho' his daddie was nae laird, And tho' I hae nae meikle tocher, Yet rich in kindest, truest love, We'll tent our flocks by Galla Water. It ne'er was wealth, it ne'er was wealth, That coft contentment, peace, or pleasure; The bands and bliss o' mutual love, O that's the chiefest warld's treasure.

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Phyllis Logan
Blythe Duff

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1793 and is read here by Phyllis Logan.

More about this song

Two forms of this song exist by Burns; the first is an earlier 1788 version given to Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, with a focus not on the braw lads of Galla Water, but rather a lass:

Braw, braw lands of Galla Water
O, braw lads of Galla Water;
I'll kilt my coats aboon my knee,
And follow my love thro' the water
Sae fair her hair, sae brent her brow
Sae bonny blue her een, my dearie;
Sae white her teeth, sae sweet her mou';
The mair I kiss she's aye my dearie.

This version alters the persona a bit, so that the voice becomes a girl admiring the handsome young men of the area, who are second to none.

The slightly dreamy tone reminds one of young love - the voice ruminates on, once again, a love that will transcend the petty demands of society and pocketbook, and concludes with the eminently quotable final two lines.

George Thomson, replying to Burns in January 1790, for the second version of Galla Water given here, neatly summarizes thus: "the happy shepherdess [speaks] from genuine feeling and touches the heart."

Lisa Harrison

Themes for this song

love class marriage

Selected for 30 June

We had a Selkirk poem on the 15th of June and now in honour of 'Braw Lads Day', it is Galashiels's turn to feature in a poem by Robert Burns. The poet toured the Borders from early May into June 1787 with his lawyer friend, Robert Ainslie, collecting, adapting and composing songs. This artful mingling of fanciful pastoral and sincere, flowing Scots is a fine example of his skill in fitting an excellent new lyric to a lovely extant melody. Once again the poet returns to one of his perennial themes, love outweighing lucre. The 'secret ane' may be no laird's lad. But the young woman has her heart set on him anyway.

Donny O'Rourke

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