"The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond", or simply "Loch Lomond" for short, is a well-known traditional Scottish song (Roud No. 9598) first published in 1841 in Vocal Melodies of Scotland.[1][2] (Loch Lomond is the largest Scottish loch, located between the counties of Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire.) In Scotland, the song is often the final piece of music played during an evening of revelry (a dance party or dinner, etc.).

The song has been recorded by many performers over the years, including the rock band AC/DC, jazz singer Maxine Sullivan (for whom it was a career-defining hit), the Mudmen, and Scottish-Canadian punk band The Real McKenzies.[citation needed] The Virginia Glee Club has performed the Ralph Vaughan Williams arrangement of the song in recent years, beginning in the mid-1990s.

Original Edit

The original composer is unknown, as is definitive information on any traditional lyrics. This well known English chorus, while not original, is included here as it is most familiar:

Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll get to Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

Andrew LangEdit

About 1876, the Scottish poet and folklorist Andrew Lang wrote a poem based on the song titled "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond". The title sometimes has the date "1746" appended[3][4]—the year of the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's rebellion and the hanging of some of his captured supporters. Lang's poem begins:

There's an ending o' the dance, and fair Morag's safe in France,
And the Clans they hae paid the lawing,

Morag—great one in Gaelic—referred to Bonnie Prince Charlie, who fled to France after his forces were defeated.[5] Lawing means reckoning in Scots. The poem continues:

And the wuddy has her ain, and we twa are left alane,
Free o' Carlisle gaol in the dawing.

Wuddy means hangman´s rope, according to Lang's own notes on the poem; dawing is dawn.[6] The poem continues with the song's well-known chorus, then explains why the narrator and his true love will never meet again:

For my love's heart brake in twa, when she kenned the Cause's fa',
And she sleeps where there's never nane shall waken

The poem's narrator vows to take violent revenge on the English:

While there's heather on the hill shall my vengeance ne'er be still,
While a bush hides the glint o' a gun, lad;
Wi' the men o' Sergeant Môr shall I work to pay the score,
Till I wither on the wuddy in the sun, lad!

"Sergeant Môr" is John Du Cameron, a supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie who continued fighting as an outlaw until he was hanged in 1753.[6]


By yon bonnie banks an' by yon bonnie braes
Whaur the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Whaur me an' my true love will ne'er meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon'.
O ye'll tak' the high road, and Ah'll tak' the low road
And Ah'll be in Scotlan' afore ye
Fir me an' my true love will ne'er meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon'.
'Twas there that we perted in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep sides o' Ben Lomon'
Whaur in (soft) purple hue, the hielan hills we view
An' the moon comin' oot in the gloamin’.
The wee birdies sing an' the wild flouers spring
An' in sunshine the waters are sleeping
But the broken heart it kens, nae second spring again
Tho' the waeful may cease frae their weeping.


There are many theories about the meaning of the song, most of which are connected to the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. One interpretation based on the lyrics is that the song is sung by the lover of a captured Jacobite rebel set to be executed in London following a show trial. The heads of the executed rebels were then set upon pikes and exhibited in all of the towns between London and Edinburgh in a procession along the "high road" (the most important road), while the relatives of the rebels walked back along the "low road" (the ordinary road travelled by peasants and commoners).[7]

Another interpretation of the 'Low Road' is that it refers to the traditional underground route taken by the 'fairies' or 'little people' who were reputed to transport the soul of a dead Scot who died in a foreign land - in this case, England - back to his homeland to rest in peace.[8][7]

Another similar interpretation also attributes it to a Jacobite Highlander captured after the 1745 rising. The Hanoverian British victors were known to play cruel games on the captured Jacobites, and would supposedly find a pair of either brothers or friends and tell them one could live and the other would be executed, and it was up to the pair to decide. Thus the interpretation here is that the song is sung by the brother or friend who chose or was chosen to die. He is therefore telling his friend that they will both go back to Scotland, but he will go on the 'low road' or that of the dead, and be home first. Another supporting feature of this is that he states he will never meet his love again in the temporal world, on Loch Lomond. Some believe that this version is written entirely to a lover who lived near the loch.[7][9]

A related interpretation holds that a professional soldier and a volunteer were captured by the English in one of the small wars between the countries in the couple of hundred years prior to 1746. Volunteers could accept parole, a release contingent on the volunteer's refusal to rejoin the fighting, but regulars could not and so could face execution. The volunteer would take the high road that linked London and Edinburgh while the soul of the executed regular would return along the "low road" and would get back to Scotland first.[7]

Arrangements and recordingsEdit

"Loch Lomond" has been arranged and recorded by many composers and performers over the years, in styles ranging from traditional Scottish folk to barbershop to rock and roll.

"Red Is the Rose"Edit

The Irish variant of the song is called "Red Is the Rose" and is sung with the same melody but different (although similarly themed) lyrics.[11] It was popularized by Irish folk musician Tommy Makem. Even though many people mistakenly believe that Makem wrote "Red is the Rose", it is a traditional Irish folk song.[12]

The chorus of "Red Is the Rose" is:

Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows
And fair is the lily of the valley
Clear are the waters that flow from the Boyne
But my love is fairer than any

This version was also reworked by the Scottish Musician Alastair McDonald, who set it by Loch Lomond, too. This chorus was:

Red is the rose, that on mony a briar grows
And white blooms the lily sae bonny
And clear is the watter that flows down Lomonds braes
But my lass is fairer than ony


Come over the hill, my bonnie Irish lass
Come over the hill to your darling
You chose a rose love and I have made a vow
Thet she'll be my true love forever

Red is the Rose by yonder garden grows
And fair is the lily of the valley
Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne
But my love is fairer than any.

T'was down by Killarney's green woods that we strayed
And the moon and the stars they were shining
The moon shone its rays on her locks of golden hair
And she swore she'd be my love forever.

repeat chorus

It's not for the parting that my sister pains
It's not for the grief of my mother
It is all for the loss of my bonnie Irish lass
That my heart is breaking forever.

repeat chorus

Glee Club performancesEdit

In addition to concert performances, "Loch Lomond" is regularly performed from memory by the Virginia Glee Club at the Glee Club House and at other venues.

Glee Club recordings Edit


  1. Vocal Melodies of Scotland
  2. James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular and Folk, p. 336.
  3. Poems of Andrew Lang: THE BONNIE BANKS O' LOCH LOMOND
  4. Lang & Philipp 2000, p. 235.
  5. Am Baile - The Songs and Hymns of the Scottish Highlands. Part II Song 5
  6. 6.0 6.1 RPO - Andrew Lang : The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "the song". Explore Loch Lomond. 
  8. Fraser, Amy Stewart (1977). In Memory Long. Routledge. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-7100-8586-3. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  9. "Songs&Poems - Loch Lomond". 
  10. Kennedy, Michael (1996). A Catalogue of the Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Oxford University Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-19-816584-6. 
  11. "Red is the Rose". Jennifer Tyson. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  12. Raymond Crooke (2009-01-12). "690. Red is the Rose (Traditional Irish)". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 


  • Lang, Andrew; Philipp, Peter-Eric (2000). Complete Poems of Andrew Lang: The Essential Library. 2. Essential Library (xLibris). p. 235. ISBN 978-0-7388-2837-4. 
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