Auld Robin Gray
DESCRIPTION: Jamie leaves Jenny to earn enough to be married. Her family has bad luck. Robin Gray supports them and asks Jenny to marry. Jamie's ship is wrecked and Jennie assumes he is dead. She marries Robin. Jamie returns too late.
AUTHOR: Lady Anne Lindsay (Barnard) (1750-1825)
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (Herd); before 1801 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 14(4))
KEYWORDS: age poverty courting love marriage rescue wreck father mother sailor
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf) Britain(England(South), Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (9 citations):
GreigDuncan7 1364, "Auld Robin Gray" (2 fragments)
Peacock, pp. 482-483, "Old Robin Gray" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 420, "Auld Robin Grey" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Robert Chambers, The Scottish Songs (Edinburgh, 1829), Vol II, pp. 301-303, "Auld Robin Gray"
David Herd, editor, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. (Edinburgh, 1870 (reprint of 1776)), Vol II, pp. 196-197, ("When the sheep are in the fauld, and the kye at hame")
James Johnson, Editor, _The Scots Musical Museum_ [1853 edition], volume III, #247, p. 256, "Auld Robin Gray" (1 text, 1 tune)
James Grant Wilson, The Poets and Poetry of Scotland (London, 1876 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 334-335, "Auld Robin Gray" (1 text)
Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #376, "Auld Robin Gray" (1 text)
Charles W. Eliot, editor, English Poetry Vol II From Collins to Fitzgerald (New York, 1910), #328, pp. 557-558, "Auld Robin Gray" (by Lady Anne Lindsay)
ST Pea482 (Partial)
Bodleian, Harding B 14(4), "Auld Robin Gray", Fowler (Salisbury), 1770-1800; also Harding B 25(88), Firth b.27(516), Harding B 11(7), Harding B 11(162), Firth b.26(412), "Auld Robin Gray"
Murray, Mu23-y4:029, "Auld Robin Gray", John Ross (Newcastle), 19C
cf. "The Bridegroom Greits When the Sun Gaes Doun" (tune, per Wilson)
NOTES: Original text is on Bartleby.com with the attribution. The date is 1794 per site for Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources, 1589-1839.
Per site for The First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable [this] was written to an old Scotch tune called "The bridegroom grat when the sun gaed down."
Chambers: "The ballad was written early in the year 1772 ...." Chambers confirms that the "fair authoress, then a very young lady, was induced to write it, by a desire to see an old plaintive Scottish air, ('The Bridegroom grat when the sun gaed down,') which was a favourite with her, fitted with words more suitable to its character than the ribald verses which had hitherto, for want of better, been sung to it." - BS
Broadside Bodleian, Firth b.25(24), "The Death of Auld Robin Gray," J. T. Burdett (London), c. 1855, seems to be some sort of a by-blow of this, since the characters are Robin Gray, Jamie, and Jenny, but it manages a happy ending by having Robiin die so that Jamie and Jenny are still available for each other.
Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, Editors, British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary, H. W. Wilson, 1952 (I use the fourth printing of 1965), give a fairly full account of the origin on this piece on p. 27:
Anne Lindsay (1750-1825) was one of the daugbhters of James Lindsay, fifth earl of Balcarres, who lived in Fife. At the age of 21, she heard a ballad with "improper" words, which she rewrote and published anonymously as "Auld Robin Gray" in 1771.
After a long period as an old maid, married Andrew Barnard, whom she accompanied to South Africa in 1793. Her Journal and Notes were probably her most important writings other than this song. When he died, she returned to Britain. In 1822, she finally admitted her authorship of this poem in a letter to Sir Walter Scott, and described how she came to write it. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.0
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.