Mother's Malison, The, or Clyde's Water [Child 216]

DESCRIPTION: Willie wishes to visit his lover. His mother bids him stay, and curses him to drown in Clyde if he goes. Willie, trusting in his horse, goes anyway, but his lover's mother bids him away. Returning, he drowns in Clyde; his lover drowns as she seeks him
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1800 (Riewerts-BalladRepertoireOfAnnaGordon-MrsBrownOfFalkland)
KEYWORDS: river death love drowning curse horse
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber,Bord))
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Child 216, "The Mother's Malison, or, Clyde's Water" (3 texts)
Bronson 216, "The Mother's Malison, or, Clyde's Water" (14 versions+2 in addenda)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 216, "The Mother's Malison, or, Clyde's Water" (2 versions: #2, #12.1)
Chambers-ScottishBallads, pp. 268-271, "Willie and May Margaret" (1 text)
Riewerts-BalladRepertoireOfAnnaGordon-MrsBrownOfFalkland, pp. 252-253, "Willie and May Margaret" (1 text)
Buchan/Moreira-TheGlenbuchatBallads, pp. 125-127, "Sweet William" (1 text)
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #60, pp. 1-2, "Clyde's Waters" (1 text)
Greig/Duncan6 1231, "Clyde's Waters" (10 texts plus a single verse on p. 582, 11 tunes) {A=Bronson's #7, B=#2, C=#1,D=#10, E=#9, F=#8, G=#5, H=#4, I=#12, J=#13, K=#11?}
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume2 98, "Willie an' May Margeret" (1 text)
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 572-575, "The Mother's Malison, or, Clyde's Water" (1 text)
Whitelaw-BookOfScottishBallads, pp. 38-39, "The Drowned Lovers" (1 text)
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 90, "Clyde Water" (1 text)

Roud #91
Stanley Robertson, "The Clattering of the Clyde Waters" (on Voice03)
John Strachan, "Clyde's Water (The Mother's Malison)" (on FSBBAL2) {Bronsons #12.2}

cf. "Annan Water"
cf. "Lord Derwentwater" [Child 208] (lyrics)
cf. "Ballad of the Drover (Death of Harry Dale)" (theme)
cf. "Martha Dexter" (theme)
The Drowned Lovers
Maggie's Bowers
NOTES [151 words]: A number of versions of this begin with Willie's nose bleeding. This sounds strange enough that at least one modern performer changed it to say that his heart began to bleed. But Iona Opie and Moira Tatem, editors, A Dictionary of Superstitions, 1989 (I use the 1999 Barnes & Noble edition) has several items on nosebleeds on pp. 287-288. It is noted as a sign of ill omen as early as 1180 (Nigel de Longchamps, Mirror for Fools), and there are also several mentions of a spontaneous nosebleed as a sign of affection.
David C. Fowler, A Literary History of the Popular Ballad, Duke University Press, 1968, pp. 300-301, seems to believe that Anna Gordon Brown, the great ballad singer, created this piece, using "The Lass of Roch Royal" [Child 76] as a model but adding a supernatural twist. Hers does seem to be the earliest version, but the popularity of the song seems to me to argue against this. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
File: C216

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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.