The song, Annie Laurie, is familiar to most Brits over the age of sixty. If it isn’t to you, you can view renditions of it on YouTube. The tune is haunting and the words a complete mystery unless you have some knowledge of the traditional Scottish language.
Magic lantern slide makers, in this case Bamforth’s of Holmfirth, produced sets of slides that audiences could sing along to. Customers could buy the cheap black and white version or, as shown here, the more expensive hand-coloured set. As you can see, they are somewhat romanticized but rather beautiful images. Imagine these slides being shown in a darkened auditorium, on a large screen, to a modern audience, accompanied by Kenneth McKellar’s (ask your Dad!) rich, tenor voice ….. the affect is deeply moving. I have presented these slides many times and the audience reaction is giving me a bit of a tingle as I type.
So, today’s challenge is to interpret the lyrics. The clue is that it’s a love song. Interestingly, Annie Laurie was a real person, the wife of William Douglas, a wealthy Scottish land owner. He wrote the poem about his romance with, Annie, who died in 1764.
Maxwelton’s Braes are bonnie where early fa’s the dew, and t’was there that Annie Laurie gi’ed me her promise true.
Gi’ed me her promise true that ne’er forgot will be, and for bonnie Annie Laurie, I’d lay me down and dee.
Her brow is like the snaw-drift, her neck is like the swan, and her face it is the fairest, that ‘er the sun shone on.
That ‘er the sun shone on and dark blue is her e’e, and for bonnie Annie Laurie, I’d lay me down and dee.
Like dew on gowan lying, is the fa’ o’ her fairy feet, and like winds, in Summer sighing, her voice is low and sweet.
Her voice is low and sweet and she’s a’ the world to me and for bonnie Annie Laurie, I’d lay me down and dee.
I’ve stopped tingling now!