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Lyrics: The Banks Of Ayr by Robert Burns 1786
Tune:  Roslin Castle (aka House of Glamis) old Scottish Slow Air

The   gloomy night is gath’ring fast” or “The bonie banks of Ayr” was written by Robert Burns on the autumn of 1786 when he was 27 years old; crucial year for Burns in which he decides to embark for Jamaica in search of fortune; to pay for the trip, on July 31 he published “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” (also known as “The Kilmarnock Edition“), but … the unexpected success achieved with his first publication and the persuasion of his friends, it brought him to Edinburgh at the end of November.

burns 1787
Robert Burns in Edinburgh 1787, the living room of Jane Duchess of Gordon

Welcomed with benevolence in the most fashionable houses of Edinburgh, the handsome Robbie has become famous throughout Scotland, even if he was always nagged by economic problems.


The song reflects the dark thoughts of the poet, the worries of today, the fears of facing a long journey by sea and his heartfelt farewell to his beloved Scotland. “I composed this song as I conveyed my chest so far on my road to Greenock, where I was to embark in a few days for Jamaica. I meant it as my  farewell dirge to my native land.”

Le rive dell'Ayr
The banks of Ayr


Ayr is a capital harbor town of Ayrshire (south-west Scotland) located at the mouth of the river Ayr, center of the “Burns an ‘a’ that” the May festival to pay homage to the Bard of Scotland: the feast lasts a whole week and it is a succession of concerts, literary and artistic events. Several other places associated with the poet and his youthful years can be found in the Burnay National Heritage Park in Alloway. These include the Burns Cottage, the museum and the Tam o ‘Shanter Experience, as well as the Auld Alloway Kirk, the Burns monument and the Brig o’ Doon.
Around the city lies the sparsely populated Scottish countryside and beautiful landscapes: in the Aryshire region there are forty castles, many of which can be visited.


The tune is an example of the Italian influence on eighteenth century Scottish music. The tune has been attributed to James Oswald (or composed by William McGibbon and printed by James Oswald)
Charles Nicholson in his Preceptive Lessons for the Flute of 1821

Old Blind Dogs  in The World’s Room 1999 (violino e flauto) Jonny Hardie (violino) e Rory Campbell (whistle), sotto il delicato arpeggio della chitarra di Jim Malcolm

The Albanach Guitar Duo
Kate Steinbeck, (flute) · Alicia Chapman, (oboe)· Jacquelyn Bartlett, (harp)


However, there are not many versions of the song, listen to Jim Malcom (Farewell To the Banks of Ayr)
New Celeste in “It’s a new day” – 1997: the group of Glasgow made a very characteristic arrangement (the music is composed by Iain Fergus), with the moaning of the bagpipe, vibrato and melancholic, which defines the “mood” of the whole piece. On a slow battery base, delicate arrangements and touches of guitar, violin arquings, flute riffs

The gloomy night is gath’ring fast,
Loud roars the wild,  inconstant blast,
Yon murky cloud  is foul with rain,
I see it driving  o’er the plain;
The hunter now has  left the moor,
The scatt’red coveys meet secure;
While here I wander,   prest with care,
Along the lonely  banks of Ayr.
The Autumn mourns her rip’ning corn
By early Winter’s  ravage torn;
Across her placid,  azure sky,
She sees the  scowling tempest fly:
Chill runs my blood  to hear it rave;
I think upon the  stormy wave,
Where many a danger  I must dare,
Far from the bonie banks of Ayr.
‘Tis not the surging billow’s roar,
‘Tis not that fatal, deadly shore;
Tho’ death in ev’ry  shape appear,
The wretched have no  more to fear:
But round my heart  the ties are bound,
That heart transpierc’d with many a wound;
These bleed afresh,  those ties I tear,
To leave the bonie banks of Ayr.
Farewell, old Coila’s(1) hills and dales,
Her healthy moors  and winding vales;
The scenes where  wretched Fancy roves,
Pursuing past, unhappy loves!
Farewell, my  friends! farewell, my foes!
My peace with these,  my love with those:
The bursting tears  my heart declare-
Farewell, the bonie banks of Ayr!

1) Coyla is the name of Burns’ muse, identified with Scotland

Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

Amministratore e folklorista di Terre Celtiche Blog

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