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Bonnie Hieland Lassie

Shanties
My Bonnie Hieland Lassie

Collected by Seamus Ennis in 1954 from Margaret McDonagh on Feenish Island in Galway Bay, Ennis calls this version "Were You Ever In Roundstone Town". The tune and most verses are common to "Hieland Laddie" and "Donkey Riding", but one of the verses Hugill gives in Shanties From The Seven Seas seems to relate more to what he calls shore versions of "Billy Boy", where the chorus features a "young thing" who cannot leave her mother.

According to Hugill this shanty was well known to timber droghers, being used not only as a stamp-and-go (runaway) shanty but also at capstans for hauling logs through the timber ports of the droghers and for anchor work. However, nothing quite like it appears in any other collections, and the Roud Folksong Index classes it as a unique song separate from all its above-named relatives. Perhaps it really was a landsman's song after all.

Roud 9737
Click to play MIDI file
My Bonnie Hieland Lassie-o
My Bonnie Hieland Lassie-o

Was you ever in Roundstone Town?

Hieland Lassie, Bonnie Lassie

Was you ever in Roundstone Town?

My bonnie hieland lassie-o

I was often in Roundstone Town
Drinking milk and eating flour

Although I am a young maid
Come lately from my mammy-o


Was you ever in old Quebec?

Hieland Lassie, Bonnie Lassie

Was you ever in old Quebec?

My bonnie hieland lassie-o

I was often in old Quebec
Stowing timber up on deck

Although I am a young maid
Come lately from my mammy-o


Was you ever in Bombay,

Hieland Lassie, Bonnie Lassie

Was you ever in Bombay,

My bonnie hieland lassie-o

I was often in old Bombay,
Drinking coffee and bohay

Although I am a young maid
Come lately from my mammy-o


Was you ever in old Hong Kong

Hieland Lassie, Bonnie Lassie

Was you ever in old Hong Kong

My bonnie hieland lassie-o

I was often in old Hong Kong
Where the men wear pigtails long
And all the girls play Hong-ki-kong

My bonnie hieland lassie-o


Was you ever in Roundstone Town?

Hieland Lassie, Bonnie Lassie

Was you ever in Roundstone Town?

My bonnie hieland lassie-o

I was often in Roundstone Town
Drinking milk and eating flour

Although I am a young  maid
Come lately from my mammy-o

Recorded by Monkey's Orphan,
More Monkey Business, 2003
Play MP3
My Bonnie Hieland Lassie-o, sung by Monkey's Orphan on More Monkey Business, 2003

The words given opposite are as sung by Shanty Jack on the Monkey's Orphan 2003 album More Monkey Business.

In Shanties of the Seven Seas Hugill gives the following verses

  • Roundstone Town

  • Galway Bay, with Bombay in brackets as an alternative

  • Quebec

  • and finishes with this verse apparently derived from Billy Boy:


Are you fit to sweep the floor?

Hieland Lassie, Bonnie Lassie

Are you fit to sweep the floor?

My bonnie hieland lassie-o

I am fit to sweep the floor

As the lock is for the door

Although I am a young maid
Come lately from my mammy-o

Roundstone Town

Roundstone is a small fishing village on the Connemara coast of County Galway(Lat 53.395N, Long 9.918W) ,founded in the 1820s by a pupil of Thomas Telford, the Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo (1783-1832), noted for his tremendous contribution to the development of the infrastructure of the Connemara region. As engineer to the Commission For Irish Fisheries, Nimmo built many roads, bridges, piers and harbours around the Galway coastline. The original settlers of Roundstone were of Scottish fishing stock, hence the highland lassie of the shanty.

Nowadays Roundstone is a haven for artists and also boasts jewellery and pottery studios,  and a musical instrument maker. A regatta is held every July and the Roundstone Arts Week and the Summerfest also attract tourists each summer.


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