Volume VI, song 513, page 529 - 'O Bothwell bank' - Scanned...
Volume VI, song 513, page 529 - 'O Bothwell bank' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'O Bothwell bank thou bloomest fair, But ah thou mak'st my heart fu' sair, For a beneath thy woods sae green My love and I wad sit at een While daisies and primroses mixt wi' blue bells in my locks he fixt, O Bothwell bank thou bloomest fair But ah thou mak'st my heart fu' sair.'
The 'Scots Musical Museum' is the most important of the numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collections of Scottish song. When the engraver James Johnson started work on the second volume of his collection in 1787, he enlisted Robert Burns as contributor and editor. Burns enthusiastically collected songs from various sources, often expanding or revising them, whilst including much of his own work. The resulting combination of innovation and antiquarianism gives the work a feel of living tradition.
According to John Glen, in 'Early Scottish Melodies' (1900), this tune was composed by John Fergus, 'organist in the English Chapel, Glasgow, 1789'. Glen concluded that it was a 'fine air, but partakes somewhat too much of the character of psalmody'. There is a very short entry for John Fergus in Baptie's 'Handbook of Musical Biography' (1887). Born in Glasgow, his birth and death dates are thought to be 1767-1825. He was the organist at St Andrew's Church, Glasgow and is remembered as a composer of 'several organ fugues, songs, and glees'.