Braw Lads O Galla Water

By Robert Burns first published 1793

Braw, braw lads on Yarrow braes,
They rove amang the blooming heather;
But Yarrow braes nor Ettrick shaws
Can match the lads o Galla Water.

But there is ane, a secret ane,
Aboon them a I loe him better;
And I’ll be his, and he’ll be mine
The bonnie lad o Galla Water.

Altho his daddie was nae laird,
And tho I hae nae meikle tocher,
Yet, rich in kindest, truest love,
We’ll tent our flocks by Galla Water.

It ne’er was wealth, it ne’er was wealth,
That coft contentment, peace, and pleasure:
The bands and bliss o mutual love,
O, that’s the chiefest world’s treasure!
Braw, braw lads.

Aboon: above
Braw: fine
Braes: hillsides
Coft: bought
Meikle: much
Shaws: thickets
Tent: look after
Tocher: dowry

Gordeanna McCulloch taught Sangschule this song. Although a love song, it also expresses the rivalry between Border towns and the loyalty each felt to their own area. In this case Gala Water, formerly spelled as ‘Galla Water’, is preferred above the other two rivers, Yarrow and Ettrick.

According to the editors of The Canongate Burns 2003, this version contributed by Burns first appeared in print in May 1793 in George Thomson’s Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice. The editors say that the “original of this song is found in Herd’s collection, although a version appears in SMM in 1788, with slight variations in text, which might have been minor improvements by Burns.” However, they feel that the final text is significantly changed to make a superior song.

Here is the song they mention as the original in Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs Vol.2 p.202 :
Braw, braw lads of Galla-water,/O braw lads of Galla-water, /
I’ll kilt my coats below my knee,/ And follow my love through the water.
Sae fair her hair, sae brent her brow, / Sae bony blue her een, my dearie, /
Sae white her teeth, sae sweet her mou’, / I aften kiss her till I’m wearie.

O’er yon bank, and o’er yon brae,/ O’er yon moss amang the hether, /
I’ll kilt my coats aboon my knee, / And follow my love through the water. /
Down amang the broom, the broom,/ Down amang the broom, my dearie; /
The lassie lost her silken snood, / That gard her greet till she was wearie.”