The Rolling Hills Of The Borders

by Matt McGinn (1928 – 77)

When I die, bury me low
Where I can hear the bonny Tweed flow
A sweeter place I never will know
Than the rolling hills of the Borders

I travelled far and wandered wide
I've seen the Hudson and the Clyde
I wandered by Loch Lomond side
But I dearly love the Borders

Oft do I remember the day
When wi my love I strolled by the Tay
But all its beauty fades away
Among the hills of the Borders

There's a certain peace of mind
Bonny lassies there you will find
Men so strong and men so kind
Among the hills of the Borders

Matt McGinn was a very prolific writer with a political and socialist point to many of his songs and often that point was made with humour. This song is an example of a different and lesser-known strand to his work, a simple celebration of the Scottish countryside, set to a sweet tune and with no political point to make.

Hamish Henderson in Alias Macalias says of Matt:
“In a class of his own was Matt McGinn, a rasp-voiced Glaswegian of genius, whose main inspiration was the Glasgow music hall. Matt wrote some superb comic songs such as ‘The Dundee Ghost’ and ‘The Foreman O’Rourke’, but he also wrote songs conveying immense tenderness and compassion: an example is ‘Coorie Doon’ (The Miner’s Lullaby). Anyone listening to his hard-hitting political songs – and Matt could take on and demolish anything that smelled of toffee-nosed pretension – will readily understand what Pete Seeger meant when he called him ‘the Scottish Woody Guthrie.’”

Born in the Calton district of Glasgow, Matt’s formal schooling ended at 12 when he had two years in Approved School. But he was intelligent, read widely and won a Trade Union Scholarship to Ruskin College in Oxford. He was a teacher in Rutherglen before his involvement in the folksong revival of the 60s which led to his becoming a full-time singer, performer and song-writer.

Janette McGinn in her preface to his autobiography and song-book McGinn of the Calton tells how this title came about. Matt attended the launch of the Scottish Daily News and was invited to sign the visitors’ book. “Immediately ahead of him in the queue of distinguished visitors was Lord MacLeod of Fiunary. On spotting the signature of the noble Lord – ‘MacLeod of Fiunary’ – Matt immediately dubbed himself ‘McGinn of Calton’”.