Sunday 6 November 2011

31: Bonnet So Blue

A broadside ballad about a woman of Liverpool who falls in love with a Scottish soldier. What I sing here is based on a broadside printed by W. Armstrong of Banastre Street, Liverpool between 1820 and 1824. (As with many broadside ballads, no indication is given of tune, so I've used a tune that was used for the singing of a version of this song collected from George Edwards in the Catskills, NY - it has the virtue of being a beautiful tune, in my opinion at least, although I admit it has the shortcoming of being a tune from abroad! Such are the difficulties of fitting broadsides to suitable music.)

Some argue that the song's 'blue bonnet' is invoked as a Jacobite symbol - this theory is clearly reinforced by the use of the name 'Charles Stewart' for the soldier who wears the bonnet, although to be frank, it appears incidental to the main thrust of the song, which is an expression of impossible love.

Bonnet so blue sometimes bears the title 'Jacket so blue', and is sometimes set in other locales in the north of England (and occasionally London), although versions of the words which feature Liverpool have made the journey across the Atlantic. It is #819 in the Roud folksong index.

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