Grizzly Folk has made a brilliant series on folksongs which would serve as a great starting point for any beginner. There are contributions from Greg Russell, Jimmy Aldridge, Laura Smyth, Ben Nicholls.
See the full article here.
What makes this one of the best British folk songs?
“I heard this song from the singing of Lizzie Higgins and John MacDonald. It is also found in the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection Volume 6 and John Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads. The narrative explains his love for Udny as well as his love for his significant other. Udny Green is situated in Aberdeenshire, southwest of Pitmedden. The parish of Udny is made up of Udny Green and Udny Station, which lies on the old Buchan Rail line.
The song has been sung by source and revivalist singers of the North East of Scotland such as John Strachan, Jane Turriff and John MacDonald. It was also sung by Daisy Chapman, one of the various North East source singers who toured England. Daisy was recorded singing Bonny Udny at the Kings Head Folk Club in London between 1968 and 1970, at the heart of the folksong revival.
John Mearns stated that the song is, “found in various forms in many parts of the country”. Peter Hall comments: “The theme and form of this song facilitate its attachment to any locality, and versions are known under a variety of names: Yarmouth is a Pretty Town, Bonny Portmore, The Boys of Kilkenny.”
Bonny Udny, to me, highlights the universalism of folksong; the song, carrying the same message – of love for land and women – can be found in Scotland, England and Ireland, linking the British oral tradition. To me, Bonny Udny has all the properties of a lovely short folksong and would serve as a great place for a beginner of any sorts to start.”
What do we know about ‘Bonny Udny’?
Firstly, thanks to Iona for doing most of my work for me! So much info in a single enthusiastic email – you can spot the singers who also have the scholarly bug a mile off.
So, what is there left for me to add? Only really that ‘Bonny Udny’ also turns up, under the Roud number 3450, a total of 49 times in the Vaughan Williams online library, and that the central word ‘Udny’ is never very far from the title. It seems to be about as geo-located as any folk song gets.
As beautiful as the song is, however, it has been recorded far fewer times than most of the songs that have been suggested for our British folk songs list so far. First taped in Fyvie, Aberdeenshire on July 16, 1951, less than 10 versions have been recorded in the time separating that initial session and Iona Fyfe’s own gorgeous rendition, released on her Eastcollection in 2016.