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Johnnie O Breadislie

A gallant poacher gets his weapons and dogs ready to steal the King’s deer. His mother worries. He fights the King’s gamekeepers and beats them.

This is a very Scottish ballad in character and location. One version says it happened in Durrisdeer in Dumfriesshire, another places it in Monymusk in Aberdeenshire.

Johnnie goes out to hunt the royal deer, and is chased and wounded by the King’s foresters. In some versions they kill him, in others he escapes.


Johnnie O Breadislie

Johnnie rose on a May mornin,
Called for water to wash his hands,
Said, 'Gae lowse tae me ma twa grey dugs
That lie bound in iron bands, bands,
That lie bound in iron bands'

When Johnnie’s mother, she heard o this,
Her hands wi dule she wrang,
Says, 'Johnnie, for yer venison
Tae the greenwoods dinna gang, gang,
Tae the greenwoods dinna gang'

But Johnnie has breasted his guid bent bow
And his arras one by one,
And he’s awa tae the gay greenwood
Tae ding the dun deer doon, doon
Tae ding the dun deer doon

Johnnie shot, the dun deer lap,
She was wounded in her side,
And atween the water and the wood
The grey hoonds laid her pride, her pride
The grey hoonds laid her pride

Johnnie ate o the venison,
And the dugs drank o the bleed,
And they lay doon and fell asleep
Asleep as tho' they were deid, deid
Asleep as tho' they were deid

Then by there cam a silly auld man
And a silly auld man wis he,
For he’s awa tae Monymusk
The Foresters for tae see, tae see
The Foresters for tae see

Up then spak the Chief Forester,
And an angry man wis he,
'If this be Johnnie o Breadislie,
My faith, we’ll gar him dee, dee
My faith we'll gar him dee'

'Stand fast, stand fast, my noble steed,
Stand fast and dinna flee.
Lie close, lie close, my guid greyhounds
And we will gar them dee, dee
And we will gar them dee'

Johnnie shot the six o them
And the seventh he’s wounded sair,
And he swung his heuch ower his horse’s back,
And he swore that he'd hunt mair, mair
And he swore that he'd hunt mair.


Listen to 'Johnnie O Breadislie', performed by Katherine Campbell.
From Traditional Scottish Songs and Music, Gallus Recordings.

  • Johnnie O Breadislie