Introduced by Andrew Calhoun

This lyric to “Galla-water” is taken from David Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scots Songs (1769), p. 312. Herd was an excellent collector who did not manipulate/correct the source material, but he did not publish the song melodies.

The song was next published as #125 in Volume 2 of The Scots Musical Museum, with the lyric poorly adjusted. The SMM’s musical editor, Stephen Clarke, only printed the A part of the melody, a move typical of this indolent character through whom so much of the Scots song tradition, including the bulk of the songs of Robert Burns, has unfortunately been filtered. Clarke was in fact a church organist from Durham, England.

The full tune I sing here, “Braw Lads of Galla-water,” was published by James Oswald in book 8 of The Caledonian Companion in 1756. Burns wrote a new version of the song using the same first line for the publisher George Thomson, but it does not match the quality and mystery of the old words. The shifting perspective in the lyric is well supported by the contrasting musical parts.

Listen to Andrew Calhoun sing “Braw Lads of Galla-water:”

"Braw Lads of Galla Water" sheet music
Click here to download a PDF of the sheet music.


Braw braw lads of Galla-water (braw – fine)
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, (brent – smooth)
Sae bonnie blue her een my dearie,
Sae white her teeth, sae sweet her mou, (mouth)
I aften kiss her till I’m wearie.
O’er yon bank, and o’er yon brae, (brae – slope)
O’er yon moss, amang the heather, (moss – bog)
I’ll kilt my coats aboon my knee (above)
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, (symbol of maidenhead)
That gart her greet till she was wearie. (made her weep)

Andrew Calhoun is a gigging singer-songwriter/folk artist since 1975. He’s founded and managed Waterbug Records, Inc. from 1992–2019. In 2012 he received the Lantern Bearer Award from Folk Alliance Region Midwest; in 2014, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Woodstock Folk Festival. He’s currently (2020) at work on a Robert Burns songbook called “Glorious Work,” which will have 328 songs based on research into their original tunes and texts.