My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean

Album: various (1881)
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  • Although its origins are unknown, this popular Scottish folk tune is said to be about Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, who led the Jacobite rising of 1745 in a failed attempt to reclaim the British throne for his father, James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales. After a final stand at the Battle of Culloden, Charles escaped Scotland aboard a small boat, inspiring another folk tune, "The Sky Boat Song." Because "Bonnie" could refer to a man or a woman, supporters of the rebellion could freely sing the tune under the guise of a romantic song about a lost love.
  • Composer Charles E. Pratt published the sheet music in 1881 under the pseudonyms H.J. Fulmer (or Fuller) and J.T. Wood.
  • A pre-fame (and pre-Ringo) Beatles recorded this as "My Bonnie" with Tony Sheridan in 1961 under the name the Beat Brothers. The rock 'n roll rendition went to #5 in West Germany.
  • In 1960, Duane Eddy hit #30 on the Hot 100 with a rock 'n roll instrumental version called "Bonnie Came Back."
  • This has also been covered by Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Ventures, and Laura Wright.
  • Lou Costello sings this in the 1945 Abbott & Costello comedy The Naughty Nineties. It was also used in the 1932 Laurel & Hardy short "Scram!" and the 1944 Woody Woodpecker cartoon "The Beach Nut."
  • On the I Love Lucy episode "The Quiz Show," Lucy sings this on a game show and is doused with water every time she sings "ocean" and "sea."
  • In the 2013 comedy Bad Grandpa, 8-year-old Billy (Jackson Nicoll) sings this during a beauty pageant while dressed up like a girl.
  • This was used on The Simpsons in the 2004 episode "My Big Fat Geek Wedding."
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape from Scotland after the uprising made him a romantic figure of heroic failure and there are many Scottish folk songs about the exiled prince, such as "Will Yae Ne'er Come Back Again." According to some music historians, the classic carol "O Come All Ye Faithful" contains secret political codes that reference the Stuart prince.

Comments: 2

  • Andrew Wigglesworth from Coventry, England.Sorry, but the Jacobite connexion is pure romancing, as is a Scottish one.

    Look up the song “Bring back my Barney to me”, published in c. 1860 by the great music hall performer and song writer Harry Clifton.

    Send back my Barney to me.

    He is gone and I’m now sad and lonely,
    He has left me to cross the wide sea,
    But I know that he thinks of me only,
    And will soon be returning to me.

    His eyes they were fill’d with devotion
    As my husband he said he’d soon be
    Then blow gently ye winds of the ocean
    And send back my Barney to me.

    If at night as I rest on my pillow,
    The wind heaves a moan and a sigh,
    I think of each angry billow,
    And watch ev’ry cloud o’er the sky.

    My bosom it fills with emotion,
    As I pray for one over the sea,
    Then blow gently ye winds of the ocean
    And send back my Barney to me.

    He has left me his fortune to better,
    I know that he went for my sake,
    Soon I’ll be receiving a letter,
    If not sure my poor heart will break.

    To say that he’ll soon be returning,
    To his dear native Ireland and me,
    The blow gently ye winds of the ocean
    And send back my Barney to me.

    The song has had many parodies and adaptions with choruses etc. It became popular in US student “Glee Clubs” which produced various parodies/adaptations of the song.

    What you have here is a very distilled version, possibly from people half-remembering the song or just wanting this part of the parodied song.

    “What I am writing here is not my personal revelation, but open to anyone who delves into the origins of this song. It is well summarised by Malcolm Douglas on a Mudcat Cafe discussion thread:

    ” c.1860: ‘Send Back My Barney to Me’ written and published by Harry Clifton.

    “The song is quickly taken up by other performers in Britain and America. In the USA in particular it is ‘favoured by Irish comedians’ and is printed on broadsides and in songsters, frequently uncredited to Clifton and instead assumed to be, or claimed as, Irish.

    “By 1881 an adaptation or parody, with the tune a bit changed, begins to appear in print as ‘My Bonnie’. It seems to have started out as a student song, most likely in America; a song-sheet issued in 1882 by Harms of New York as ‘Bring Back My Bonnie to Me’ credits it to H J Fulmer (Charles E Pratt) and J T Woods, but the text is reputedly rather different and no conclusions can be drawn without seeing both words and music. Evidently ‘Barney’ and ‘Bonnie’ continue alongside each other for a time, with other songs being written that appear to have been inspired by them; or at any rate by the former.

    “By the early C20, ‘My Bonnie’ has eclipsed its parent, which is largely forgotten. The song’s enormous popularity leads to further parodies and to the tune being adopted for other songs in the same metre like ‘My father was hung for sheep-stealing’. This leads even some scholars to assume that the tune is Scottish.

    “The general public don’t need to ‘deduce’, of course; to them it is not only patently obvious that any song with the word ‘bonnie’ in it must be Scottish, but also that, if the sea is mentioned as well, it must be about ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. The more inventive may go for a less hackneyed option like ‘Bonnie George Campbell’, but with an equal lack of backup.”

    This is the Mudcat thread, though you have to dig deep into it to start finding the answers posed.

    All in all, as I wrote at the beginning, the Jacobite (and Scottish) attributions are modern assumptions, back-formations and romancing.
  • G Mantel from Los AngelesThis makes no sense, whatsoever. The song is clearly about Ann Boney, the infamous Irish pirate in the Caribbean. "My Bonny lies over the ocean..."
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