Annie Laurie---Sheet music cover picture submitted by Charles Snitchler.

The story behind the song:

Maxwelton braes are bonnie
Where early fa's the dew
And it's there that Annie Laurie
Gied me her promise true
Gied me her promise true
Which ne'er forgot will be
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I'll lay me doun and dee…

Annie Laurie - or Maxwelton Braes as it is sometimes known - is probably
Scotland's best-known love song. This evocative ballad is now sung and
remembered the world over. Though the song has international recognition;
the story behind it is less well known.
The original words were penned by William Douglas of Fingland, which lies
just off the Moniaive to Carsphairn road. Born at Sanquhar Castle, he was
the eldest son of Douglas of Morton Castle. From an early age Douglas
became a soldier in the Royal Scots and he fought with bravery and
distinction through several continental campaigns. Still a young man, he
left the army with the rank of Captain. He was a fervent supporter of the
recently exiled King James VII of Scotland.
In 1694, he returned to Scotland and took up residence on his inherited
estate of Fingland. Life there must have been tame after his exploits in
the Spanish and German wars. During his time soldiering he learnt to be an
excellent swordsman and he is known to have had a fiery temper. He is
acknowledged as fencing duels on at least two occasions. One of these
bouts was against his cousin Captain Menzies of Enoch, whom her seriously
wounded. Douglas had to hide from the authorities till Menzies recovered.
On another celebrated occasion he fought, wounded and disarmed a
professional duelist.
It is unknown when Douglas first met Annie Laurie. Some traditions say it
was at an Edinburgh ball. Other versions state this was at a social
gathering of Dumfriesshire high society. It has also vaunted that the
never met at all. This seems highly unlikely. Douglas's song eludes to a
lover's pact. He also set the scene at Maxwelton and its bonnie braes.
Annie also refers to him in a letter. This document shows that they
certainly knew one another. The truth of any romance is lost in the
mystery of legend.
Anna Laurie (the famous Annie of the song) was born at Maxwelton House in
the 1680s. Her father was to become the first Baronet of Maxwelton. Anna
grew up with her three sisters and three brothers in the pleasant
surroundings of Maxwellton. It is likely - but unproven - that Anna and
Douglas had a fleeting romance. This romance was ill fated and Anna's
family would not consent to any marriage. We can only surmise why the
match was frowned upon.
It may have been the age difference between the pair. Local legend relates
that Douglas fought a duel with Anna's father over the matter. If this
story is true Anna was very young at the time. She was only in her
mid-teens when her father died. There may be some truth in this tale.
Douglas was a decade older than Anna and her father might have thought her
too young to marry.
It also may have been Douglas's Jacobite tendencies and the Laurie's may
not have wished their daughter associated with a known rebel. Anna's
father could also have had other plans for a more favourable match. Laurie
may have thought Douglas a poor match for a Baronet's daughter. It may
have been one or more of these reasons that caused the match to fail.
Whatever happened, the romance was doomed to failure and the lovers went
their separate ways.
Though the romance with bonnie Annie failed, Douglas certainly did not die
of a broken heart. He eloped with - Lanarkshire heiress - Elizabeth Clerk
of Glendroth and they were married in Edinburgh in 1706. Douglas continued
his career as a mercenary soldier; selling his sword to the highest
bidder. He sold off his inheritance at Fingland in the 1720s and died in
Peeblesshire around 1760.
At the age of 27, Anna also wed in Edinburgh. She married Alexander
Fergusson the then Laird of Craigdarroch. Fergusson was a close relative
and neighbour of Douglas of Fingland. So in the end neither kept their
promise true and Douglas was first to break it.
Anna died at Friar's Carse in her eighty-third year. Mystery surrounds the
location of her burial place, which could be either at Kirkland or Friar's
Carse? Maxwelton and Craigdarroch houses are both now private residences
and Fingland has become an upland livestock farm.
The Song - Douglas composed his tuneless two-verse song in the first years
of the 18th century, probably at Fingland. The song was then handed down
by his descendents. Like most traditional songs, there are slightly
varying versions with a word change here and there and different spellings
for the Scots words used.
The tune for the present day version of this song was composed by Alicia
Spottiswoode (Lady John Scott). A daughter in law of the 4th Duke of
Buccleuch, she died in 1900. In a letter to a Dumfries newspaper she
confirmed that she wrote the version of the song we know and sing today.
She considerably altered Douglas's words and added a third verse of her
own. She used a tune that she had earlier composed to accompany the old
ballad Kempye Kaye. One small error she made in writing, "and dark blue is
her e'e," for it is a well-known fact that Annie's eyes were hazel brown.

Gladstone. I.O.F. "The Lauries of Maxwelton and Other Families. London:
The Research Publishing Co., 1972 p 92-93. quotes the following version
which Gladstone, indicates he believes to be the earliest and perhaps the
closest version to the original by William Douglas of Fingland c. 1701.
The reason this version is not published often is that it offended Victorian
sense of political correctness. I might add that I feel that it is much
more the tradition of the myths of Rabbie Burns sexual endeavours.
According to Gladstone this version was given by Miss Margaret Laurie of Maxwelton,
the daughter of Sir Robert Laurie, in 1812 to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe
of Hoddam. It was published privately in 1823 by Mr. Sharp in "Ballad Book"
Other verses have been published and made up by bards and songsters over
the years- some of the versions kept by the Douglas Family.

Maxwelton Banks are bonnie whare early fa's the dew;
Whare me and Annie Laurie made up the promise true;
Made up the promise true and ne'er forget will I
And for bonnie Annie Laurie I'l lay down my head and die.

She's backit like a Peacock, she's breastit like a Swan,
She's jimp about the middle; hear waist ye may weill span.
Her waist ye may weill span and she has a rolling eye,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie I'l lay down my head and die.

Dean W. Sandeman
Oshkosh WI. USA