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Highland Mary

A name immortalised by Burns, generally thought to be Mary Campbell, but more probably Mary Morison. In 1792 we have three songs to Mary: “Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary?” “Highland Mary” (“Ye banks and braes of bonnie Doon”), and “To Mary in Heaven” (“Thou lingering star,” etc.). These were all written some time after the consummation of his marriage with Jean Armour (1788), from the recollection of “one of the most interesting passages of his youthful days.” Four months after he had sent to Mr. Thomson the song called “Highland Mary” he sent that entitled “Mary Morison,” which he calls “one of his juvenile works.” Thus all the four songs refer to some youthful passion, and three of them at least were sent in letters addressed to Mr. Thomson, so that little doubt can exist that the Mary of all the four is one and the same person, called by the author Mary Morison.

How blythely wad I bide the stoure,
A weary slave frae sun to sun,
Could I the rich reward secure-
The lovely Mary Morison.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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