Bonny Charley

Jun 14

Bonny Charley scarf

I bought this vintage silk scarf from eBay the other day – it illustrates an C18th Scottish ballad. It’s kind of old-fashioned but I love it because I am an historian of the early Georgian period. When folded and worn it looks a little bit like a toile de jouy. The illustrations in each corner represent the four seasons.

Annette wearing Bonny Charley.

Bonny Charley worn in a rectangular fold (pleated) with a buffalo horn shawl ring. For a how-to see the MaiTai Collection blog >>

I am still not sure if there is a Jacobite meaning behind it. The border appears to be decorated with the heraldic symbol for ermine (black spots on a white field) which is connected with France and Catholic royalty. Is “Bonny Charley” actually The Young Pretender – none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie?

The words of the ballad do not, sadly, give me any clues. It is definitely not the famous ballad ‘Bonnie Charlie’ (also known as ‘Will ye no come back again?’) based on Lady Nairne’s poem about the 1745 Jacobite Uprising. In fact, this ballad tells the story of a pastoral romance – albeit one that uses Scottish dialect words. Here is the ballad in full:

O dearly do I love to rove

Among the fields of barley

‘Twas there that Charley told his love

The blithe the winsome Charley.

Then he so sud and he so wood

And marriage was the parley.

What could I do but buckle too

With bonny bonny Charley.


O, my bonny, bonny boy,

Bonny Charley.

O, my bonny, bonny boy,

Bonny Charley].

I ken the lasses rue the day

I sought the fields of barley.

And strive towm from me away

The heart of winsome Charley;

But ah how vain they cannot gain

His love by all that parley

And now they see he woos but me

My bonny bonny Charley.


O ilka blessing on the laird

That owns the field of barley.

And ken I him alone regard

For his winsome Charley.

The genteel youth with purest truth

So woos me late and early

I can’t withstand to give my hand

To bonny bonny Charley.