Me in my Tam O Shanter from when I was a part-time soldier (photo: James Kemp)

Bonny Mary O’ Argyll is a song I remember being sung at (grown-up) parties when I was growing up. I also remember singing it with gusto from the back of army four tonners when I went on exercise with 207 Battery RA, AKA the Glasgow gunners.

Some years ago I spent ages years ago trying to find all the words, to no avail. However a more recent search showed loads of videos. It seems that filming your old army pals singing it in the pub has become a thing, so I was able to decipher some of the words from a bunch of Arglls veterans on youtube!

There’s another traditional folk song also called Bonny Mary O’ Argyll. However this version seems to have started with the Highland Light Infantry who had their depot in Maryhill Barracks. It seems to have spread to other regiments in the 1950s and 1960s. I guess national service also brought it back to civilians, because most of the people in my parents generation knew it when I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s.

More Verses

I recall there being a couple more verses to Bonny Mary, and from watching several youtube videos there are variations depending on who is singing it. So if you know any different verses for Bonny Mary O’ Argyll please share them in the comments.

Anyway, here is the video that I used to help me remember the lyrics to Bonny Mary O’ Argyll. It’s short and raucous, a load of ex-soldiers (from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who have adopted it as their regimental song) singing in the pub!

Bonny Mary O’ Argyll

Hey you the wee man with the big stick in your hand,
won’t you play me a simple melody
to remind me of the girl I left behind me,
won’t you play a simple melody

Oh I’m coming back Bonny Mary,
I’m coming back to you–
I’m coming back to good old summer town
where the bagpipes are playing auld lang syne
I know she will be waiting to see me with a smile

Oh We’ll roam the hills together,
among the purple heather,
Bonny Mary O Argyll.

Now we held a grand procession and marched before the Queen.
Ten thousand kilted warriors the likes of which you’d never seen.
at first they thought we were Zulus from land beyond the Nile
until they heard us singing Bonny Mary o’ Argyll,

Oh we’re all Scotsmen, everyone’s a Scotsman!
Buffalo Bill fae Maryhill, never worked and never will.
Aye man, believe it if you can,
we’re the hielan jocks wi’ tartan socks, Scotsman everyone!