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Tune History

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The Stories Behind Your Favorite Tunes


Billy In The Low Ground

Who is Billy?
What is The Low Ground?

Who is Billy and what is the Lowground? As it turns out, there are lots of possibilities.The following is only a partial list of options: 

Billy? William the Conqueror, or King William III (aka William of Orange, aka King Billy), or a male goat (Billy), or a female donkey (Jenny), or maybe even a girl named Jinny.  Most researchers go with King William III.

Lowground? literally low land or ground - a swamp, or the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 where a "deep swampy ravine" figured in the tactics of the battle, or the low country of the Netherlands (see King William III - born in The Hague), or a grave, or the southern part of Scotland, i.e. Lowlands vs. Highlands. Again, most researchers go with King Billy and the Battle of the Boyne.

According to The Traditional Tune Archive, this melody is reportedly centuries old and is also known as "Beaus of Albany," "Billy in the Low Land," "Braes of Auchtertyre," "Fiddler's Drunk and the Fun's All Over," "Jinny in the Lowland," "Kerry Fulton's Schottishe," "Kerryman's Daughter " and lots of others.

"Billy in the Lowground '' is one of the most enduring and widespread of American traditional dance tunes. Most versions are played in the key of C. There is a Henry Reed tune "Billy In The Low Land" , which is a totally different tune. And there is an "Old Time Billy In The Low Ground", which is also a different tune. This version was reportedly being played in Franklin, KY in the 19th century.

Versions of Billy In The Lowground continue to evolve. Check out the Calico tuning version by The Onlies HERE.

Braes Of Auchtertyre

Roots of Billy In The Low Ground

Eck Robertson "Billy In The Low Ground" 1923

(starts at 1:22)

Burnett and Rutherford "Billy In The Low Ground" 1927

Old Time Billy In The Low GroundKelly Gilbert
00:00 / 01:07
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