Best viewed in
Internet Explorer

Music (PDF)

Music (BMW)

Back to

Updated 05/29/2020


Over the Water to Charlie

Although the title stems from the Jacobite era, the tune is older and has had many names, having been based on a 1740's dance tune called "Potstick." By the late 1740's it appears in published collections with the "Over the Water" title, a title that first appeared in John Walsh's Complete Country Dancing Master, volume the Third (London, 1749). It also was printed in David Rutherford's Complete Collection of 200 of the Most Celebrated Country Dances (London, 1756), and in a few publications by Charles and Samuel Thompson, including their 1757 country dance collection, and a tutor for the hautboy (oboe) printed in 1758 and again in 1770. Cheapside, London, musician Walter Rainstorp included it in his music manuscript copybook, begun in 1747, as did London flute player John Simpson (1750). If the "Over the Water" title is taken to be a shortened version of "Over the Water to Charlie" (and not a complete name in itself), it is remarkable in that the Walsh volume appeared only a few short years after The Pretender's defeat at Culloden (1745) and his exile to France. Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788) was indeed 'over the water', in France with a price on his head should he return to Britain.

"Over the Water to Charlie" was employed variously as an accompaniment to dancing in the British Isles and was imported as a dance tune to America. A morris dance version was collected in the village of Bledington, Gloucestershire, in England's Cotswolds, while country dance instructions, but not the melody, appear in the Scottish Menzies Manuscript, 1749 (contained in the Atholl Collection of the Sandeman Library, Perth). The title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800, and in the music manuscript collections of Joseph Kershaw and Joshua Gibbons. In America, the tune appears in Giles Gibbs' MS collection made in 1777 in East Windsor, Connecticut, and in the music copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery's invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Montreal from British control. An important land-owner in the Hudson Valley, and a member of the powerful Livingston family, Henry was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. He was also a poet and musician, and presumably a dancer, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly's dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York.



Come, boat me ower, come, row me ower,
Come, boat me ower to Charlie;
I'll gi'e John Ross another bawbee,
To ferry me ower to Charlie.

We'll over the water, and over the sea,
We'll over the water to Charlie;
Come weel, come woe, we'll gather and go,
And live and die wi' Charlie.

It's weel I lo'e my Charlie's name,
Though some there be that abhor him;
But O, to see Auld Nick gaun hame,
And Charlie's faes before him!


I swear by moon and stars sae bricht,
And the sun that glances early,
If I had twenty thousand lives,
I'd gi'e them a' for Charlie.


I ance had sons, I now ha'e nane;
I bred them, toiling sairly;
And I wad bear them a' again,
And lose them a' for Charlie!