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Helen of Kirkconnell
Les Wilson's Welcome to Lewis
Helen of Kirkconnell (lyrics) traditional
Les Wilson's Welcome to Lewis (melody) by Les Wilson
Les found the lyrics to this song in a book loaned to him by John Groat ("Sailor John") called Songs of Scotland Prior to Burns, from W & R Chambers, 1890. The book tells the sad story of the song:

"In the burial ground of Kirkconnell, near the Border, is the grave of Helen Irving, recognised by tradition as Fair Helen of Kirkconnell, and who is supposed to have lived in the sixteenth century. It is also the grave of her lover, Adam Fleming – a name that once predominated the district. Helen, according to the narration of Pennant (Pennant’s Tour in Scotland, 1772), ‘was beloved by two gentlemen at the same time. The one vowed to sacrifice the successful rival to his resentment, and watched an opportunity while the happy pair were sitting on the banks of the Kirtle, that washes these grounds. Helen perceived the desperate lover on the opposite side, and fondly thinking to save her favourite, interposed; and, receiving the wound intended for her beloved, fell and expired in his arms. He instantly revenged her death; then fled into Spain, and served for some time against the Infidels: on his return, he visited the grave of his unfortunate mistress, stretched himself on it, and expiring on the spot, was interred by her side. A cross and a sword are engraven on the tombstone, with "HIC JACET ADAMUS FLEMING"; the only memorial of this unhappy gentleman, except an ancient ballad which records the tragical event.’ "

The tune was written by Les, and named for his son who was born during the making of this album.


I wish I were where Helen lies
Night and day on me she cries
O that I were where Helen lies
On fair Kirkconnell lee

O think ye na my heart was sair
When my love dropt down and spake nae mair
There did she swoon wi' meikle care
On fair Kirkconnell lee

Curst be the heart that thought the thought
And curst the hand that fired the shot
When in my arms burd Helen dropt
And died to succour me

O that I were where Helen lies
Night and day on me she cries
Out of my bed she bids me rise
Says, "Haste, and come to me."

O Helen fair, beyond compare
I’ll weave a garland of thy hair
Shall bind my heart for evermair
Until the day I dee

I wish my grave were growing green
A winding-sheet drawn o’er my een
And I in Helen’s arms lying
On fair Kirkconnel lee

O Helen fair! O Helen chaste!
Were I with thee I would be blest
Where thou lies low and takes thy rest
On fair Kirkconnell lee

I wish I were where Helen lies
Night and day on me she cries
And I am weary of the skies
For her sake that died for me



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