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Folk Friday #5

This week’s tune, ‘The Presence’, is another old one by Archie Fisher, the legendary Scottish folk singer who crafted ‘Dark-eyed Molly’ and ‘Witch of the Westmoreland’, songs that most of us on this side of the pond became familiar with through Stan Rogers’ artful interpretations.

I’ve seen Archie perform once, when a friend and I drove from Halifax to Ottawa to take in a concert. Yes, we wanted to hear this man that badly. When Mr. Fisher heard of us, he took a few minutes at the end of the show to chat with us, mostly to tell us we were crazy.

In my opinion, the lyrics to this song are simply exquisite. They’re based on a story Mr. Fisher heard from an old woman in Scotland. This cover is the only recording I could find, and it isn’t badly done, but I wish you could hear the original. I’m including the lyrics, as they aren’t that easy to make out.


It was out in the long spring grass, she said
And the night was soft on the hill
He touched my ear with his voice, she said
And my blood ran sweet and chill
I laugh in my sleep at their gibes, she said
Though they call me old maid still
I have seen them sprinkled, weaned and loved
The young girls fondled and wed
I’ve watched their dreams go as grey as the hair
That the limpin’ sheepdogs shed
But mine are as green as the tall pines
That lean by Loch Erne head
And he never came back to my father’s byre
Yet on an April night
When the moon sits pat on a scudding cloud
And the stars are quick and white
I have known his clutch like a cloak of fire
And his limbs like swords of light
And my eyes wet by the fire, she said
But not with lust or shame
I mourn no shepherd laid low on the hill
I weep in the starry flame
With the joy of what I can never lose
But what I dare not name
It was out in the long spring grass, she said
(as sung by Archie Fisher)


  1. Anne MacFarlane
    July 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    The lyrics are beautiful Jennie. I could hear the song in my head as I read them. The video didn't match, so, since no one is here, I sang it to myself.LOL.

  2. Janet
    August 2, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Ooh, I'm too late to hear Anne singing!

    Beautiful song, Jennie – thanks for sharing it with us. And, BTW, you are crazy for driving from Halifax to Ottawa (now that's a fan). I thought we were crazy to drive 3 hours to get a fastfood burger (when we lived in Hay River – no fastfood joints there at that time).

  3. Jennie Marsland
    August 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Anne, thanks for dropping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the tune enough to sing along! Janet,lol, the trip was something I'll never forget. I guess we were crazy, but Archie Fisher isn't a young man any more and he doesn't get to this side of the pond very often, and we didn't know when – or if – we'd get the chance to hear him in person again. AND I was younger then (but probably no crazier.)