(Now) Westlin Winds


Although widely known as (Now)Westlin Winds, the alternate and (probably) more accurate title of Song Composed In August (it’s what Robertburns.org calls it) makes this an apt way to introduce the new month. Jon  attributes his inspiration here as, “Ian Giles, singer from Magpie lane and stalwart of the Oxford folk scene for many years, who introduced me to this song and his is, for my money, the alpha version, particularly at 2am in the Half Moon. Happy days.” There can be little doubting the anti blood sport message amidst this poetic roll call of natures bounty, as the summer gives way to the harvest season. I must say I’m much taken with this and realize I know precious little about Burns, something which even a cursory glance at this Wiki page makes me think I should do something about. Interestingly it suggest that the Peggy referred to in the verse is a Peggy Thompson, although dates seem at odds with the Burns website. Burns clearly lived a hard life, but as a farmer was in tune with the wildlife around him. I love the way he simply places the different birds in their preferred habitat, giving us an insight that is paradoxically profound. Lovely stuff.

You can buy the August digital album now from all good download stores:



22 Responses to “(Now) Westlin Winds”

  1. muzza says:

    Who am I to have a go at Robbie Burns but I can’t see the connection between the last two verses and the preceeding. verses……..they strike me as being two different poems in their own right. One, a wistful appreciation of the birdlife and Man’s “bloody” destruction thereof………….and the other a jolly chap out for a stroll with his charmer.
    Though..it is just after midnight…perhaps I’m a bit grouchy…sorry Robbie.
    Good poems though and well sung as usual.

  2. Lizabee says:

    surely both the wild life and his Ladylove are ‘joy’s of nature’
    What better time to contemplate the wonders of nature, an mans influences upon it than wandering upriver with a woman you adore (and would hate to see mistreated.)

    But maybe I’m bias – I too have happy memories of Ian singing this late in the 1/2moon

  3. Piers Cawley says:

    It’s not the same without harmonies though.

  4. Jo Breeze says:

    More about Westlin Winds from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    There is just one record of Westlin Winds in the Library, collected by Hamish Henderson from the singing of Jock Cameron in Midlothian. It was originally written as Now Westlin Winds, by Robert Burns.


    We used the Roud number to cross reference against different titles for the song. When searched on Roud No. 6936, the same one record appears.


    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.

    There are no records of the song in the Take 6 archive.

    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.

    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit http://www.efdss.org/front/access-the-library-online/access-the-library-online/115

    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or library@efdss.org.

  5. Simon Dewsbury says:

    Dick Gaughan used to point out the disparity between the verses before he played this live – and never explained it, so I was left mystified too – you’re not alone Muzza.
    But this is superb. there’s a youtube of DG singing this from 1983 at


    and this is not quite as good, but I reckon it’s not far behind, especially the last couple of verses – and Dick Gaughan’s version of this would probably get pretty high in the best folk performances of all time, imho.

  6. Blue Scouse says:

    I came to know this from Dick Gaughan’s version and it quickly became one of my very favourite songs. I do not sing it much these days as I feel it has almost reached ‘Done to death’ status, although I still get the odd request. I certainly enjoy Jon’s performance and another I really like is that of Alison McMorland & Geordie McIntyre. When introducing the song they point out 2 facts which have not yet been mentioned in these comments: the observation of nature is entirely accurate, and that is all the more remarkable when you consider Burns was only 16 when he wrote it.

    I always considered that the last 2 verses served as further observation. The fact that fauna ranges from ‘the savage to the tender,’ and Man is far and away the most savage of all, is described in verse 3, but the other verses show that in contrast Man is also capable of being the most gentle, caring and loving.

  7. OxfordClareB says:

    Well said Lizabee, I agree – the song seems to me to hang together homegeneously both in its musings on the ‘charms’ and cruelty of nature and the personal, romantic aspect. This could so easily be simply a pastoral love lyric, but Burns adds a darker aspect to it that actually, for me, elevates the romantic side. Alison and Geordie’s version is indeed beautiful, as is Mike Wilson and Damien Barber’s rendition on ‘Under the Influence’.

    Lovely to see Ian Giles being credited here – I too have many wonderfully happy memories of hearing him sing in the wee hours at the Half Moon. Some of my happiest ever times.

    Thanks for a lovely rendition Jon.

  8. Phil says:

    That was terrific – one of the best yet. (Even beats Gaughan IMO.) It just shows how much you can do with an unaccompanied voice. (It helps if you’ve got a voice like this, admittedly!)

    As for how it all hangs together, I think it’s fairly straightforward. In verse 1 he says that the hunting season has started and he’s walking in the country thinking about his love; in verse 2 he talks about how wild creatures want to be with their own kind (just as he wants to be with Peggy). Everything else follows from those three intertwined thoughts. It’s a brilliant poem (he was 16???) but I don’t think it’s obscure.

  9. Hilary says:

    This was completely new to me, and I found it charming and profound. Thank you – amazingly sung.

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Completely new to me too. Thanks to Blue Scouse, Phil and Lizabee for their informative comments.

  11. admin says:

    Blue Scouse I think you hit the nail well and truly on the head. It’s the poetic undertow I was after in my intro, explained very well. Thanks all, I really enjoyed this both as a song and performance and it’s made me realise I need to know more about Burns.

  12. muzza says:

    Yep……………I’ve listened to this again and I am grateful for all the comments above and ‘at last’ the penny has dropped and Robbie had it right…….I was too blind to see..
    Old Blokes I ask yer!

  13. Jenny says:

    Thanks for all these insightful comments. Now I have a fuller appreciation for the poem. I would love to have the guitar tab for Dick Gaughan’s work. Does anyone know how I could obtain it?

  14. For me the lyric is unsurpassed

    The poet describes nature in all its awful beauty. He then says to his lover but all of this beauty is eclipsed by you. It’s quite simply the most wonderful declaration of love possible, partly because Burn’s description of nature is so utterly beautiful but mostly because in the last verse he sublimates that beauty to his lover.

    I think its the best song ever written and Gaughan’s arrangement is faultless – but then I’m biased 🙂

  15. nev perry says:

    Truly inspirational!

  16. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    I’ll stick with Jon’s excellent version…………I can hear the words.

  17. Diana says:

    What can I say that has not already been said, and so much better than anything I could add. Lovely Jon and nicely sung. Like Muzza writes one can hear the words clearly.

  18. Joe says:

    Wonderful, wonderful song. I don’t think the final verses are contradictory at all – all the way through Burns is celebrating his environment and his place within in. His love affair is part of the natural order. If he was really just 16, it is an astonishing achievement.

  19. OldMuzza (NWSurrey UK) says:

    Suppose we’d better wish all those Yorkshire folk…Happy Yorkshire Day and hope they enjoy themselves as they tuck into their ‘Fat Rascals’

  20. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Yorkshire Day again eh….all I can say to the tykes…..
    Tha’s got to keep t’band int’nick or….Tha’ll get warmed
    Oooooer Matron!

  21. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Happy Yorkshire Day……..Ooooooer……when’s Surrey Day!

  22. Old Muzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    Happy Yorkshire Day to you tykes…always the first August
    whereas, Surrey Day is the first Saturday in May…so we always have a weekend (canny -eh!) we Southerners do use our brains sometimes!
    (Yup…we had to give it up for the Coronation this year!)

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