Rowan Tree Folk Song

The Rowan Tree

The little wild rowan tree (sorbus aucuparia) in my front garden is looking great at this time of year, although half the berries are gone already thanks to hungry blackbirds. I planted it there about ten years ago, and it’s taken its time to grow upwards in the shadow of a great big sycamore, but in the last two years it has managed to get itself firmly established and is turning into a mature specimen tree. I was told that its not uncommon for people in Scotland to plant rowan trees in front of houses, partly from sentimental attachment to the wild Scottish countryside, and also to help keep the witches away. I didn’t know anything about that at the time, but it does seem to have worked.

Rowan Tree Song

So I wrote my song about the rowan tree, whilst I was in Scotland as it happens, and then worked on the music and finishing off back home. Motivated by the approach of Halloween, which tends to get celebrated at Havering Folk Club, I’ve tried it out twice now, once at the regular Tuesday Evening 7.00pm webcast and once at the folk club last night, where it was encouragingly well received. There’s no video from the session last night, but the early prototype from the webcast is embedded below, followed by some form of the lyrics. Sometimes called the mountain ash, this is a native rowan tree, not a cultivar, and the berries glow a light red colour in the autumn sunlight, making for welcome food for blackbirds and thrushes, although they always leave the more difficult bunches at the end of delicate branches until last, due to the danger of falling off.

Lyrics of The Rowan Tree

Lyrics to “The Rowan Tree”, a folk song by Andy Roberts

Come hear my story, it’s a tale of four witches
but I could have added three more
And heed my advice if you’re troubled by witches
Just plant a Rowan tree outside your front door

And the branches sway in the faintest of breezes
the berries are red bright and fair.
And I’ve not had much trouble with those witchee witches
Not since I planted my Rowan tree there

Well the Witch of the West was cunning and sly
She had me always on the run
And I never knew which way her nose was pointing
Not until after she’d been there and gone.

And the branch tips dance…. planted my Rowan tree there

The Witch of the East was just counting the years
and somehow that three became five.
Then her time was up and she vanished away
Now nobody knows if she’s dead or alive.

And the branches sway…. planted my Rowan tree there

The Witch of the South was trouble from the start
Her fancy was playing with fire
The anger rose up as the coals glowed white
and the smoke billowed higher and higher

And the branches sway…. planted my Rowan tree there

The Witch of the North is not like the rest
She uses her powers for good
As the Rowan tree watches and nods in approval
and keeps us both safe from the dark witchee wood

And the branches sway…. planted my Rowan tree there

So that was my story the tale of four witches
I could have mentioned three more
Now heed my advice if you’re troubled by witches
Just plant a rowan tree outside your front door

And the branch tips dance in the faintest of breezes
The berries are red, bright and fair.
I’ve not had much trouble with those witchee witches
Not since I planted my rowan tree there.

Rowan Tree Berries

Rowan Tree Berries

The Rowan Tree – Live

Updated with Higher quality video:

Here’s a version of the Rowan Tree performed live by Andy Roberts at the Halloween party, Havering Folk Club 2009

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12 Responses to Rowan Tree Folk Song

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  5. Sam says:

    Is this song written about Rowan Elsbury?

    • Andy Roberts says:

      Hi Sam, I don’t know Rowan Elsbury. Is she a witch?

      The song “The Rowan Tree” is about four witches and a rowan tree, which is a tree, not a person. Thanks for asking!

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