The Winds Blew Across The Wild Moor

Portions of this post were originally published here on the Blind Pig in 2009. I woke up with this old song on my mind yesterday and wanted to share it with you again.

The Winds Blew Across The Wild Moor


Today’s Pickin’ & Grinnin’ In The Kitchen Spot features a song from the 1800s, Mary Of The Wild Moor. The song tells the sad lonesome story of a mother and child freezing to death because her father couldn’t hear her cries for help. Doesn’t get much sadder than that.

It’s hard to imagine a world where information was at a minimum. A world with no Internet, no cell phones, no tv, heck not even many newspapers. I imagine the need for information was still a human want even in those days. And as usual where there’s a human want there’s someone figuring out how to fill it in exchange for money.

Enter Broadsides. Sheets of paper printed with announcements from the government, news information, speeches, or songs. I’m sure, like me, you’ve watched a movie or tv show set in the early 1800s where a man is shown walking through the square uttering “Hear Ye Hear Ye” before nailing up a notice for all the villagers to read.

As time went by selling broadsides became a lucrative business for folks. Most popular were sheets containing details of notorious murders or words to popular songs of the day one of which was Mary Of The Wildmoor.

According to Jurgen Kloss  Mary Of The Wildmoor was probably written by a performer in England in the early 1800s to appear older than it actually was. The song’s traits being similar to older ballads popular at the time indicate this.

By 1845 the song had made it to America and soon became quite popular. But by the early 1900’s the song seems to have been relegated to singing around the home-performed mostly in family settings. In the early 1930s the song made a come back, largely due to  “ballad hunters” who made every attempt to preserve old songs from the Appalachian Mountains.

In 1940 the first commercial recording of the song was made by The Blue Sky Boys of North Carolina. The song was recorded again in 1956 by The Louvin Brothers of Alabama. These two brother duet recordings cemented the song’s popularity in traditional bluegrass music circles.

Give Pap and Paul’s version of the old song a listen and see what you think.

Hope you enjoyed the sad song. I like the irony of the song’s beginning: it was written to appear old and now it’s lasted until it truly can be considered an old old song.




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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    March 21, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Paul and Pap hit another home run with this old ballad. It’s one I remember from childhood, and then Johnny Cash doing it again just before passing. When I first heard it, I too thought Mary’s Father had left her out in the cold winds to teach her a lesson about leaving home. Science tells us that sounds never die and that they just remain out there in the ether. Your Father’s rich and cultured voice proves this very graphically.

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    November 14, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    So sad! Haunting music, but I still loved it!

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    November 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes. I never get tired of hearing your family sing. I’m not familiar with this song but it sure is beautiful and made more beautiful by their voices..Great post.

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    November 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I have been a fan of the Blue Sky Boys since I was about four years old. They sang at the Old Courthouse in Blairsville the first time I remember being there. I have been a fan of the Louvin Brothers since I was about ten or eleven years old. I have been a fan of the Wilson Brothers, and consequently, the Blind Pig gang, since the first time I heard them about ten years ago. I have been blessed to have been able to hear all of them, and especially to know the Blind Pig Gang. Thank you so much for everything.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    From the first time I heard this ballad I had the impression that the father knew his daughter was at the door but did not realize she had exhausted her last ounce of energy getting home. He never thought she wouldn’t be able to withstand the elements that night. He left her out there just to prove a point and it backfired on him. After he found them the next morning and realized he had killed his own child and that his grandchild could not survive without its mother, he worried himself to death. A just ending?

  • Reply
    Waylon Crier
    November 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t know what a rendition is but I sure do like the way they sing it.
    rendition: the act or result of rendering
    So making lard is a rendition?
    I learn a new something every day!
    And forget two!

  • Reply
    Edwin Ammons
    November 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I had never heard of “The Blue Sky Boys” until I clicked on your link today. What a jewel you have uncovered for me. The Blue Sky Boys were Bill and Earl Bolick from right near where I live now. East Hickory NC, just a few miles away is where they grew up and got their start. And Homer “Pappy” Sherrill who played the fiddle with them for a time was the uncle of a guy I worked with. If you are a fan of the real county music and/or bluegrass and haven’t listened The Blue Sky Boys, you are missing some real harmony. Their bio says they refused to change over the electrified instruments and the new honky-tonk garbage of the 1950’s and disbanded. Earl went to work for an airline in Atlanta and Bill worked as a postal clerk. They were contemporaries of the Louvin Brothers and Bill Monroe and were as good as better than either in my opinion, but didn’t leave the same mark on history because they refused to abandon their roots.

  • Reply
    Ron Perry
    November 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I have never heard that one before. I love it and their rendition of the tune. You always amaze me with your great website.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    November 15, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I was not familiar with the song, but Paul and Pap brought out the tragicness of the words. One could only feel empathy for the family, especially for the father finding I wonder how the story got started – was it a fantasy or real? I read your history which was great. Thanks for always stimulating the brain.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

    G’day Tipper,
    es, as B. Ruth suggests, the question arises of the nature “Did she fall or was she pushed?” When I read the second verse of the song on the broadside, it came to me that her child’s father was unknown and that she was cast away from her father’s door for that reason. It was not that her father did not hear her at the door, more like he refused to hear her cries. His penance is recounted in verses 3 and 4 in a manner that suggest that he knew she was there and refused her the comfort of his hearth.
    This, mind you, is the feeling I got when I read it the first time, with little thought given to the circumstances after..

  • Reply
    November 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Very nicely done! I guess the song
    “Bury me Beneath the Willow Tree”
    is my favorite that Paul and Pap
    do. But I like everything The Blind Pig Gang does, including
    those beautiful Pressley Girls.

  • Reply
    B F
    November 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

    sad but a beautiful song and the singers know what they are singing
    i can relate to someone who has lost their husband ,it really makes a difference in our lives but life must go on

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    November 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I’ve always loved this song! But, oh, how envious I am of your being surrounded by all this lovely music and can well imagine what great sing-alongs you must have. I could sit for hours listening to Pap & Paul et al.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    November 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I loved the harmony and Pap and Paul sang the song beautifully…
    After rereading the words, doesn’t that make you want to know why Mary and babe showed up at her Fathers door..Was there a plague, a separation, a war…?
    The villagers say Mary was once their pride…Why did’nt she have a home..Did she roam without friend or home or did she leave her Fathers cottage in disgrace carrying a child, then return?
    I wish we knew her last name, one of the genealogy folks could have a blast researching that one.
    Think of this, we are all connected and Mary and babe are in a happy warm place, where the moor is full of beautiful flowers and warm breezes…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    November 15, 2012 at 9:52 am

    J.A. IN ARK,

  • Reply
    Kent Lockman
    November 15, 2012 at 9:27 am

    My late husband, Kent, loved to read your blog everyday and would many times write a comment . He was an Indiana boy whose heart was in the southern mountains. I usually click out immediately because it is such a painful reminder of my loss – though 9 months have passed, I miss him dreadfully. Today, for some reason, I clicked in. “Mary of the Wild Moor” was a favorite song of his. I think Sara Evans sang it(?). He could never get our lead singer in our group Dishpan Pie to work very hard on it, but he loved it. I think he had planned to sing it himself in 2012, but he died suddenly in February and never got the chance. Somehow, by reading this blog today, I feel him close. Thank you so much for that!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I loved their rendition!!! Pap and Paul sound so good together. 🙂 Thanks for the great history too.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 15, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Tipper, it was just yesterday that I stopped the player when it started this song. It is just so sad I couldn’t stand to hear it again. I skipped on to the next song thinking I would try this one again another day.
    I must have heard it on your mind!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Such a sad old song but very well sung, as always.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2012 at 8:12 am

    lovely old sad song your family is very talented and a close knit family love your songs music n stories thanks have a nice day fr. terry

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 15, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I remember hearing a recorded account from my grandmother about when my grandfather asked her out on their first date in Jackson County, NC (about 1914). Granddad hired a young boy to take a note to her (the note proposed a Sunday evening buggy ride). That caused me to think about life without the convenience of telephones, let alone the Internet. Sometimes, we have absolutely NO CLUE regarding what life was like before the technology that we have had so long became common.

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    November 15, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Nice job, guys. I see the “folk process” has been at work. The version you sing is not exactly the printed one. Had never seen it printed before and haven’t listened to the Louvins version in a long time either. I’m going to look for a the Blue Sky Boys on the web. Mother tells about seeing them at the Great Southeastern Fair back in the early forties.

  • Reply
    Angie Sidall
    November 15, 2012 at 7:52 am

    The song Mary of the Wild Moor, was the first song of Pap’s and Pauls I had listened to. From then on I was “hooked” on the harmonic voices of your family. We sang this song when we were growing up too. I recall my father playing the chorus on his harmonica and guitar, while we did it. Great memories and great history lesson you gave with todays post also.
    Thank you Tipper…Angie in NB, Canada

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