"Purple Heather" redirects here. For the European plant, see Calluna. For the American plant, see Krameria erecta.
"Wild Mountain Thyme" (also known as "Purple Heather" and "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?") is a folk song written by Francis McPeake, a member of a well known musical family in Belfast, Ireland, and of Scottish origin. McPeake's lyrics are a variant of the song "The Braes of Balquhither" by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill (1774–1810), a contemporary of Robert Burns. Tannahill's original song, first published in Robert Archibald Smith's Scottish Minstrel (1821–24), is about the hills (braes) around Balquhidder near Lochearnhead. Like Burns, Tannahill collected and adapted traditional songs, and "The Braes of Balquhither" may have been based on the traditional song "The Braes o' Bowhether".
The tune of McPeake's "Wild Mountain Thyme" is significantly different from Tannahill's "The Braes of Balquhither", which was most likely based on a traditional air. In an 1850 publication, Scottish Songs, edited by George Farquhar Graham, notes indicate that Tannahill's song was set to music by R. A. Smith himself. Others scholars suggest the melody is based on an old Scottish traditional tune "The Three Carls o' Buchanan".
McPeake dedicated "Wild Mountain Thyme" to his first wife. Many years after she died, McPeake remarried, and his son, Francis McPeake II, wrote an extra verse to celebrate the marriage. "Wild Mountain Thyme" was first recorded by McPeake's nephew, also named Francis McPeake, in 1957 for the BBC series As I Roved Out.
While Francis McPeake holds the copyright to the song, it is generally believed that rather than writing the song, he arranged an already-extant folk version based on traditional lyrics into a version with a different melody that he popularised. When interviewed on radio, Francis McPeake said it was based on a song he heard whilst travelling in Scotland, and he rewrote it later when back in Ireland. Bob Dylan's recording of the song cited it as traditional, with the arranger unknown, though Dylan's copyright records indicate that the song is sometimes "attributed to" McPeake.
McPeake's version of the song, published in 1957, closely paraphrases the Tannahill version, which was published posthumously in 1821. Tannahill's original lyrics include a number of phrases that McPeake carried over into his song, including the lines "Let us go, lassie, go" and "And the wild mountain thyme".