Its heroine, Jeannie, is to be married off at the insistence of her father to a a wealthy man, Lord Sultan, but she is in love with Anachie Gordon, the subject of the song. The song chronicles her resistance to the marriage before she is eventually dragged to the church. Jeannie refuses to sleep in the same bed until her father comes down and tells her maid to undo her gown. Jeannie collapses at her father's feet and dies for love of Anachie. Anachie, having been away at sea, returns where Jeannie's distressed maidens tell him that Jeannie has been married in his absence and has now died of a broken heart. Anachie tells the maidens to take him to the chamber where Jeannie lies and then, having kissed her cold lips, also dies of a broken heart.
The words were printed in Maidment's "North Countrie Garland" (1824) and in Buchan's "Ancient Ballads and Songs 2" (1828). The tune was first printed in Bronson's "Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads". The story is along the lines of "Romeo and Juliet", with the two lovers dying at the end. Sometime between 1800 and 1829 a broadsheet ballad called "A New Song" was printed. In it the name "Auchanachie Gordon" has been replaced by "Hannah Le Gordon" but is otherwise very similar. It is hard to explain why the hero has been given a girl's name. Perhaps the Scots name was so unfamiliar to the Newcastle printer than he made a somewhat garbled choice of name.
Nic Jones recorded the song as Annachie Gordon on his 1977 album "The Noah's Ark Trap" (1977). Mary Black included it using the same name on the album "Mary Black". Loreena McKennitt's recorded it on "Parallel Dreams" (1989). Other versions include June Tabor's Version on "Always" (2005), Sharon Shannon's version on "Libertango" (2004) and John Wesley Harding's version on "Trad Arr Jones" (1999). Sinéad O'Connor also recorded a version on the Sharon Shannon Collection released in 2005. The earliest professional version was by Berzilla Wallin on "Old Love Songs and Ballads from the Big Laurel, North Carolina" (1964).
Almost all Child ballads were recorded by Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger or Burl Ives, but in this case we have one of the rarest Child ballads. On stylistic grounds it has been suggested that most of the recent recordings are based on Nic Jones's version. They use the place-name "Harking" (which doesn't exist) instead of "Buchan" (which does exist, in Aberdeenshire). Mary Black has perhaps mis-heard Nic Jones. There is no known historical basis for the ballad, but the place name Buchan would place it in the north of Scotland.
According to the Columbia State University website, it is "Possibly related to the Swedish ballad "Stolt Ingrid [Proud Ingrid]".